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Flint loan bill clears hurdle in Washington

A man protests the poor quality of Flint's water
steve carmody
Michigan Radio
(file photo)

A congressional committee has signed off on legislation that could save Flint millions of dollars -- money that could be used to fix its damaged water system.

Today, the U.S. House Appropriations committee approved the Fiscal Year 2017 Interior, Environment and Related Agencies Appropriations bill. The bill includes a provision that would allow the state of Michigan to forgive $21 million in Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans taken by the city of Flint.

The bill also puts more money into federal programs to help local governments replace lead pipes and improve water quality. 

U.S. Rep. Dan Kildee, D-Flint, says that could free up millions of dollars Flint needs to fix its water system.

“Congress must keep its focus on Flint and ensure that families get the resources they need to recover from this man-made crisis,” Congressman Kildee said in a written statement. “Allowing Flint to forgive past drinking water fund loans, in addition to prioritizing the replacement of lead pipes with new federal funds, could help Flint greatly improve its drinking water system.”

The committee’s vote was warmly greeted at Flint city hall.

“We cleared a big hurdle today,” said Flint Mayor Karen Weaver in a written statement. “I hope and pray Congress will support the measure so residents of Flint will see that they haven’t been forgotten, and so we can provide the children and families dealing with the effects of this ongoing crisis with health and educational services and make the infrastructure improvements needed to fix this problem so we can focus on healing and moving forward.”

Flint will take a step toward fixing the problem on Thursday. Tomorrow afternoon is the deadline for contractors to submit bids for the next round of service line replacements in the city. Service lines are the prime source of lead leaching into Flint’s tap water.

The city is paying to remove up to 500 lead pipes with $2 million in state money.

Gov. Snyder is expected to soon sign next year’s state budget, which includes another $25 million to remove lead pipes in Flint.

The governor’s office released a statement today after the House committee vote, saying in part:

“It’s encouraging to see progress from the federal government to provide resources for Flint.”

The federal legislation still has a long path to the president’s desk. There is also a similar bill before the U.S. Senate.   

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting.
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