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70 Becker County veterans have applied for $1,000 COVID-19 grants

Lauri Brooke.jpg
Becker County Veterans Service Officer Lauri Brooke. (Submitted photo)

Hoping for some extra help during tough times, 70 veterans in Becker County as of Tuesday have applied for $1,000 COVID-19 relief grants from the state.

The grants are designed for working veterans (or their family members) who have been laid off or otherwise financially affected by the business shutdowns due to the coronavirus, said Becker County Veterans Service Officer Lauri Brooke. They aren’t designed for retired veterans or those on a fixed income.

“It’s for those who are working and have had their jobs impacted by COVID-19,” Brooke said in a telephone interview.

Other money is available for veterans facing a financial problem, but that is a once-in-a-lifetime grant that should be saved for a financial crisis, she said.

Throughout the shutdown, Brooke's office has been working with local veterans, through in-person appointments, over the phone and by email.


“It’s been very consistent and very steady in the office,” she said. “We are screening veterans and only taking those with emergencies and doing emergency COVID-19 grants.”

She wants to make sure eligible Becker County veterans get their share of the pie before it runs out: The Legislature appropriated $6.2 million for the one-time program, which is enough for 6,200 veterans if each gets a $1,000 grant, she said. That’s only enough to serve 2% of the veteran population in Minnesota, she said.

But funds are still available: As of Monday, May 4, the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs has received 4,124 grant applications statewide, she said.

It’s not a speedy process, however. “Because of a backlog at the state, it’s taking 52 business days for these grants to go through. That’s as of Monday,” she said Tuesday. “It’s taking awhile for these grants to process.”

The grants are mailed to veterans in the form of paper checks, she said.

“We’re hoping that no more than 70 veterans in Becker County have been affected by the COVID-19 virus,” she said. “But if there are more, we’re hoping they put in an application in with us.”

Those who are going to submit the application on their own should at least run it past Brookes first, so she can make sure it will sail through the process when it goes to the state. Otherwise that application could end up stuck in limbo. "They're not ours, but there are 335 applications in the system (from elsewhere in Minnesota) that need more information and will be sent back," she said. "Even if people are going to submit on their own, we want to make sure they include all the information," she said.

The Becker County Veterans Service Office is best equipped to put in grant applications for veterans, she said, and can help with the process.


“We send it in,” she said. “I can send it right to the portal so it gets there (correctly). And I can track it, but it’s just sort of a waiting game.”

The state veterans program (there is no similar federal program) also includes the option of $3,000 grants, but those are hard to come by, Brooke said. “The $3,000 grant is for those who can prove issues directly caused by COVID-19 -- depleted savings, can’t pay rent or mortgage, behind on utilities, those kinds of things,” she said. “But you have the burden of proving loss, and not delay, of income.”

So Brooke’s office has been helping veterans with major financial problems -- those costing several thousand dollars rather than several hundred dollars -- apply to a regular emergency grant program, the State Soldiers Assistance Program, run by the Minnesota Department of Veterans Affairs.

Get info, get help

Veterans with questions about any of the grants can call Lori Brooke's office at 218-846-7312, or email lauri.brooke@county.becker.mn.us .

For more information about the program, visit mn.gov/mdva/blog/ .

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