- Flint, Michigan, received $390 million in state funding for its water crisis, but as much has gone to economic and social development as has gone to safe drinking water, state spending data show.
- The funds have paid for free daycare for kids too young to have been impacted by the main crisis, according to state records, and for basketball, according to a book; residents are even being paid $50 to sign up for other government benefits.
- Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, a Flint activist, said the money has enabled “the stuff progressives dream about,” and a state budget spokesman said local officials are lobbying to keep services even as the water problem fades.
Four years ago this month, then-Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder declared an emergency in Flint, and $390 million in state aid began pouring in. Much of the money, however, was spent on activities only peripherally related to lead in water, state spending data show.
About $129 million was spent on economic development and “social development,” nearly as much as the $144 million spent on safe drinking water, according to the state budget tally.
Money from a state water grant was used to bring “a youth basketball league back to the city after a fifteen-year absence,” according to the book “The Poisoned City.”
State water-crisis money has been providing free daycare for children ages 3 and under in the city, even though none of them were alive or in utero during the primary water crisis, a state spokesman acknowledged. The city switched from the problematic water supply in October 2015.
Kurt Weiss, spokesman for Michigan’s budget office, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that the original justification for daycare was that staff could monitor kids who had been exposed to lead for signs of developmental delays.
“At some point you have to evaluate, at what point does the state say none of those kids were exposed to lead so you shouldn’t be running that daycare anymore? But the citizens of Flint still feel suspicious of government, as they should, so to pull funding for things that were put in place starts to become a difficult conversation,” he said.
Of $66 million that went toward economic development, $20 million went to Uptown Reinvestment Corp., a firm associated with four investors, two of whom are donors to Snyder, according to campaign finance records. Seven million dollars went to renovate an old building into new apartments, and $5.5 million to renovate the Capitol Theatre.
Under social development, the government also spent nearly $4 million providing extra money on the food stamp cards of residents, the state data show.
Some money under the “clean water” category itself was used to prop up general city activities, such as plowing snow and maintaining traffic lights, with the justification that it “support[ed] water distribution.”
The Flint Registry, which a federal grant supports, is paying residents $50 to fill out a form enrolling them, which in turn connects them to further services such as health screenings and education.
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