Feds make $7.5M available to Flint for water recovery

Keith Laing
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Washington — The Obama administration is making $7.5 million available immediately to workers in Flint to train them to assist with the city’s recovery from its water crisis, the Department of Labor announced on Wednesday.

The agency said the job training money will fund up to 400 temporary jobs that can help “assist with humanitarian and recovery efforts resulting from the contaminated water crisis” in Flint.

“What happened in Flint was obviously inexcusable,” Labor Secretary Tom Perez said in a Wednesday conference call with reporters in Washington.

“As a federal official and a former local elected official and as a parent, I’m maddened and saddened along with the people of Flint,” he continued. “From public health to infrastructure to identifying and responding to the crisis, government broke down and we now have an even greater responsibility to help build Flint back up.”

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder welcomed the grant.

“We are pursuing every available avenue to support the families of Flint,” Snyder said in a statement. “This grant will provide temporary employment for eligible residents, allowing them to support the humanitarian work taking place in the city as well as providing them with the skills that will translate to longer-term employment. We appreciate the federal government’s prompt and positive reaction to Michigan’s request and will continue our efforts to develop the talent that exists throughout the city.”

The Labor Department said the job training assistance money will provide opportunities for local residents to participate in apprenticeships that could pay dividends for them down the road, in addition to the temporary jobs that would be created to help with the city’s short-term recovery from the water crisis.

The agency said the job training money, from its National Dislocated Worker grant program, could be matched with additional funding up to $15 million for Flint if Congress goes along with the Obama administration’s plan.

Perez said the Obama administration’s cash outlay for job training in Flint is proof of President Barack Obama’s commitment to helping the city recovering from the contaminated water crisis as federal and state officials have traded blame for the problem.

“We will not stop working until we have fixed the problem entirely,” he said.

Michigan lawmakers in Congress said Tuesday they are grateful for the Obama administration’s offer to provide funding for job training to Flint.

“I think it needs to be emphasized that we’re talking about the people of Flint getting these jobs,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Lansing. “This amount up to $15 million is all about committing to jobs for the people of Flint, not just jobs in Flint.”

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Bloomfield Township, added that it is “absolutely critical that the people of Flint also have an opportunity to make a livelihood (and) to be able to get job skills that will be important for them not only in rebuilding the city of Flint, but allow them to be able to continue to have a good-paying job for years to come.

“That’s why I think this grant is so significant,” he said. “We’ve seen it play out in other cities around the country where there has been a crisis. Where this training money is available, it creates both a short-term and a long-term impact in that community.”

Perez said he is confident the Flint population will be able to put the federal job training assistance to good use.

“There’s a lot of people with incredible talent living in Flint who have been unemployed or underemployed for a long time,” he said.

He said most of the money would funnel through the local government in Flint, but some of the cash would be used to fund jobs that are being offered by nonprofit organizations who are assisting with the water crisis recovery.

“Our goal is to figure out who is doing the job now and help them do their job even better by giving them this funding,” Perez said. “We’re not going to reinvent wheels.”

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint Township, said he is confident the people of his district are up to the tasks that will be required by the jobs that are going to be funded by the new federal money.

“Nobody is better positioned to fix the problem than the people of Flint,” he said.

“That’s why this initiative is so critical with the Department of Labor funding positions in Flint for Flint people to participate in this recovery,” Kildee continued. “Especially to provide these apprenticeship opportunities, so it’s not just a temporary fix, but people can develop skills that they can keep with them for a lifetime.”


(202) 662-8735

Twitter: @Keith_Laing