Flint, MI—The state of Michigan announced a $600-million settlement in lawsuits related to the Flint water crisis.
Local community leaders said at a press conference Friday afternoon that that number needs to be higher.
“I think we can all agree it’s a good first step,” Former Flint Mayor Karen Weaver said. “But we want the whole staircase.”
As it’s set up now, the settlement allocates 79.5% of funds to minor children with 64.5% for ages 6 and under at first exposure to Flint water, 10% for ages 7-11, and 5% for ages 12-17.
15% of funds will be allocated to adult residents, 3% will be for property damage, 0.5% will be for “business economic loss” and 2% will be for “programmatic relief.”
But there are 45 days left to continue to negotiate these terms, leaders said at the conference.
“We will not be complacent, because we know that there’s some overhead that comes with that money, there’s some attorney’s fees that go with that money,” Weaver said. “That is not enough money to…fix this problem.”
In addition to more money, Weaver said Flint residents want their pipes fixed, in-home plumbing, fixtures and appliances “at no cost to this community.”
Audrey Muhammad, a grandmother of three children, said that $600 million is “not nearly enough for the damages that have been done.”
Muhammad said her 4-year-old grandson was affected the most by the lead-contaminated water, because he was “in the womb during the time of the initiation of poisoning.”
“There are several other people who need to take responsibility,” she said. “We want more than just money. When are we gonna see some charges being brought against the people who caused this?”
Melissa Mays, a social worker in Flint, said she would be personally pushing to make sure money received by families from the settlement won’t count towards their income or assets and disqualify them from getting financial assistance.
“Nobody should lose their food benefits, their housing vouchers, their Medicaid, because they’re getting a little piece of justice,” she said.
She also said the community needs to push for additional autism and special needs services.
Councilman Eric Mays said he will be “watching that fund and that pot of money.”
“As we watch the number of people grow, we will watch the division of the money shrink,” he said. “And so we need to see the money fund larger.”
Mays said he will also be paying attention to the process for signing up to make a claim for the settlement funds.
According to the terms of the settlement, people can register claims if “at 2 various times during the Exposure Period (April 25, 2014 to the date the Settlement Agreement is signed), they:
(1) owned or lived in a residence that received water from the Flint Water Treatment Plant;
(2) owned or operated a business that received water from the Flint Water Treatment Plant;
(3) ingested or came into contact with water received from the Flint Water Treatment Plant for at least twenty-one (21) days during any thirty (30) day period during the Exposure Period; or
(4) during the time period April 25, 2014 through December 31, 2016 were both exposed to water received from the Flint Water Treatment Plant and diagnosed with Legionnaire’s Disease.”
The settlement states that individuals who were minors at the time of exposure to Flint water “will be eligible to recover compensation without proof of personal injury.” Those who can prove personal injuries, lead levels or lived in homes with lead service lines, will be eligible for larger amounts of compensation.
Arthur Woodson asked why he would have to prove that he had ingested lead.
“The lead test was manipulated by Nancy Peeler. She’s on trial,” he said. “How can I prove that my kid has lead if they manipulated all of the results?”
A press release from the city said that Mayor Sheldon Neeley “continued to call on other defendants in the lawsuit to settle the claims against them, which will increase the final settlement amount beyond the initial $600 million state settlement.”
“This $600 million settlement is the beginning of justice for Flint residents, but it is not the end,” Neeley said. “The other defendants still need to step up and do what is right on behalf of Flint families.”