In an effort to continue the building of Flint following its declaration of a state emergency in 2015, Gov. Rick Snyder’s recommended budget for the 2018 fiscal year allocated funds toward multiple programs and initiatives within the city. The budget will run from Oct. 1, 2017, to Sept. 30, 2018.
To offset the thousands affected by lead contamination, about $49 million has been promised to be allocated for Flint in the proposal. Since the state of emergency was declared, 2015 a total of $234 million in aid has been sent the city. However, Rep. Dan Kildee (D–Flint) said while this continued funding is a step in the right direction, it is not a complete solution.
“The state of Michigan is responsible for what happened in Flint and we need their long-term commitment,” Kildee said. “They spend some money and treat it as if they have solved the problem. The real question is whether it's enough, and so far it's not.”
In order to support the drinking water declaration of emergency in Flint, $25 million of the total $49 million has been allocated to address the emergency state. If the proposal receives legislative approval, the funding will be available to Flint residents as needed. Though this state funding is appreciated and necessary, state Sen. Jim Ananich (D–Flint) noted the programs that have appeared more successful have been community efforts and ideas.
“There’s been a number positive solutions that the community helped develop,” Ananich said. “Lansing caused the problem, and I think they need to let Flint come up with the proper solutions.”
Though Kildee acknowledged Flint has an inevitably slow recovery ahead, largely because of the long-term effects of lead poisoning, the state needs to expedite the recovery process as much as possible.
“All of the improvements that have taken place are good but are too slow,” Kildee said. “The state does not have a sense of urgency — the most positive thing about Flint is that the people of Flint haven't given up.”
Ananich also mentioned the long-term nature of the water crisis and the problems that causes for both the people and the budget.
“The issue is long term and a lot of the issues we have from a budgetary standpoint are because we don’t just need to make sure we spend the money well — the money needs to last,” Ananich said. “These needs last far beyond the fiscal year.
The budget recommendation allocates $13.4 million, with $1 million from the general state fund, to continue various programs and initiatives to aid those affected by lead contamination.
A significant proportion of the $13.4 million is geared toward programs that will encourage healthy eating habits and nutrition, including $680,000 to continue the Double Up Food Bucks Program in Flint. This program reimburses purchases of fresh fruits and vegetables allowing Bridge Card holders to purchase more fresh produce. Ananich said the healthy-food initiatives could provide Flint with more than improved nutrition.
“On its own it's a good thing by encouraging nutrition, and in addition to this, it also supports Michigan businesses and Michigan produce,” Ananich said. “It makes economical sense as well.”
Kildee agreed health initiatives are integral to the healing of Flint and said any kind of funding is helpful.
“I am happy to see it and I think it will help,” Kildee said. “Everything we do to help people in Flint or anybody living on modest mean is important.”
The other bulk of the $13.4 million is geared toward child-care and family-support initiatives. Breastfeeding support programs and child and adolescent health centers are among many services been funded by the budget.
Children affected by lead exposure have been allocated $8.7 million for early childhood programs in Flint. These programs are intended to monitor developmental needs.
In addition to Flint children, the budget poses incentives for water testing to become the habit of all schools, not just those receiving state funding. $4.5 million has been recommended to reimburse nonpublic schools who voluntarily test their water.
Structurally, more than $2 million in total has been provided to fund the surveillance of lead poisoning and its treatment, including the provision of water-filter cartridges. The proposal does not specifically fund lead-pipe replacement.
Staff and training are also receiving support with $508,000 being allocated toward staff who work to uphold public health standards. Another $2.6 million is included for staff who sample and control levels of lead and levels of corrosion.
Ananich said from a budgetary perspective, Flint will benefit from more than programs aimed provided specifically for them.
“The Flint community is going to benefit from things that weren’t specifically Flint line items,” Ananich said. “We’ve expanded other programs to make them more accessible to the Flint community.”
Gov. Rick Snyder has been commended for his comprehensive approach on funding Flint. As reported by MLive, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said the ongoing funding is necessary.
“It's important that the governor's budget recommendation includes money for lead-poisoning prevention, water-filter cartridges, nutrition services, and additional early childhood education and health-care services for our children,” Weaver said.
Ananich said though the budget isn’t ideal, overall it should help Flint as it addresses the crisis.
“It’s hard to say exactly if this is the right dollar amount and exactly what it will do,” Ananich said.
Snyder promised many of the services contained in his proposal and acknowledged the city’s continued needs in a statement in January.
“There is still more work to do in Flint, and I remain committed to helping the residents recover and restore their city,” Snyder said in his statement. “Programs related to providing water filters, funding lead service line replacements, increasing access to health care, improving educational opportunities, growing Flint’s economy and more will continue.”