News Story

Did You Know? Post-Water Crisis, Fed and State Money Pours Into Flint

$347 million so far — nearly five times the city’s annual budget — delivered for infrastructure and more

When a state financial review team examined the city of Flint’s books in 2011, it discovered officials had used money from a dedicated municipal water fund to pay for other spending. That left a $9 million deficit in the fund.

But since the water crisis was uncovered in 2015, state and federal dollars have been rushing into the Genesee County city — a total of $347 million so far. By comparison, the city of Flint’s general fund budget was $52.1 million before it was placed under a state-appointed emergency manager in 2011.

In March, the federal Environmental Protection Agency gave the state’s Department of Environmental Quality a $100 million grant for upgrading the Flint water system, including replacing lead service lines that connect homes to city water mains.

The Michigan Legislature has appropriated another $247 million for Flint, of which $174 million has been disbursed. The money has been spent on giving residents credits on their water bills, delivering bottled water to residences, running social welfare programs, administering food and nutrition programs and more.

Some of the money has been spent on Medicaid coverage for Flint residents, outreach to non-English speaking residents, child care subsidies, support for food banks and grocery market feasibility studies.

“The Governor is committed to Flint’s full recovery from the crisis, and identified resources within the state budget to provide health care and nutrition services and service line replacements for the next several years,” said Gov. Rick Snyder’s spokeswoman Anna Heaton.

Marc Edwards, a professor at Virginia Tech who was one of the whistleblowers in the lead-in-water crisis in Flint, said it was hard to evaluate the response.

“Given that the 2001-04 Washington, D.C. lead-in-water crisis was 30 times worse, and the only thing D.C. residents got was lies and an epic cover-up — there is really no precedent to judge,” Edwards said in an email. “On the one hand, health harm is certainly priceless, but on the other, society has to come up with a number. Given the EPA involvement, I lobbied hard that the federal government needed to contribute substantially, and they did so in a bipartisan way. The state of Michigan and the courts really need to decide the rest.”

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver didn't return an email seeking comment.

Michigan Capitol Confidential is the news source produced by the Mackinac Center for Public Policy. Michigan Capitol Confidential reports with a free-market news perspective.