Senate Passes Agreement to Provide Critical Help for Flint and Other Communities, Clearing Way for President’s Signature

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The Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation Act authorizes funding for Flint and other communities that was appropriated as part of the government funding bill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congress has finally passed an agreement to provide $170 million in long-awaited assistance for Flint and other communities affected by lead.  The bipartisan agreement, championed by Senator Stabenow, Senator Peters and Congressman Kildee, passed the Senate 78-21 tonight as part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act.  This agreement closely mirrors legislation that passed the Senate in September by a margin of 95-3.  It now goes to the desk of the President for his signature.

The agreement provides access to $100 million in funding to help fix Flint’s drinking water infrastructure; funding to activate at least $200 million in low-interest loans to upgrade water infrastructure in communities in Michigan and across the country; $50 million to address the health care needs of children who have been exposed to lead; authority for the State of Michigan to forgive $20 million in past drinking water loans to Flint; and a requirement that EPA warn the public within 24 hours of high lead levels in drinking water if a state fails to do so.

“This is a very long, hard-fought victory,” said Senator Stabenow.  “This agreement achieves what we set out to accomplish from the beginning—pass urgently needed funding to help repair and replace drinking water infrastructure in Flint and other communities, and address the health care needs of children and families. The people of Flint have waited far too long throughout this terrible crisis for their water system to be fixed. It is also past time for the State of Michigan to do everything in its power to meet its responsibilities to help the city recover from the water crisis.”

“Though the State of Michigan has the primary responsibility to support long-term recovery efforts in Flint, the federal government should have stepped in long ago to provide emergency assistance for an American city in crisis,” said Senator Peters. “For nearly a year, Senator Stabenow, Congressman Kildee and I have fought to secure emergency assistance while many families in Flint are still living on bottled water and dealing with the negative health effects of this tragedy. I am pleased that Congress has finally followed through on the promise made to Flint residents and approved funding to help the City of Flint replace its lead-tainted pipes.”

“Today’s vote is welcome news, as Flint families have waited far too long for their government to provide real relief as they continue to recover from this ongoing water crisis,” said Congressman Kildee.  “I am pleased that Congress has voted in a bipartisan fashion to aid the city and help make critical repairs to Flint’s water system, as well as provide expanded health care for those exposed to lead. Flint residents are strong and resilient people, and I know that we can recover from this man-made crisis with the appropriate resources and investments in our community.”

“I am thrilled that the U.S. Senate has passed a $170 million package that will help the City of Flint recover after state and federal actions left its drinking water system poisoned by lead. I especially want to thank Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters, as well as Congressman Dan Kildee, for their relentless efforts to get Flint and its nearly 100,000 residents the help they need,” said Karen Weaver, Mayor of the City of Flint. “Our tap water still is not safe to drink without using a filter, an unfathomable situation for any city in this great nation. This package will help us replace far more lead-tainted pipes through my FAST Start initiative and provide resources to the thousands of Flint children who have suffered from ingesting lead-tainted water. Although we have waited far longer for this help than expected, we are grateful to the Senate and the House for providing the assistance that will help Flint residents deal with this unprecedented health crisis and gain a brighter future.”

Bipartisan Agreement Summary:  

$100 Million Available to Help Flint Fix and Repair Water Infrastructure
The agreement provides $100 million in new federal funding to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The State of Michigan, in collaboration with the City of Flint, can access these funds after submitting a comprehensive plan to the EPA. This funding will only be available to a community, like Flint, that received a federal emergency declaration by the President due to a public health threat from high amounts of lead in drinking water.

State Option for Debt Forgiveness
The State of Michigan will be given new flexibility to use funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund to forgive Flint’s debts incurred prior to fiscal year 2017. Flint is currently paying interest on approximately $20 million in old Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans.

At least $200 Million in Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Fund
The agreement also provides $20 million in funding to activate at least $200 million in low-interest financing for much-needed upgrades to water infrastructure. These loans will be made possible through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which will be available to communities in all states, including Michigan.

$50 Million for Public Health
The agreement provides $17.5 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to create a national registry to monitor health effects of children exposed to lead, and $2.5 million for an advisory committee to review ways to reduce lead exposure.   Another $30 million is provided to two different federal programs that fund efforts to address the short- and long-term effects of lead poisoning, including assistance to pregnant women and new mothers, and public education on the dangers of lead exposure. This funding also provides resources to help state efforts to identify and address environmental health and public safety issues associated with lead exposure.

Public Notification
The agreement also includes legislation introduced by Senators Peters, Stabenow and Congressman Kildee and Congressman Upton requiring the EPA to warn the public within 24 hours of high lead levels in drinking water if a state fails to do so.

 

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Kristin Moore

About the Author:

Kristin Moore is the Public Information/Communications Director for the City of Flint. She spent years working as a TV news reporter and anchor in and outside of Michigan. A Flint native, Kristin is excited to now be part of the team working to move Flint forward!
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