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Flint, MI– Flint residents gathered outside of City Hall June 10 to demand that local government “stabilize the water fund,” and put a “zero balance” on resident’s water accounts.
The protest lasted from 3-6 p.m. Halfway through the event about eight people were present, but the organizer, Rich Jones, said more people came and went throughout the day.
Jones organized the event because he believes the council has not been talking about using the incoming $94.7 million in COVID-19 relief from the American Rescue Plan, the right way.
“I’m hearing everything at the city council meetings but this,” Jones said. “It’s pandemic-related relief money, and they’re not talking about stuff associated with the pandemic.”
The council has discussed using the money in a multitude of different ways, but no decisions have been made. While the funds are intended for COVID-19 relief, Chief Financial Officer Shelbi Frayer has told the council that they can get “creative,” and find ways to apply issues to the different categories and guidelines, which are still being developed.
Jones said he talked to Congressman Dan Kildee, and was told that using the funds for water-related issues could be possible. Jones is proposing the council vote to put $22 million towards the water fund.
Flint resident Debbie Washington attended the protest, and said she spends lots of money each month buying bottled water to drink and cook with.
“I’m buying $30, $40, $50 worth of water that I could be paying my water bills with, but I can’t do both,” Washington said. “I feel like they should zero-balance everybody’s water, and then if they don’t pay after that, cut it off. But give the people a chance, we’ve been through COVID … we got to start over.”
Sixth-ward Council Candidate Claudia Perkins-Milton passed out two petitions to stop water shutoffs, and put a water review board in place.
“We’re your Water Warriors for your city. I’m Democracy Defense, that’s what we do,” Perkins-Milton said. “We fight, we investigate, and we fight again.”