Flint, MI — Flint City Council again delayed action on a program aimed at supporting Flint’s pregnant mothers and their babies at its most recent meeting.
On Sept. 25, 2023, the council voted to postpone a resolution allocating $1 million of the city’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds to Rx Kids, a pilot program that would provide Flint mothers a $1,500 cash allowance mid-pregnancy and $500 monthly cash allowances through the first year of their child’s life.
“This is unconditional money to lift the poorest city out of Michigan, to lift our children out of poverty,” Dr. Mona Hanna-Attisha, who is spearheading the project through Michigan State University, said to council. “Almost 70 percent, 70 percent, of our kids are growing up without the resources they need to be healthy and successful… This is not about individual choices. This is about policies. This is about how we have the power to lift our families up, and we can do this.”
The Rx Kids resolution had been before Flint City Council at its Sept. 11 meeting, but that meeting resulted in the body taking no action on any agenda items and a Sept. 14 special meeting called by city administration to deal with the first meeting’s “urgent” resolutions.
Council also failed to vote on those resolutions at the Sept. 14 meeting, spurring the administration to announce it would move forward with “emergency protocol” to address the resolutions, which covered water infrastructure repair work, lead paint abatement and a homeless shelter contract.
While Council Vice President Ladel Lewis voiced her approval for the Rx Kids program, calling it “a no-brainer” on Sept. 25, other councilmembers were less supportive.
Councilwoman Judy Priestley said she viewed the program as “welfare” and thought it would discourage parents from looking for employment.
Councilwoman Tonya Burns said she would not vote on any resolution dealing with ARPA funding given her and Councilman Eric Mays’ ongoing lawsuit questioning the legality of the city’s ARPA Community Advisory Committee.
During the council’s discussion, Hanna-Attisha said that Rx Kids has already gathered over $40 million in support from local and state funders, but it remains short of its $55 million goal. That amount, she said, would fund the program for roughly five years and could be within reach if council voted to approve the resolution before them.
“We have national donors who have not committed to Rx Kids because the city has not committed,” Hanna-Attisha said.
Councilman Quincy Murphy asked Hanna-Attisha how much potential funding may be coming from those donors and if she could provide letters to prove it. The doctor responded by saying the funds hadn’t been committed yet because there was no buy-in from the city.
Ultimately, the council voted 6-3 to send the resolution back to its finance committee.
Councilmembers Eric Mays, Jerri Winfrey-Carter, Dennis Pfeiffer, Murphy, Priestley and Burns voted in favor. Lewis and Councilwomen Candice Mushatt and Eva Worthing voted against the motion.
In an emailed statement after the meeting, Hanna-Attisha told Flint Beat she was “still hopeful” that Flint City Council would support the program, writing: “Throughout the country, ARPA dollars have been used for similar programs to put cash directly in the hands of residents to improve health equity… I remain hopeful that [the] City of Flint will be part of this historic effort to support Flint moms and babies, eliminate infant poverty, and transform health, equity, and opportunity in Flint.”
Here’s what else Flint City Council voted on at its meeting on Monday, Sept. 25, 2023:
- Council approved a third change order to a contract with Sorenson Gross for a rehabilitation project at the city’s Dort pump station. The original contract, according to resolution language, was not to exceed $3,649,397. With the third change order of $30,222, the total contract is now set “not to exceed $4,399,391.47.”
- Council approved a professional services agreement between the city of Flint and F&V Operations and Resource Management for the latter to provide a “back-up operator in charge” and laboratory staff as the city water plant trains its new laboratory staff and hires a supervisor. F&V Operations and Resource Management will be offered a $22,905 monthly fee, with a prorated fee for a partial month of service.
- Council approved a resolution calling for September to be recognized as Sickle Cell Awareness Month and encouraging the Flint community to donate blood to help those affected by the disease.
- Council voted to postpone a resolution for the purchase of six 2024 pickup trucks to its next regular council meeting. The resolution language states the new trucks would replace six older trucks, which would be repurposed or auctioned off, for the City of Flint Water and Sewer Departments.
- Council voted to postpone a purchase order to DLZ for an amount not to exceed $835,700. According to the resolution language, if approved, DLZ would provide engineering services to the city’s Cedar Street reservoir pump station rehabilitation project.
- Council voted to “postpone indefinitely” three resolutions City Administrator Clyde Edwards had said the administration had moved forward with under emergency protocol. Mays asked Edwards to produce proof that the city had acted appropriately under the city’s emergency purchases ordinance by next council meeting.
- Council approved amendments to multiple city ordinances that will allow for the operation of peddle pubs in the city. According to Flint City Clerk Davina Donahue, the changes—which include exceptions to alcoholic beverage possession and consumption ordinances for “commercial quadricycles” and their passengers—will go into effect in 30 days.
All listed decisions were made with a 5-0 vote from Councilmembers Mays, Priestley, Winfrey-Carter, Burns and Pfeiffer. Lewis, Murphy, Mushatt and Worthing were not present for the votes.