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Food assistance to continue through month

MARQUETTE — The more than 1.2 million people in Michigan who are eligible for food assistance benefits will receive an additional payment by the end of this month that raises their monthly amount by 15% to help families affected by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The 15% increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits is for six months, ending in June.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services advocated for the increase led by U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing, and were pleased to see it ultimately included in the recently passed congressional relief bill.

“No Michigander should worry about how they’ll put food on the table for themselves and their family, especially during a pandemic,” Whitmer said in a statement. “COVID-19 is still a very real threat to our state, and we must continue providing crucial support to families that need it most.

“I want to thank Sen. Stabenow for her leadership in securing this important increase and for her tireless efforts to expand access to food assistance, which has brought relief to so many Michiganders in need throughout this pandemic.”

Michigan food assistance recipients will see the 15% increase added to their Bridge Cards by the end of this month that are in addition to benefits they received earlier in the month. Food assistance increases by $102 per month for a household of four, which will now receive $782 per month.

In subsequent months, the 15% increase will be added to Bridge Cards.

“Helping families put food on the table is our job,” MDHHS Director Robert Gordon said in a statement. “We’re glad we can provide more food assistance to Michiganders who are in need as a result of COVID-19.”

Whitmer and MDHHS also announced the initiative that provides additional food assistance to 350,000 Michigan families as a response to the pandemic will continue this month.

Through the initiative, anyone receiving food assistance who doesn’t already qualify for the maximum monthly benefits will see their payment raised to the maximum monthly amount for their household size. Eligible clients will see these additional food assistance benefits on their Bridge Cards by Jan. 30, with payments beginning for some households on Jan. 20. Anyone who receives both this payment and the 15% increase will receive them on the same day.

The new maximum allowable benefits for SNAP customers based on their respective household size through June are:

≤ One person: $234;

≤ Two persons: $430;

≤ Three persons: $616;

≤ Four persons: $782;

≤ Five persons: $929;

≤ Six persons: $1,114;

≤ Seven persons: $1,232; and

≤ Eight persons: $1,408

Eligible families do not need to reapply to receive the additional benefits. Individuals who receive food assistance can check their benefits balance on their Michigan Bridge Cards by visiting www.michigan.gov/MIBridges or calling a customer service representative toll-free at 888-678-8914. They can ask questions about the additional benefits by calling or emailing their caseworker.

Customer service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Spanish and Arabic service is available. If you are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing or speech-impaired, call the Michigan Relay Center at 7-1-1.

Governors encourage vaccine plans

Governors and lieutenant governors from Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, Ohio and Wisconsin joined together to encourage everyone to make a plan for how they can get the safe and effective vaccine once they become eligible.

“Although it is a new year, COVID-19 is still present across our states, and we all have a personal responsibility to do our part to protect our families, frontline workers and small businesses,” said the governors in a statement. “Each of our states is working around the clock to distribute the safe and effective COVID vaccines as quickly as possible. But we ask everyone to be patient. The quicker we act to distribute the vaccine, the quicker we can reduce the strain on our health care system and defeat this virus.

“But until everyone is able to get vaccinated across our states, we must double down on mask-wearing, social distancing and washing hands frequently.”

Together, the governors urged individuals to make a plan for themselves and their families on how they can get vaccinated as soon as possible. People are encouraged to visit their state health departments’ websites for more information.

Along with Whitmer and Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II, participating governors include: Ohio, Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted; Indiana, Gov. Eric Holcomb and Lt. Gov. Suzanne Crouch; Illinois, Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Lt. Gov. Juliana Stratton; Kentucky, Gov. Andy Beshear and Lt. Gov. Jacqueline Coleman; Wisconsin, Gov. Tony Evers and Lt. Gov. Mandela Barnes; and Minnesota, Gov. Tim Walz and Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan.

Ski club postpones tourney

The Ishpeming Ski Club has postponed its 134th annual Ski Suicide Hill Jumping Tournament at the Suicide Ski Bowl in Negaunee, setting the new dates as March 6-7. The event had been scheduled for Wednesday.

“This has been a very challenging year for events,” the club said in its announcement. “The club will be working through a plan in the upcoming weeks to host the tournament with the safety of athletes and community the top priority. Spectators will be allowed based on the state of Michigan guidelines for COVID mitigation at the time of the event.”

The annual tournament is the biggest fundraiser for the Ishpeming Ski Club, which is undergoing a major update of facilities and programming. The ISC plans to initiate a fundraising drive to offset loss of revenue due to restricted spectatorship, and asks for community support of the ISC youth ski programs and facility updates.

For more information on the ISC, go to ishskiclub.com.

University updates numbers

Northern Michigan University’s COVID-19 reporting dashboard, found at nmu.edu/safe-on-campus/dashboard, indicated there were 31 winter semester COVID-19 positive cases between Jan. 4 and Thursday — 22 off-campus students, five on-campus students and four employees.

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