Michigan says Flint ignoring millions in water crisis funds
FLINT, Mich. (AP) — Flint appears to be ignoring tens of millions of dollars in federal and state funds available to cover lead service line replacement following the city’s lead-tainted water crisis, according to Michigan officials.
The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality sent a letter Wednesday to the city’s chief financial officer, Hughey Newsome. Flint has only drawn 17 percent, or $27.2 million, of the $167 million available since 2017 for the city to improve its water system, the state agency wrote.
Flint has been working to replace its estimated 18,000 lead service lines since the city’s tap water became contaminated with lead in 2014 after officials switched to the Flint River to save money. The water wasn’t properly treated to reduce corrosion.
Flint’s neglect of the funding comes as city officials are telling contractors they don’t have enough money to pay for more than a partial contract, according to state officials.
“Recently the state was notified that the city is issuing partial contracts to SLR (service line replacement) contractors under the premise that the state is withholding funds from the city,” wrote Amy Epkey, the department’s administration deputy director. “This is not accurate.”
Epkey also expressed the department’s concerns over the “slow rate of reimbursement requests” from Flint eighteen months after the federal government authorized the funding. Part of the $167 million in state and federal funding came as a result of the city and Michigan settling a lawsuit filed by the Concerned Pastors for Social Action group.
Newsome said the delays in reimbursement requests are due to staffing shortages.
“In advance of the letter from the DEQ, the Finance Department and DPW were working on a timetable to complete reimbursement requests.” Newsome responded in a statement. “The city continues to work to finalize these requests as quickly as possible.”
The state agency gave Flint an Aug. 10 deadline to submit all reimbursement requests for work completed prior to June. The agency also requested a detailed timeline of when work will be completed for several ongoing infrastructure projects.