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Replacement Food Assistance Benefits, Emergency Relief Available To Residents Affected By Gaylord-Area Tornado

(CBS DETROIT) -- The Michigan Department of Health and Human Services (MDHHS) announced that residents who were affected by the deadly tornado last week in the Gaylord area may be eligible for replacement food assistance and state emergency relief.

Here is a breakdown of the programs:

Food Assistance Program

MDHHS may be able to replace lost food that had been purchased with Food Assistance Program benefits received through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Replacement food is only available to those already receiving food assistance benefits.

Any Food Assistance Program recipient who had food spoil due to a verified power outage or lost to storm damage can contact their caseworker to request replacement food benefits. The deadline for requesting replacement benefits is 10 days after the date of the storm or the power outage at the household. Pandemic EBT benefits to families with children who were learning remotely due to COVID-19 cannot be replaced.

State Emergency Relief Program

For low-income residents who suffered significant damage to their homes, the State Emergency Relief program provides immediate help to anyone facing conditions of extreme hardship or for emergencies that threaten health and safety. It is available to eligible residents that need help with home repairs necessary to correct unsafe conditions and restore essential services.

Applicants must be the owner or purchaser of the home and meet other eligibility requirements to qualify. To apply, visit or contact a local MDHHS office.

"MDHHS is prepared to help Gaylord-area residents who suffered losses due to this terrible storm," MDHHS Director Elizabeth Hertel said in a statement. "No one should have to worry about having food for their families or living in an unsafe home because of damages from the tornado."

On Tuesday, the state announced its request for a joint Preliminary Damage Assessment (PDA) was granted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Officials say the joint assessment with state and local leaders will help expedite the review of damages and response costs. Gov. Gretchen Whitmer says the PDA is the next step in asking for federal assistance.

The teams are expected to begin gathering information in the affected communities Wednesday and will be collecting estimated response and recovery costs with a focus on the number of damaged homes, the extent of insurance coverage, displaced individuals and threats to health and safety.

"This assessment is a critical step in seeking federal aid for Otsego County by confirming the reported damage caused by Friday's tornado," Whitmer said.  "We are expediting the damage assessment process to ensure we receive all possible assistance for the people of Gaylord, as quickly as possible. Michiganders are tough, and together, we will do what it takes to rebuild."

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