Flint, MI—Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist spoke in Flint Aug. 31 about state legislation and federal funding aimed at tackling issues for residents of Michigan’s major cities.

But it remains to be seen how Flint’s recent drop in population will affect its share of that federal support.

The Flint stop was part of Gilchrist’s ‘Thriving Cities’ tour. Gilchrist said the state had focused on five “key areas” of concern: affordable housing, increasing generational economic wealth, improving quality of life for children in cities, access to transportation and mobility services, and environmental policy and justice.

These topics, Gilchrist said, arose from the discussions he hosted when he began the tour in 2019.

Gilchrist said ‘Thriving Cities’ is now on to “phase two,” which means he’s following up on the legislation that has passed since the 2019 tour and what’s left to be done in each of the five key areas.

But before he touched on that follow up, however, Lt. Governor Gilchrist began with a review of policies passed in response to Flint’s ongoing water crisis.

“What happened here was a failure of leadership at the state level, specifically,” he said, standing in front of a projection that summarized the Flint Settlement Trust Fund and the Filter First Initiative along with two other water and climate initiatives from the past two years.

“It’s something that never should have happened to any community or any person in this community,” he said. 

Gilchrist then went on to discuss the many policies and funding supports aimed at the “key areas” on which he opened his presentation.

On affordable housing, he mentioned Governor Whitmer’s recent announcement of $100 million statewide investment; on chances for generational wealth, he spoke of multiple business initiatives like the Restaurant Revitalization Fund housed under the Michigan Economic Jumpstart Plan and the Michigan Reconnect Program; on children’s quality of life, he spoke of a proposed $370 million for access to childcare and June legislation aiming to close the equity gap in education funding between wealthy and lower income communities.

The Lieutenant Governor also spoke about the establishment of the Michigan Advisory Council on Environmental Justice, which, he said, was “a result of a series of community conversations around the state of Michigan, including in (Flint), about what we can do to further, more comprehensively address the impacts of climate change and how they impact Black communities.” 

And finally, Gilchrist ended with transportation and mobility, sharing that “a whole lot of federal resources that are gonna be coming to help make Michigan one of the states with the most robust charging infrastructure for electric vehicles in the country.”

Though the Lieutenant Governor’s appearance was billed as a community conversation, he took only four questions from the audience, which ranged from environmental concerns surrounding a proposed asphalt plant to funding for internet access for Flint’s children and jobseekers.

A common theme arose throughout Gilchrist’s discussion, both in response to the Flint community’s questions as well as in his prepared remarks: proposed or active federal funding would be needed to help Michigan’s cities thrive.

However, Flint’s level of allocation for that funding is somewhat uncertain given 2020 census data, which is used for a host of federal funding decisions and showed a substantial loss for the city—around 20% of its population since 2010.

“It could have some affect,” said Congressman Dan Kildee when asked whether the census results may influence Flint’s future federal support. “One of the factors that affects the formula for funding is the community population characteristics multiplied by the population.” 

Basically, Kildee said, while there isn’t a threshold necessary for receiving support, the census results are “not positive” for Flint. 

“You know, you move from a little over 100,000 (people) to something into the 80 (thousand range), it’s going to make a difference in terms of how, say, community development block grant dollars, home dollars would come to the city,” Kildee said.

Flint Beat asked Gilchrist’s office how Flint’s census outcome would affect funding allocation for the city, but did not receive a reply by press time.

Kate is Flint Beat's associate editor. She joined the team as a corps member of Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms to report on under-covered issues....

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