U.S. Senate approves aid for Flint

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WASHINGTON (WOOD) — A funding agreement backed by Michigan lawmakers is on its way to President Obama’s desk.

Congress passed the agreement, which is part of the Water Infrastructure Improvements for the Nation (WIIN) Act, early Saturday morning. It provides $170 million in assistance for Flint.

Specifically, the bill:

  • Gives access to $100 million to improve and replace Flint’s drinking water infrastructure
  •  Provides $50 million to health care programs that will help children who have been exposed to lead
  •  Allows the State of Michigan to forgive $20 million in past drinking water loans in Flint
  •  Requires the EPA to warn the public within 24 hours of high lead levels in drinking water if the state fails to do so.

The agreement also activates funding to at least $200 million in low-interest loans to upgrade water infrastructure in Michigan and around the country.

“Finally, we can declare this a success,” Sen. Gary Peters said during a conference call Saturday morning. We now have money available for the city of Flint to aggressively replace the pipes so we can and, as quickly as possible, make sure the water flowing into the home of flint residents is clean and portable water that they can trust and the only way we can do that is to make sure the infrastructure is pulled out and replaced.”

Michigan Senators Peters and Debbie Stabenow spearheaded the agreement, along with Flint-native and U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee.

“They have been relentless. You know, I’m a Flint kid and to have the three of us work together on this…and having every road block that the other side could come up with out in front of us, shows that we didn’t give up,” Rep. Kildee said.

While this is a positive for Flint residents, all three officials agreed their work isn’t done.

“Our fight is nothing compared to what the people of Flint have been going through and are still going through… We’re not saying this is the end of what we can do to help. We’re there every step and we’ll be there every step for what they need, but the piece congress had to do to act was incredibly tough… but it shows when folks work together what we can do,” Sen. Stabenow said.

According to Stabenow, a projected $214 million is needed to address the Flint water crisis in its entirety. The approved funding still leaves a remainder of $44 million – funding they believe should come from the state.

“Although this is a significant amount of money for the city of Flint it is not enough. We are going to need more resources and it is absolutely incumbent upon state government to step up to the plate and do more than they have done so far. It is clear this is a problem created by state government. The State of Michigan needs to make sure the resources are there for the people of Flint, not just now, but for decades to come and I hope they will see this action from the federal government …. as a responsible thing to do and also something they need to follow suit and continue to put in more resources particularly when it comes to long-term funding for health issues related to the crisis,” Sen. Peters said.

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