Michigan approves $28 million more for Flint water crisis

The Michigan Legislature voted Thursday to direct another $28 million to address Flint’s water emergency, allocating money for bottled water, medical assessments and other costs in the city struggling with a lead-contaminated supply.

The funding received quick and unanimous approval just over a week after it was proposed by Gov. Rick Snyder. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.

“We obviously have a number of issues that we have to deal with, whether it’s infrastructure, whether it’s folks having to pay for water that obviously is undrinkable,” said Senate Minority Leader Jim Ananich, D-Flint. “But the most important I think right now … is to start the focus on the assessment and the providing of services and this appropriation starts us on the path to do that.”

It is the second round of funding enacted since the crisis was confirmed in the fall.

The money will pay for developmental assessments of children age 3 and younger, additional school nurses, lead and blood testing, plumbing fixture replacements and other costs. The largest allotment — $4.6 million — is for bottled water, filters and replacement cartridges being distributed to residents in the city of nearly 100,000 people.

Lawmakers said they were able to shift about $3.4 million to other priorities because of charitable donations and the ability to buy water at discounted rates after a federal emergency declaration was issued.

Snyder has promised to propose more funding for Flint in his upcoming budget proposal.

Flint’s water became contaminated when the financially struggling city switched from the Detroit municipal system and began drawing from the Flint River in April 2014 to save money. State officials were in charge of the city at the time.

At the federal level, legislation to address Flint’s water crisis was also likely as the U.S. Senate takes up a bipartisan bill on energy policy. Preliminary votes on the overall energy bill are expected as soon as Thursday.

Senate Democrats were introducing a measure to provide up to $400 million in new federal funding to replace and fix lead-contaminated pipes in Flint. The bill also requires federal action if a state refuses to warn the public about unsafe water and authorizes $20 million a year to monitor lead exposure in Flint.

Democratic Sens. Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow of Michigan were expected to offer the measure Thursday as an amendment to a Senate energy bill.

Regulators failed to ensure the new water was treated properly and lead from pipes leached into the water supply. Some children’s blood has tested positive for lead, a potent neurotoxin linked to learning disabilities, lower IQ and behavioral problems.

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