DETROIT -- The trucks Steve Atwood used for hauling gravel, concrete and asphalt to street paving jobs sit idle. The nine drivers who worked for him have been laid off, and Atwood_who has started driving for another company_wonders whether he's out of business now that his sole customer, the city of Detroit, says it's bankrupt.

"That's all we've got," said Atwood, referring to his city hauling contracts, which are now part of a mountain of unpaid bills and unmet obligations that have been turned over to Detroit's federal bankruptcy judge to settle.

The city's decision on July 18 to enter bankruptcy, with debts that may amount to $20 billion, has left more than 7,000 vendors and contractors wondering about money they're owed and the uncertainty of future payments as the court process proceeds.

The city's emergency manager, Kevyn Orr, has included their bills in the city's unsecured debt, and proposed settling them for less than 10 cents on the dollar. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Steven Rhodes has begun hearings on the city's case, which could last months or even years.

"They haven't paid me," said a worried Anthony Davis, whose AC Towing company is owed several thousand dollars for towing cars from traffic accidents and crime scenes for the police department. "I'm praying to the Lord that I do get paid because I paid my drivers already."

He's admits he bitter. "I live in Detroit, work in Detroit, worship in Detroit and pay my taxes," he said. "The city let me down."

But among some vendors, the anger about bad debts is softened by concern about getting the city back on its financial feet so normal business can resume. The city is an essential customer for many local enterprises, from mom-and-pop suppliers to major companies and nonprofits.

In 2012, Detroit spent about $43 million for professional and contract services. Another $62 million was spent on materials and supplies. The city hires out for everything from filling potholes and washing cars to medical rehabilitation for employees.

Many contractors say they can't replace that income from other customers. Orr is continuing to authorize some payments so that essential services can continue.

"The larger question for us at this point is what happens to the contract going forward," said the Rev. Faith Fowler, executive director of the nonprofit Cass Community Social Services, which is owed more than $36,000 for providing meals for city prisoners.

"We have had a good relationship with the city and, obviously, we want to help in any way that we can, especially during this challenging time, he said. "Providing services with no reimbursement or reimbursement delayed for a year or more is simply unsustainable on our end."

Many companies got their city contracts when the economy and Detroit's finances were better. Some owners realized things were getting dicey as Detroit's budget deficit ballooned over the past decade or so.

"They have been paying us slowly for years," Atwood said of his hauling contract. "...Sometimes it's two and three and occasionally four weeks. And sometimes it's very difficult to wait that length of time."

Atwood would not say how much he is owed, only that it is "quite a bit of money."

Many owners say their worried about they'll make ends meet.

"Cass will be just one in a long line of vendors seeking payment and we have anticipated this for some time," said Fowler.

The nonprofit is assessing the impact of the lost money on its programs for feeding senior citizens and the homeless.

Even though he hasn't been paid, Davis said he doesn't dare stop responding to city towing calls, which are supposed to earn him $125 per vehicle towed. "If we don't (do the work), we lose the contract," he said. He's already cut his fleet of 10 tow trucks to five.

Bryan Knoche, office manager of Fred's Key Shop, says he's lucky that the city only accounts for 10 to 15 percent of the shop's business.

"We prefer to have that money, but it's not make-or-break for us," said Bryan Knoche, office manager of the 51-year-old company, which has 15 employees.

Knoche said the city still owes $2,000 for work done years ago for various departments.

"It's sort of the cost of doing business with any sort of government agency where things can go wrong," he said.

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  • Graffiti covers an abandoned building February 24, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

  • In a photo shot on Tuesday, Feb. 14, 2012, a dog looks out from behind a wall in an abandoned home in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Abandoned houses are painted orange as part of Object Orange: Detroit, Disneyland, Demolition, are located off of the Davison Freeway service drive in Highland Park, Michigan on Thursday, May 18, 2006. (Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

  • Residents that live in Detroit's east end came out of their homes to watch the third abandoned building fire of the day at the corner of Frederick and Chene. (Photo by Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • In a July 31, 2012 photo, a boat is dumped in a field in east Detroit. Abandoned lots, alleys and neglected parks in Detroit used to be a favorite destination for discarded tires and trash. But over the past few months they have become dumping grounds for the dead. At least seven bodies have been found in some of the most desolated haunts in a half-empty city. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

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  • The abandoned Detroit Public Schools book depository

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  • The view from the inside of the abandoned Fisher Body Plant in Detroit.

