Governor Rick Snyder is asking the Obama Administration to change its mind and declare a major disaster in Flint.
Snyder requested the declaration in order to free up $96 million in federal aid for Flint. The Obama Administration said those declarations are used to address natural disasters such as floods or fires. Snyder argues in a press release announcing the appeal that, “the situation in Flint is a disaster and in need of a federal declaration.”
“This situation poses an imminent and long-term threat to the people of Flint,” said Snyder. “We appreciate the support of the White House through the earlier emergency declaration. But additional federal resources are needed for the work that must be done.”
The administration has already approved Snyder's separate request for a federal emergency in Flint, freeing up to $5 million to aid the public health crisis. Flint lawmakers cheered the governor’s appeal on Wednesday. “I applaud the governor appealing this decision. And I really hope that it was just a snap, quick decision by the president when he declined the actual disaster relief,” said state Representative Phil Phelps (D-Flushing), who represents parts of Flint. “I really hope the federal government changes their mind on this.”
Phelps is also sponsoring a bill to send $28 million in state aid to Flint – as Snyder requested in his State of the State address Tuesday night. That bill got unanimous support in the state House on Wednesday and now goes to the Senate. He says it’s just a start. “Right now it’s going to address the very short term immediate things that we need,” said Phelps. “We are also going to address it – from word from the governor – that we are going to address it in the next budget cycle and possibly budget cycles going on.”
The governor also has released 274 pages of personal electronic communications going back two years related to the Flint water crisis. He promised he would do that in Tuesday night’s State of the State address. The messages detail communications between Governor Snyder and top aides on the Flint water crisis. The governor says he released the e-mails so the public could determine what he knew and when. There were no big surprises. The messages say the governor was informed about a possible problem in late September and that the state might be culpable. That’s because Flint was under state emergency management and then-Treasurer Andy Dillon had to approve the drinking water switch that led to the lead contamination. But Snyder aides said they still considered it a local issue.
Snyder administration officials also said they trusted the state’s data more than the numbers from Flint-based doctors and researchers who were warning about a lead contamination crisis. The state’s data turned out to be less reliable.