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FEMA denies appeal for federal money for Flint homeowners, says request “not appropriate”

Sarah Hulett
Michigan Radio

The Federal Emergency Management Agency is holding firm on its decision that certain funding the state of Michigan is requesting to help with the Flint water crisis is “not appropriate.”

This goes back to January, when President Obama approved an emergency declaration for Flint. But he denied Gov. Rick Snyder’s request for a disaster declaration because Flint’s water crisis is man-made, not a natural disaster.

The emergency declaration will bring up to $5 million in direct funding to Flint. A disaster declaration could have brought millions more.

Snyder appealed that decision on Jan. 20 and FEMA denied the appeal on Jan. 22.

Earlier this month, Snyder appealed to FEMA to reconsider its denial of two specific programs: the Individuals and Households Program and the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.

“It is disappointing that the federal government has rejected yet another request for funding to help Flint residents with the city’s recovery from the water crisis, including needs both now and in the future,” Snyder said in the written release. “This denial is especially frustrating as it would have provided aid to individual households in Flint.

If FEMA had agreed with Snyder’s appeal, Flint homeowners could have accessed federal money to repair damage not covered by insurance. Presumably, that would help pay to replace lead service lines or old plumbing that was corroded during the 17 months the city ran improperly treated water through the system.

But because a disaster was not declared, FEMA says these programs don’t apply.

Snyderreleased FEMA’s March 12 letter today.

“It is recognized that substantial costs have been incurred at the state and local levels in responding to the health concerns associated with the water contamination,” Elizabeth Zimmerman, Associate Administrator at the Office of Response and Recovery wrote.

The letter says FEMA has provided more than 2 million liters of water, 55,000 water and pitcher filters, and 236,000 filter replacement cartridges as well as technical assistance.

“The remaining response efforts required to address the long term health concerns associated with the water contamination fall under the authorities of the state and other federal agencies currently responding to the incident,” Zimmerman concluded.

Lindsey Smith is a Peabody Award-winning journalist currently leading the station's Amplify Team. She previously served as Michigan Public's Morning News Editor, Investigative Reporter and West Michigan Reporter.
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