Lake County wants to provide needy families with some hope this holiday season. (Photo by Michael Freeman).

TAVARES — The timing, Kelly LaFollette said, is most coincidental, a reflection of the timetable for how the federal government operates.
But coming as it annually does at the end of November, there’s no question this helps arrives just at the right time for Lake County families struggling to make it through the holiday season with enough money to pay their rent or mortgage, or to buy food – let alone worry about Christmas gufts.
“This goes directly to the people in need,” said LaFollette.
La Follette, the communications director for the Lake County Board of Commissioners in Tavares, noted that once again this Central Florida county has been awarded federal money – this year, in the amount of $134,880 — made available through the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The money is awarded through the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program, which selected Lake County for these funds to provide for emergency food and shelter programs.
“We’ve received this money in previous years,’’ LaFollette said. “It’s based on the average number of unemployed individuals compared to other Florida jurisdictions. It’s factoring in with our unemployment rate, and based on our eligibility, we just received the money.’’
Lake County’s unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in October, slightly below the statewide average of 8.5 percent, but higher than the national average of 7.9 percent. Lake County’s jobless rate has fallen for the past three months; in September, it was 8.9 percent, and October’s rate is well below the county’s unemployment rate in January of 10.2 percent.
LaFollette said the federal money helps local families that are still struggling to cope with the impact of the national recession.
A local board made up of representatives from county government offices in Tavares will be working with representatives of local chapters of the United Way, the Salvation Army, and American Red Cross, and faith-based organizations, to determine how the funds awarded to Lake County get distributed. The money will go directly to local service agencies that operate emergency food and shelter programs.
“Last year, the agency provided 52,000 meals for 192 individuals, and helped with rent and mortgage and utility payments,’’ LaFollette said.
Agencies that provide food and shelter services are being asked to apply for these funds. The deadline for applications to be received is Wednesday, Jan. 2, 2013 at 5 p.m. In previous years, agencies like Catholic Charities of Central Florida; Christian Care Center; Haven of Lake & Sumter Counties; Lake Community Action Agency; the Salvation Army of Lake County; and United Way of Lake & Sumter Counties received these funds.
Public or private voluntary agencies that want to apply for Emergency Food and Shelter Program funds can call 352-742-6502 for an application.
“This group of individuals will review all of the applications,” said Allison Thall, spokesperson for the Lake County Community Services Department. “The money will go for shelter, food, mass feedings and rental payments. The agencies have until January 2 to submit their applications.”
“The money that we receive,” LaFollette said, “goes right back into our community,” at a time of year when families truly could use it.
Lake was among numerous counties across the nation selected for the federal funds by a national board chaired by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency, a board set up to distribute money appropriated by Congress to help expand the capacity of food and shelter programs in high-need areas around the country.

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