FEMA denies Snyder appeal for more Flint aid

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The Federal Emergency Management Agency has denied an appeal by Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder asking the agency to reconsider his request for more federal funding and resources to assist in Flint, which continues to struggle with lead-contaminated drinking water.

Snyder’s appeal had specifically requested funding from a program for emergency protective measures to reimburse costs for the provision of food and water and other essential needs, removal of health and safety hazards, activation of state or local emergency operations centers, and emergency measures to protect further damage.

“After a thorough review and careful consideration of all the information included in your appeal, we affirm the original determination that additional Stafford Act assistance, beyond what has already been authorized ... is not appropriate for this event,” Associate Administrator Elizabeth A. Zimmerman of FEMA’s Office of Response and Recovery wrote to Snyder.

“The assistance FEMA has provided and continues to provide is intended to address the immediate emergency needs caused by the water contamination.”

Snyder also requested funding through the Individuals and Households program, which could supply funds for homeowners to repair damage from a disaster that is not covered by insurance, including septic or sewage systems and well or other water systems.

“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 a statement.

“This denial is especially frustrating as it would have provided aid to individual households in Flint.”

The agency denied Snyder’s original request to declare a major disaster in late January. His initial inquiry to the Obama administration requested $96 million in disaster relief.

FEMA had said it couldn’t recommend declaring a federal emergency in Flint under the law, which says only natural catastrophes, fires, floods or explosions warrant a major disaster declaration.

Zimmerman’s letter recognized the “substantial costs” incurred at the state and local levels in responding to the health concerns associated with the water contamination. But she also noted that since Obama’s emergency declaration, FEMA has provided technical assistance, as well as more than 2 million liters of water for distribution, 55,000 water and pitcher filters and 236,000 filter replacement cartridges.

“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 wrote.

In recent weeks, Snyder has requested other forms of federal aid through specific agencies. This month, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it would grant his request to expand Medicaid coverage for Flint families to make additional health care and other services available to thousands of children up to age 21, as well as pregnant women, who have received water from Flint’s lead-contaminated system.

Health and Human Services has also said it will expand the Head Start program in Flint to provide increased behavioral and educational services to children affected by lead exposure, using $3.6 million in one-time emergency funding from the federal agency.

Snyder had also asked for a waiver to expand nutrition assistance to children in Flint ages 5 to 10 to help mitigate the negative effects of lead exposure. The U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected the request in January, saying the federal statute governing the Women, Infants and Children program limits eligibility to children up to age 5.

The Agriculture Department has mobilized other assistant in Flint. The local WIC agency has made available ready-to-feed infant formula, which does not need to be mixed with water. WIC participants may also swap powdered formula for ready-to-feed formula.

The Agriculture Department in January also approved the Michigan Department of Education’s request for additional funds for fresh fruit and vegetables. That funding will be used to help affected schools purchase foods high in vitamin C.

mburke@detroitnews.com

(202) 662-8736