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  • The General Motors (GM) world headquarters is seen February 24, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

  • Detroit firefighters arrived on the scene of an abandoned dwelling fire at 2645/51 Frederick Street in Detroit's east end. (Photo by Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • A sign advertising building rates is seen on an abandoned building on February 24, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by J.D. Pooley/Getty Images)

  • An abandoned boat filled with trash sits on Conant Street in Detroit, Michigan, on Sunday, April 9, 2006. Detroit eliminated bulk trash pick up three months ago due to budget cuts. (Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

  • A man walks past an abandoned house that is painted orange as part of Object Orange: Detroit, Disneyland, Demolition, located off of the Davison Freeway service drive in Highland Park, Michigan on Thursday, May 18, 2006. (Photo by Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

  • Barbed wire blocks the entrance of the abandoned Michigan Central Station on May 2, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. The station was opened in 1913, closed in 1988, and has fallen into disrepair since. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

  • Steam rises from a manhole at dawn among abandoned buildings and factories along East Warren Avenue on May 2, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

  • A man walks past the abandoned East Grand Boulevard Methodist Chruch on May 2, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

  • Two abandoned apartment buildings burn on Waverly Street in the declining Detroit enclave of Highland Park. Last year the Detroit Fire Department received 27,000 calls. (Photo by Lucas Oleniuk/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

  • Michigan Central Stationis Detroit's most famous ruin, with the train station last open in 1988. Designed by the same architects as New York's Grand Central Station.

  • An interior shot of the massive Michigan Central Station.

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  • This Oct. 24, 2012 file photo shows a graffiti-marked abandoned home north of downtown Detroit, in background. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

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  • In this Dec. 11, 2008 file photo, pedestrians walk by the abandoned Packard plant in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio, File)

  • Members of the Detroit Fire Department exit after putting out a fire in an abandoned house in Detroit on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2013. Photographer: Jeff Kowalsky/Bloomberg via Getty Images

  • Shuttered Packard motor car company plant in Detroit.

  • In this Oct. 24, 2012, photo, a broken streetlight lies on a sidewalk east of downtown Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • The abandoned Harbor Light Center, in Detroit, Michigan on July 21, 2012. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • The abandoned Hotel Eddystone, in Detroit, Michigan on July 21, 2012. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

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  • The abandoned First Unitarian Church, in Detroit, Michigan on July 21, 2012. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • The abandoned Detroit Public Schools book depository.

  • The back of an abandoned building facing, in Detroit, Michigan on July 21, 2012. (Photo By Raymond Boyd/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

  • Abandoned Detroit Central Depot shot from street.

  • This Oct. 24, 2012, photo shows a broken streetlight base on a sidewalk east of downtown Detroit. When the World Series was broadcast that week, television viewers saw vibrant crowds and skyline shots of the city. Yet beyond the hot dogs and home runs, Detroit is struggling to cross home plate. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • The General Motors world headquarters building is shown near an abandoned building March 30, 2009 in Detroit. (Photo by Bill Pugliano/Getty Images)

  • Exterior of abandoned house in Detroit, a familiar sight in many neighborhoods.

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  • An abandoned home in Detroit.

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  • In a July 31, 2012 photo, a trashed strewn street is seen in east Detroit. Abandoned lots, alleys and neglected parks in Detroit used to be a favorite destination for discarded tires and trash. But over the past few months they have become dumping grounds for the dead. At least seven bodies have been found in some of the most desolated haunts in a half-empty city. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

  • Graffiti decorates the ruins of the Packard Automotive Plant, a 35 acre site where luxury cars were manufactured until the 1950s on May 2, 2013 in Detroit, Michigan. Sitting on the East side of Detroit, the former automotive plant is now a site for scavengers, urban explorers and graffiti artists. (Photo by Ann Hermes/The Christian Science Monitor via Getty Images)

  • The abandoned Fisher Body Plant.

  • The Fisher Body Plant in Detroit, which is abandoned.

  • Part of the Brewster-Douglass housing project site is shown in Detroit, Friday, March 18, 2011. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

  • Aerial photograph of the Michigan Central Station's Beaux-Arts facade in Detroit, Michigan.