State offers disaster grants to Flint, Genesee County

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Lansing – Gov. Rick Snyder opened the state Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund on Wednesday to offer assistance grants for Flint, Genesee County and other local municipalities affected by the city’s ongoing water crisis.

Michigan’s emergency response law allows the governor to use the fund for local assistance grants of up to $100,000 under “extraordinary circumstances” and when federal reimbursement is not available.

“While this emergency is still ongoing, both the city of Flint and Genesee County have bills to pay now,” Snyder said in a statement.

“Money from this fund will help cover some of the costs they incurred while responding to the emergency. I will continue to explore other options for providing financial assistance to our local government partners.”

The Flint water crisis has prompted emergency declarations at the city, county, state and federal levels, but the Obama administration denied Snyder’s request for a “major disaster” declaration that would have authorized more than the $5 million in aid the president sent.

Flint Mayor Karen Weaver presented her fiscal year 2017 budget this week and said the water crisis continues to pose serious fiscal challenges for her city.

She said Tuesday she is not satisfied with the state’s response to financial assistance and repeated her call for financial help: “We need some money.”

Snyder and the state Legislature have so far approved $67 million in supplemental funding related to the Flint water crisis. As The Detroit News reported Wednesday, much of the state money has been slow to reach affected residents for various reasons.

The governor’s office said the emergency grants could help Flint, Genesee County and other affected municipalities cover related costs, including overtime pay for government employees, contracts, shelter supplies, gasoline and repair of public buildings and roads.

The grant program will be administered by the Michigan State Police, Emergency Management and Homeland Security Division, which will help local governments with the application process.

The state is also expected to tap the Disaster and Emergency Contingency Fund to support its Emergency Operations and Joint Information centers, according to the House Fiscal Agency.

In fiscal year 2015, the state used the fund to provide $2.49 million in local assistance grants related to northern Michigan flooding and a deep freeze that affected the Upper Peninsula and the northern Lower Peninsula.