Over the last few months, the events that led to the Flint water crisis have come to light. The need for legislation to deal with its aftermath and to prevent similar disasters from becoming commonplace nationwide is urgent. On Feb. 4, 2016, Congressman Dan Kildee (D–Flint) introduced an essential bill called the Families of Flint Act. This bill is an important step in the process of helping Flint get back on its feet and supporting those most affected by the crisis.

FOFA would appropriate money toward four focus areas: repairing and replacing water service lines, servicing the needs of family and communities affected by lead exposure, expanding economic development (especially for the youth of Flint) and health monitoring provided by the new Center for Excellence on Lead Exposure. Most importantly, the bill requires the replacement of old pipes and the inspection of new water pipes to ensure that Flint residents can once again obtain clean tap water in their homes.

For infrastructure repairs deemed necessary by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the city of Flint would receive $770 million in funds. To help provide services to families and children exposed to lead in Flint, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would receive $270 million in funding, the U.S. Department of Education would receive $180 million, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development would receive $10 million and the U.S. Department of Justice would receive $10 million. For economic development, the U.S. Department of Labor would receive $40 million and the U.S. Department of Commerce would receive $25 million. Finally, to monitor ongoing health of residents in Flint, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would also recieve $200 million to create a Center of Excellence on Lead Exposure in Flint.

Another crucial aspect of Kildee’s legislation is that it would require the Michigan state government to match every federal grant dollar Flint receives. In this way, Michigan’s state government and the federal government take equal financial responsibility for resolving the crisis in Flint. The total amount that would be appropriated, roughly $765 million (about $1.5 billion with Michigan’s matched funds), would be split roughly equally between infrastructure fixes and mitigating the consequences of the crisis.

In addition to FOFA, other legislation has been introduced that would also help Flint. Recently, Michigan Sens. Debbie Stabenow (D) and Gary Peters (D) introduced provisions into a bipartisan energy bill that designates certain funds toward Flint. In addition, Gov. Rick Snyder (R) recently signed a $28 million aid bill for Flint, one of many allocating state resources to Flint.

The Flint water crisis also highlighted the need for legislation to better monitor water contamination nationwide. On Feb. 10, the U.S. House passed the Safe Drinking Water Act Improved Compliance Awareness Act, which is an ammendment that Kildee supported to strengthen regulations on  the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s notification of communities in instances of water contamination. The intent of the bill is to inform the public in crises similar to Flint’s, so the muddled and tragic mishandling of Flint’s situation can be avoided in the future. Although these are small steps in the right direction, FOFA, as of now, is the most effective legislation to deal with this crisis and it must be passed immediately.

Kildee said in a press release that he was pleased that the aforementioned amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act passed, and that continued legislation is on the table. Ultimately, though, Kildee said he “hope(s) it is only a first step in addressing this crisis.”

The government has an obligation to protect the many citizens who have been effectively poisoned by neglect and misinformation, and Kildee’s bill is a positive step toward fulfilling this obligation.

Flint must not be just a talking point for politicians and presidential hopefuls. It is crucial to provide continued, consistent attention to the needs of Flint residents. The health of thousands of people is at stake, not simply political capital for the campaign season. Bringing justice and aid to the people of Flint, as Kildee proposes in the FOFA bill, and as other legislation is working to do, is a foundational step in the right direction. FOFA provides a substantial amount of financial aid to Flint and to its community agencies with specific goals and means to ensure the targets are being met. Congress should act quickly and vote yes on this bill. The federal government, as well as Michigan’s state government, is accountable to the needs of its citizens — Flint should be no exception. 

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