LAKE COUNTY -- The Lake County Board of Commissioners voted to approve the Lake County Veterans Affairs Committee policies and procedures at its meeting Nov. 27.

The board established the Lake County Veterans Affairs committee to assist local veterans in December 2018, with grant funds received from the Michigan Department of Veterans Affairs. In November, voters approved a .1 mill request to fund the department going forward.

Since the election, Lake County Administrator Tobi Lake has worked with the Veterans Affairs committee to establish the criteria for qualifying for assistance and the general guidelines the department will follow in disbursing funds.

The policy was established according to Michigan Public Act 214, which gives the county the power to determine necessary aid to be granted, the sum to be paid, the manner of paying and may discontinue payment at their discretion.

"Under the law, to receive assistance a veteran would have to be indigent and have served on active duty during a specified time," Lake said. "This policy provides general guidelines for determining eligibility, and now the veterans affairs personnel will develop an application process."

The policy guidelines include veteran eligibility, the definition of a resident, definition of a legal dependent, what a veteran would be eligible for under certain circumstances and what types of assistance would be available.

Types of assistance include emergency grocery vouchers, utility assistance, rental and/or mortgage assistance, home repairs, property tax assistance, vehicle assistance and medical assistance, depending on eligibility and availability of funds.

"We would expect an applicant to work through the process with other agencies that may be able to assist them before we step in," Lake said. "We want to make sure we are giving assistance that will solve the problem, not something where they are back every month."

Applicants are required to show a DD214 -- the capstone military service document -- to determine eligibility for services.

"This policy ties up all the loose ends and tightens up the process so that we can use the money most effectively," Lake County Commissioner Christine Balulis said at the meeting.

The veterans affairs millage was levied for the first time in December, and the funds will be in the budget beginning in January 2020.

"The millage is expected to bring in around $60,000 each year, with a portion earmarked for indigent veterans and families and a portion for administrative costs" Lake said. "Lake County has around 1,300 local veterans and fewer that will meet the criteria. If these guidelines are followed, that will amount to about $1,000 a month in assistance. There will be times when the fund builds up and times when you have to drain it down, so that should be part of the strategy going forward."

Anyone in need of assistance or information can visit michiganveterans.com/a/lakecounty, or call 231-745-2703. The Veterans Affairs office is at 5252 S. M-37 in Baldwin.