Whitmer proposes $23 million for Flint in first budget, will discuss restoring bottled water distribution

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Gov. Gretchen Whitmer set aside more than $23 million in her first budget proposal, unveiled Tuesday, to help Flint residents recover from the Flint water crisis.

Of the $23.1 million investment proposed by Whitmer, $8.1 million would fund a variety of programs to assist Flint residents affected by the water crisis, including lead abatement activities, nutritional programs and health care services for children exposed to lead.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer hosts a media roundtable after presenting her first budget proposal to a joint meeting of the House and Senate appropriations committees on March 5, 2019. (Andrew Roth | Flint Beat)

A report published last December said Whitmer would instruct her administration to restore the distribution of bottled water to Flint residents.

Whitmer later told reporters at an event in January that it was too early to say whether she would push to resume state funding for bottled water distributions but added that “until all the pipes are replaced, we’ve got to make sure that people have clean water to drink.”

While the budget proposal does not specifically set aside funds for bottled water, the other $15 million dedicated to Flint would be deposited into the Flint reserve fund, which can be used for future needs.

Nestle Waters North America, who has been donating 100,000 bottles of water a week, is expected to stop providing bottled water to the city in April.

Kurt Weiss, a spokesman for the Department of Technology, Management and Budget, said that “discussions around what happens after the donations stop will be held when we reach that point.”

State Budget Director Chris Kolb answers questions from members of the House and Senate appropriations committees on March 5, 2019. (Andrew Roth | Flint Beat)

Statewide, Whitmer’s budget proposal calls for $7.5 million to be spent identifying best practices and evaluating the effectiveness of various water rate designs intended to ensure that water rates are affordable and sustainable.

Whitmer detailed her proposal to a joint House and Senate appropriations committee meeting with the help of Budget Director Chris Kolb, the first step in what is expected to be a months-long negotiation with the Republican-led House of Representatives and Senate.

Whitmer told legislators at the meeting that the Flint water crisis “undermines the story of Pure Michigan.”

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