Dems urge Snyder to request disaster loans for Flint

Melissa Nann Burke, and Jonathan Oosting

Democratic members of Michigan’s congressional delegation are urging Gov. Rick Snyder to request disaster loans through the federal Small Business Administration to assist businesses owners who have been affected by the lead contamination of drinking water in Flint.

Raising concerns about the economic impact of the crisis in Flint, U.S. Sens. Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township, Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Rep. Dan Kildee of Flint Township on Friday wrote to Snyder asking him to engage the SBA to give eligible businesses, homeowners, renters and nonprofit organizations the ability to apply for low-interest, long-term disaster loans.

“It is critical that you prioritize this request for a disaster declaration, so that all of our constituents can assess whether a disaster loan is appropriate for their home, business or organization and submit their applications,” the members wrote.

“Disaster loans are not silver bullets that will cure all of the economic ills impacting Flint, but they can be helpful components of a broader recovery strategy, which will require sustained commitment from you and your administration.”

A Snyder spokesman said Friday he was not immediately aware if the administration has considered requesting SBA disaster loans.

“I know we’re certainly looking at all potential paths for resources to help people in the City of Flint,” Dave Murray said.

Small business owners in Flint have said they’re hurting from the water crisis, in part because residents and visitors fear eating out at restaurants or living in rental units, among a growing list of worries.

As part of the public health emergency declared in October, county officials recommend that restaurants, grocery stores, convenience stores and food warehouses in Flint have their water tested if they’re concerned about lead.

Officials have recommended food businesses install certified filters on faucets used for drinking or cooking and use bagged ice in the drinking water they serve.

“We’ve had contact from members saying that business is down. Their water is fine, but people are afraid to come into their establishments,” said Scott Ellis, executive director of the Michigan Licensed Beverage Association.

“We need to support these businesses because they are struggling, just as the people of Flint are. They can’t regain the money they’ve lost, and they need your help now more than ever.”

In a separate letter, Peters and Kildee wrote Friday to Secretary of Health and Human Services Sylvia Burwell, asking her to extend the open enrollment period specifically for Flint residents to sign up for health insurance on the federal exchange.

They also urged the agency to boost outreach in Flint to better educate residents about available health care options, in part because good nutrition and health can help mitigate the effects of lead exposure.

“Importantly, we ask that you engage and coordinate with clergy, schools, water distribution centers and other local stakeholders as you deem appropriate,” the members wrote.

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