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GM, UAW pledge $3 million to United Way of Genesee County

sign that says flint
Steve Carmody
Michigan Radio

General Motors and the United Auto Workers have pledged of $3 million over five years to United Way of Genesee County.

On Tuesday, a press release from United Way announced the money will go toward addressing the various concerns of Flint children.

Jamie Gaskin, CEO of United Way of Genesee County, said in an interview that these kids have both long- and short-term needs. 

"The immediate response is making sure organizations like the Red Cross, Food Bank, Salvation Army, Catholic charities have the resources they need for this direct-response phase," he said. "In the long-term ... we're looking at, quite frankly, trying to build a $100 million fund for all of these long-term needs. So it really is in stages here."

Among the most pressing for Flint children, Gaskin said, is testing and proper nutrition. He said it'll be important to supplement diets with vitamins and minerals that can counteract any possible exposure to lead. From there, kids will likely need access to educational and other developmental resources.

The Center for Disease Control announced last week plans to test each of Flints some 8,000 kids for unsafe lead levels. State officials said they assume any child who drank Flint water within the past two years was exposed. 

Gaskin said the $100 million figure is a 20-year goal based on an estimate of how much it will cost to help all children who need it. The goal is collective for the various advocacy and aid groups in the area, he said. 

The benefit of the GM/UAW gift, Gaskin said, is that it's longer-term guarantee allows for programs to take hold even as officials continue to evaluate where help is needed. 

"Our efforts with the UAW and United Way will support a spectrum of care for the children of Flint and will fluctuate year-to-year as we determine the greatest needs moving forward," Jeff Lamarche, Complex Director of GM Flint Manufacturing Operations, in the release. 

The release also noted that hundreds of UAW members live in Flint. No representative from GM or the UAW was available Tuesday morning. 

Elected officials and other donors are also working to fund programs for Flint children. Two weeks ago, Michigan U.S. Senators Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow requested funding from the national Head Start office in Washington to cover every eligible child in the city. 

Gaskin emphasized the need for a collaborative effort among all aid organizations in the area. He said many individual volunteers have been working for several weeks straight, helping canvass and deliver water, among other things. 

"It really is about partnerships," he said. "Everybody (is) trying, during a disaster, to get focused on doing the right thing and doing it the right way."

This post will be updated throughout the day.