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Kalamazoo County still fighting to recover from tornado

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(The Center Square) – Kalamazoo County residents continue to be concerned about rebuilding after receiving limited federal aid following the May 7 Portage tornado.

Thus far, the Kalamazoo County Commissioners have allocated $530,000 to Portage, Texas Township and Pavilion Township, where the majority of the damage occurred. An additional $270,000 was given to the United Way of South Central Michigan. All money comes from the federal American Rescue Plan Act fund.

According to County Administrator Kevin Catlin, this is likely the only federal aid the community will receive because the EF-2 tornado did not cause enough damage to meet the qualification threshold.

“If you’ve been through the areas, you certainly have seen that there’s considerable need and we’re going to be hard-pressed to meet that demand in the coming months,” said Portage City Manager Patrick McGinnis, who attended the county commissioners meeting to ask for additional funding.

According to FEMA’s damage assessment of Kalamazoo County, 305 homes were damaged in Portage, 106 in Pavilion Township and 95 in Texas Township. Seventy-four homes across the county were destroyed. A FedEx distribution facility in Portage was the largest commercial building destroyed.

The United Way of South Central Michigan and the Kalamazoo County Foundation teamed up earlier this month to raise additional money for affected families. As of May 16, they have been able to establish $162,000 in community grants.

“When we think about the fact that we’ve raised $200,000 to date – which is amazing and reflects the generosity of companies and individuals – there’s a lot more that is going to be needed,” Alyssa Stewart, chief community impact officer at the Kalamazoo Community Foundation, said. “We still don’t really know the scale of state and federal resources that will come into our community, so that makes these local dollars we get on the ground today even more important.”

County officials estimate that more than $1 million will be needed to restore the community. Those interested in donating toward the relief fund can give online to either the United Way of South Central Michigan or the Kalamazoo County Foundation. Both organizations also have volunteer opportunities on their Facebook pages.

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