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Alcona County awaits state money for Veterans Affairs office

HARRISVILLE — The Alcona County Veterans Affairs office is continuing to offer services to veterans five days a week while waiting for funding from the Michigan Veterans Affairs Agency to come through.

About $4 million was eliminated from the state’s County Veteran Service Fund when Gov. Gretchen Whitmer in September vetoed147 items amid a budget battle with lawmakers.

That $4 million has since been reinstated in a deal between the Legislature and the governor. The funding helps connect veterans with benefits they have earned through their military service and allows Alcona County to employ Tony Atkinson, the office’s counselor and director, full-time.

Atkinson helps veterans, and sometimes their spouses, apply for those benefits.

Though the deal has been struck, it wasn’t immediately clear when checks would arrive.

“They agreed to $4 million, but I have no information on when it’s going to take effect, when it is going to start, when is the money going to be released, and how is it going to be released, if it’s a lump sum or a reimbursement process, I have no idea, yet,” he said.

While Atkinson says he expects at least $50,000 from the state to make its way to the county, the county has been using money from its general fund since Oct. 1 — the start of the state’s fiscal year — to keep its services to veterans going.

It was not immediately clear how much money from the county’s general fund has been spent.

Atkinson said county officials do not know whether they will be reimbursed for the money they spent keeping the office open five days a week.

Atkinson told commissioners in September a letter stating their intent to apply for the funding had been filed with the state. He said the state has since reopened the window for counties to file their letters of intent, which will close on Jan. 21.

He said the county will then submit an application for grant funding.

In the meantime, Atkinson said, he’s “just waiting to hear from the state.”

Crystal Nelson can be reached at 989-358-5687 or cnelson@thealpenanews.com.

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