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Flint residents worry about loss of state subsidies, water shutoffs

steve carmody
Michigan Radio
A few dozen Flint residents protested looming water shutoffs and the loss of state credits on their water bills.

Flint residents are worried the burden of fixing their broken water system is once again falling on them.

Chanting “We don’t pay for poison water,” dozens of Flint residents filled the lobby at city hall to protest looming water shutoffs of people who haven’t been paying their water and sewer bills.   

Under pressure from the state, the city started cracking down on commercial water customers who were either not paying or were seriously delinquent in paying their water bills. This year, attention is shifting to residential customers although so far, the city has not starting shutting off service to residential customers.

Nayyirah Shariff, the director of Flint Rising, fears a decision by the state to end a water bill credit in Flint is going to put more residents at risk.

“The state pulling out of the water credits is a kick in the teeth to Flint residents,” says Shariff.  

For the past year, the state of Michigan has covered roughly two-thirds of the water portion of Flint water and sewer bills. Over the past 12 months, the state credits amounted to about $40 million.  The credit was intended to ease some of the burden on residents and the city as efforts were made to replace the damage done by improperly treated Flint River water. Damaged pipes leached lead into the drinking water. 

But state officials say tests show Flint’s water quality improving, so the credits are no longer needed. The Snyder administration is also ending a monthly $1.2 million subsidy paying for water from Detroit.  

City officials say water customers must pay their bills, so the city can afford to pay for water from Detroit.  

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver says she’s asking for a meeting with Gov. Snyder to discuss the decisions behind the ending of the subsidies.

“I am disappointed by the announcement from the governor’s office, especially after we were told the credits would last at least until March 31,” Weaver said in a written statement. “The lack of consideration there seems to be for the residents is also concerning because we know people need time to prepare for changes like the credits no longer being provided.”

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Public since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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