Kildee to Congress: Act Now on Flint
Michigan lawmakers renew push for aid package
As Flint residents enter their third year without clean drinking water, Michigan Rep. Dan Kildee on Thursday sent out a renewed plea asking his colleagues to act immediately on an aid package.
“This is unacceptable,” the Democrat wrote in a letter to House Speaker Paul D. Ryan. “The federal government has a moral responsibility to ensure that all Americans, including Flint families, have access to clean drinking water.”
Separate proposals to send hundreds of millions of dollars in federal aid have been stalled for months in both the House and Senate, limiting congressional action to a series of fact-finding hearings and official visits. Flint residents, meanwhile, were told this week by a research team from Virginia Tech that their tap water was still not safe to drink.
Mistakes by state and federal regulators when the city switched its water supplier in April of 2014 left residents exposed to undisclosed lead contamination in their drinking water for months.
Kildee, who represents Flint, compared the situation there to natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina or Superstorm Sandy, which prompted bipartisan aid packages from Congress. Kildee said he voted for the Sandy aid package, even though it did not affect his district, “because Americans were suffering.”
“Mr. Speaker, the people in Flint are suffering — they need our help too,” he wrote.
In the Senate, the fate of a bipartisan deal that would send $220 million to Flint through a combination of grants and loan programs was thrown into question this week when it was stripped from an energy bill so that measure could move forward. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, would not release a hold on the deal over concerns that it would contribute to the national deficit.
Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., a sponsor of the deal, said Thursday she was looking for another way to get the money to Flint.
“It’s totally unacceptable that Sen. Lee continues to block a vote on our fully paid-for, bipartisan agreement to help Flint and other communities across the nation who have serious lead and water problems,” she said in a statement. “This is about something as basic as making sure families have clean water to drink and children with lead poisoning get the help they need. We will not give up until this gets done using whatever legislative vehicle it takes.”
A bill sponsored by Kildee (HR 4479 ) that would provide $720 million for Flint has been under review by several House Committees since he introduced it in February.
Some Republicans have expressed reluctance to pay for the direct response in Flint, which they have said should be the responsibility of state officials who have been found at fault.
The short-term response is expected to be paid for by an emergency $220 million state aid package that Gov. Rick Snyder has proposed, said Nick Lyon, director of the Michigan Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, a federal executive order allowed emergency responders to deliver $5 million in water, water filters and test kits; and an expansion of Medicaid provided coverage for children and pregnant women who were exposed to the contaminated water, according to testimony before a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee hearing Thursday.
But witnesses said it is unclear how the city will pay for the long-term costs, particularly replacing corroded pipes that are leaching lead into the water.