Snyder asks FEMA to reconsider denial for Flint funding

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

Gov. Rick Snyder on Thursday asked the Federal Emergency Management Agency to reconsider his request for more federal funding and resources to assist the beleaguered city.

The agency had 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.

“While government and independent experts say the quality of the water is improving, there is a long road ahead for Flint’s recovery,” Snyder said in a statement.

“We are continuously working on ways to help the people of Flint recover from this health crisis. Assistance from our federal partners could go a long way in moving Flint forward.”

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.

Snyder’s new appeal specifically requests funding from a program for emergency protective measures to cover 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, according to Snyder’s office.

Snyder also requests 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.

In recent weeks, Snyder also has requested other forms of federal aid through specific agencies, such as expanding Medicaid coverage for residents who already have other forms of insurance to ensure that a wider range of benefits are available to children who may have been exposed to lead in the city’s drinking water.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has said those requests for expanded Medicaid assistance in Flint will likely be granted, and has committed $500,000 in funding to assist two local agencies with their response efforts to the city's lead-contaminated water crisis — the Genesee Health System and Hamilton Community Health Network.

HHS on Wednesday 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 years of age to help mitigate the negative effects of lead exposure.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture rejected the request in late January, saying the federal statute governing the (Women, Infants and Children program) limits eligibility to children up to age 5.

USDA has mobilized in other ways to assist in the crisis in Flint. The local WIC agency has made ready-to-feed infant formula, which does not need to be mixed with water, available to WIC participants. WIC participants may also swap powdered formula for ready-to-feed formula as needed.

The agency said last month it’s temporarily allowing Michigan to use WIC funds to conduct lead testing for WIC participants.

USDA 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, agency spokeswoman Cathy Cochran has said.

mburke@detroitnews.com

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