Flint delays giving out $30M in water bill credits

Jonathan Oosting
Detroit News Lansing Bureau

Flint residents will have to wait a little longer to see $30 million in state-funded credits appear on their water bills.

City Administrator Sylvester Jones said Friday that Flint will not be sending out new water bills by the end of the week as expected, explaining the city needs more time to implement and explain the water crisis reimbursement program to customers.

“We would have liked to get it out today or tomorrow, (but) we do want to take the time to get it right before it goes out,” Jones said during a meeting of the Flint Water Interagency Coordinating Committee. “It might require a little more time with our finance department. It might require a little more conversation with the governor’s office.”

Jones did not specify when the bills will go out, saying only that the city is “hoping soon.”

Gov. Rick Snyder signed the $30 million supplemental spending bill Feb. 26. The funding is designed to reimburse residents and businesses who were charged for drinking, bathing and cooking water since April 2014, when the city began using Flint River water.

State regulators did not require the city to treat the river water with corrosion control chemicals, and it ended up leaching lead into the tap water.

Snyder “transformation manager” Rich Baird said Friday that the administration settled on the $30 million figure after studying water usage data and deciding it was appropriate to cover 65 percent of residential water charges.

The credits will not apply to sewer charges and are not designed to cover water used for things like watering plants or lawns, washing cars and flushing toilets, Baird said.

“It’s really important when the bills go out with the credits on them that residents are able to understand what this means,” he said.

Jones told members of the interagency task force that the city is taking extra time to work on the formatting of bills it will eventually send out. Mayor Karen Weaver believes providing detailed, accurate and transparent information on the water bills is important for restoring trust in government, he said.

“We want to make sure we don’t insult the intelligence of the Flint residents by sending out a bill that doesn’t offer clear information,” Jones said.

Michigan legislators and Gov. Rick Snyder have approved $67 million in water crisis funding for Flint since October. But as The Detroit News reported this week, much of that money has been slow to reach residents.

As of March 12, state departments had spent $14.1 million, or 21 percent, of the funding. Implementation of the water credit program would increase that total considerably.

“It’s been passed by the state, and so it’s now up to the city,” Snyder said Thursday about the water credit funding.

“We’re in daily communication with the city about how best to do that, and I think you’ll find them doing that very near term, in terms of starting the water bill process again and communication how the credit will work to citizens.”

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