Michigan GOP lawmakers push $70M Flint-inspired aid plan in U.S. House
Washington — Michigan House Republicans led by U.S. Rep. John Moolenaar of Midland are pushing legislation that would make $30 million available to crisis-stricken Flint and another $40 million to rural communities for water infrastructure improvements.
The proposed Safe Water and Nutrition Access Act comes as a $220 million Flint-inspired package backed by U.S. Sens. Debbie Stabenow of Lansing and Gary Peters of Bloomfield Township has stalled in the Republican-controlled Senate.
“Anything that gets done needs to be a bipartisan resolution,” Moolenaar said in a Friday interview.
Under the legislation, Flint would be eligible for up to $20 million in grants for repairing its damaged underground water pipeline infrastructure and making upgrades to its treatment plant, said the freshman congressman whose district borders the Flint district.
The bill includes $5 million in financing for the development of new grocery stores in Flint and a $5 million loan program for aiding the distribution of locally produced nutritious fruit and vegetables that doctors say can counter the harmful effects of lead poisoning.
Moolenaar, a member of the House Agriculture Committee, said the nutrition-related legislation seeks to attract long-term investment in a low-income urban area that has long been under-served by chain grocery stores that sell fresh fruit and vegetables.
“We know there’s an urgency there for organizations and agricultural partners to bring in resources right now,” Moolenaar said. “But you also want a more sustainable approach. We don’t want something to be there for a short period of time.”
Moolenaar’s bill was co-sponsored by seven of Michigan’s eight Republican House members.
U.S. Rep. Justin Amash did not sign onto the bill. The Kent County Republican, a member of the U.S. House Oversight and Government Reform Committee that has held three hearings on Flint, has advocated for state government to tap a nearly $600 million reserve fund to pay for Flint’s emergency water needs.
In addition to special funding streams designed to aid Flint, Moolenaar’s bill includes $40 million in grants to assist rural areas in the construction of new water treatment plants and deal with groundwater contamination from agricultural runoff.