The widely touted federal aid for stricken Flint is not as generous as supposed. The allocation of $80 million for the State of Michigan to “help families in Flint” with the current water crisis is actually a revolving loan fund; it is not an appropriation, according to the office of Governor Rick Snyder. It is intended for the entire state, and was included in the federal budget bill that was signed in December for states to upgrade their various infrastructures.
 
According to Snyder’s spokesman, Dave Murray, "The $80 million announced by President Obama is a revolving loan fund, not an appropriation." Murray said "We're grateful the President made this loan money available for Michigan cities and will work to determine how it can best be used to help people in Flint and potentially in other cities in the state." He added, "We are in the very early stages of this process."
 
At a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in Washington DC, Obama mentioned the funding in remarks to the mayors on January 21. As some 250 listened, Obama made a reference to Flint’s issues with toxic lead in the water system, and said "In last month's bipartisan budget agreement, we secured additional funding to help cities like yours build water infrastructure." He told the mayors, "And we're going to have that funding available to you by the end of next week, and that includes more than $80 million for the state of Michigan."
 
The office of Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) later issued a press release stating that the $80 million would be going to "help families in Flint." The federal government has already committed $5 million to Flint when Obama declared the Flint water crisis as a federal emergency. However, the Federal Emergency Management Administration balked at designating Flint a disaster zone, under the premise that it is a man-made incident. Snyder had argued for the disaster designation because it would have freed up the approximately $90 million he had requested.
 
On January 22, Snyder announced his request that Obama reconsider, noting that funds can be awarded from programs contemplated by the emergency declaration. They are: the Individuals and Households Program, which provides housing assistance and replacement of personal property; and money for emergency protective measures.
 
Taking action, Snyder also revealed his $28 million plan to address Flint’s water crisis. It would allocate state funding to six different departments and would allow Michigan to increase National Guard involvement, increase the number of nurses in schools, and replace fixtures in some public places. The National Guard is already assisting in distributing water filters and bottled water.


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Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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