WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Gary Peters (D-MI) today announced Senate passage of the Water Resources Development Act (WRDA) by a vote of 95 to 3, which included their bipartisan agreement to help families in Flint and other communities across the country. The U.S. House of Representatives must now pass the legislation and send it to the President for his signature.
The Stabenow-Peters agreement provides access to $100 million in funding to help repair Flint’s drinking water infrastructure; funding to activate over $1 billion in low-interest loans to upgrade water infrastructure in communities in Michigan and across the country; $50 million to address health care needs of children who have lead exposure; authority for the State of Michigan to forgive $20 million in past drinking water loans to Flint; and a requirement that EPA warn the public within 15 days of high lead levels in drinking water if a state fails to do so.
“After months of working intensely with colleagues on both sides of the aisle to overcome opposition, I am extremely pleased that the Senate has finally passed urgently needed help for families in Flint,” said Senator Stabenow. “Today’s passage is an important reminder to the nation that the crisis in Flint is far from over. Today families still cannot drink the unfiltered water that comes out of their faucets! Now, our colleagues in the House need to act as quickly as possible. It’s also essential that the State of Michigan fully meet their responsibilities to solve the water crisis.”
“Flint residents have been living with contaminated water for far too long and are still relying on bottled water and filters for drinking, cooking and bathing,” said Senator Gary Peters. “I am pleased the Senate came together to pass this bipartisan, fully paid-for legislation to provide much-needed support for Flint families. I urge my colleagues in the House to swiftly pass similar assistance to help Flint and other communities across the country make critical investments to upgrade their aging water infrastructure. While the federal government can and should help Flint recover from this ongoing crisis, the State of Michigan must step up with sustained, long-term support for the people of Flint.”
In addition to the Stabenow-Peters agreement, WRDA includes $40 million for two new programs to help communities reduce lead in drinking water systems and to help rural communities improve drinking water. The bill also authorizes $100 million in grants to test lead in drinking water at schools and child care facilities and requires the electronic reporting of drinking water data.
Stabenow-Peters Agreement Summary:
$100 Million Available to Help Flint Fix and Repair Water Infrastructure
The Stabenow-Peters agreement provides $100 million in new federal funding to the Drinking Water State Revolving Fund. The State of Michigan can access these funds after submitting a comprehensive plan to the EPA. This funding will only be available to a community, like Flint, that received a federal emergency declaration by the President due to a public health threat from high amounts of lead in drinking water. These funds can be accessed after the State of Michigan and the City of Flint submit a comprehensive plan to the EPA.
State Option for Debt Forgiveness
The State of Michigan will be given new flexibility to use funding from the Drinking Water State Revolving Loan Fund to forgive Flint’s debts incurred prior to fiscal year 2016. Flint is currently paying interest on approximately $20 million in old Drinking Water State Revolving Fund loans.
Over $1 Billion in Water Infrastructure Financing Innovation Fund
The agreement also provides $70 million in funding to activate over $1 billion in low-interest loans to finance much-needed upgrades to water infrastructure. These loans will be made possible through the Water Infrastructure Finance and Innovation Act (WIFIA), which will be available to communities in all states, including Michigan.
$50 Million for Public Health
The agreement provides $17.5 million for the Department of Health and Human Services to create a national registry to monitor health effects of children exposed to lead, and $2.5 million for an advisory committee to review ways to reduce lead exposure.
Another $30 million is provided to three different federal programs that fund efforts to address the short- and long-term effects of lead poisoning, including assistance to pregnant women and new mothers, and public education on the dangers of lead exposure. This funding also provides resources to help state efforts to identify and address environmental health and public safety issues associated with lead, mold, carbon monoxide, and radon in homes and soil.
The agreement also includes legislation introduced by Senators Peters, Stabenow and Congressman Kildee requiring the EPA to warn the public in the future of high lead levels in drinking water if a state fails to do so. The bill also allows EPA to notify residents and health departments of any results of lead monitoring, whether or not the amount of lead in the water exceeds the action level.
No Cost to Taxpayers
The Stabenow-Peters agreement is fully paid for by sunsetting funding for an existing program at the Department of Energy.
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