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State steps in with Gaylord tornado aid, after FEMA denial

Mike’s wife, Maria Frazee, narrowly escaped injury from broken glass.
Damage left behind by the tornado that hit Gaylord in May.

After a deadly tornado moved through Gaylord and surrounding communities, Michigan asked for aid from the federal government.

The White House denied that request earlier this month. Now, local governments near Gaylord are getting additional relief from the state.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer approved more than $500,000 in state funding for Otsego County and surrounding communities that were devastated by a tornado in May.

The funds are for local governments to use. They cover things like overtime for public employees, contracts used during the response, and repairs of public buildings and infrastructure.

“May’s devastating thunderstorms and tornado strained local resources in Otsego County, and this $500,000 in assistance will help cover some local response and recovery costs,” Whitmer said in a statement. “The Gaylord community has made great progress in the months since the tornado, but we know there is more work to be done. No matter what the federal government does or does not do, we will get the Gaylord community what they need to recover and rebuild. Michiganders are tough and we look out for one another. We will be there every step of the way.”

On July 2, the Biden administration denied Whitmer’s request for the federal government to declare a major disaster for Otsego County. The declaration would have allowed the Federal Emergency Management Agency to provide additional relief.

The $500,000 in state money comes from the Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund, which is used when communities demonstrate an exhaust of local resources during an emergency.

The money will be split among five jurisdictions:

  • City of Gaylord - $250,000
  • Hayes Township - $45,058.16
  • Livingston Township - $50,509.08
  • Bagley Township - $73,085.50
  • Otsego County - $90,954.13

Otsego County Administrator Matt Barresi said the money coming to the county will be placed in the general fund to go towards emergency services and the county road commission.
“Otsego County is showing its resilience after such a devastating event,” Barresi. “This money will go a long way to make sure the tornado doesn’t effect our normal operating budgets.”

Individual residents and businesses may still apply low-interest loans from the U.S. Small Business Administration announced earlier this month.

The SBA disaster assistance program provides low-interest loans for homeowners, renters, businesses and private nonprofit organizations to repair or replace real estate, personal property, machinery and equipment, inventory, and business assets that were damaged or destroyed.

Michael Livingston covers the area around the Straits of Mackinac - including Cheboygan, Charlevoix, Emmet and Otsego counties as a Report for America corps member.