Obama signs emergency declaration for Flint

Posted at 3:14 PM, Jan 16, 2016
and last updated 2016-01-16 15:14:19-05

WASHINGTON, D.C. — President Obama has responded to Governor Rick Snyder’s request to issue an emergency declaration in the wake of the Flint water crisis.

The White House issued the following release Saturday calling for the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate all disaster relief efforts to “alleviate the hardship and suffering” on residents:

The President today, in response to a request from the Governor submitted on January 14, 2016, declared that an emergency exists in the State of Michigan and ordered federal aid to supplement state and local response efforts due to the emergency conditions in the area affected by contaminated water.
The President’s action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives and to protect property and public health and safety, and to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in Genesee County.

Specifically, FEMA is authorized to identify, mobilize, and provide at its discretion, equipment and resources necessary to alleviate the impacts of the emergency. Emergency protective measures, limited to direct federal assistance, will be provided at 75 percent federal funding. This emergency assistance is to provide water, water filters, water filter cartridges, water test kits, and other necessary related items for a period of no more than 90 days.

Additionally, the President offered assistance in identifying other Federal agency capabilities that could support the recovery effort but do not require an emergency declaration under the Stafford Act.

W. Craig Fugate, Administrator, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), Department of Homeland Security, named David G. Samaniego as the Federal Coordinating Officer for federal recovery operations in the affected area.

Flint’s water became contaminated with too much lead after a state-appointed financial manager switched its water supply in 2014 to save money. Local officials declared a public health emergency in October.

FEMA has been authorized to provide water, filters, cartridges and other items for 90 days. Direct federal funding also will be made available.

Sen. Gary Peters, D-Michigan, said in a statement he was grateful for the emergency declaration, but acknowledged the long-term challenges the city of Flint and its residents will still continue to face.

“The families of Flint, particularly the children, will suffer from the adverse health effects of lead exposure for years to come and face multiple challenges with the City’s future water transitions,” Peters said.

“I am committed to working with my colleagues in Congress, the Administration and state and local leaders on the ground in Flint to secure federal support for the residents of Flint, but the State of Michigan and Governor Snyder must step up and provide the necessary resources to deal with the long-term effects of water contamination.”

Congressman Bill Huizenga, R-Michigan also issued a statement in response to the President’s decision saying “Time is of the essence. I am glad to see President Obama respond so quickly to Governor Snyder’s request for assistance. Our first priority must be the health and safety of the people of Flint.”

Gov. Rick Snyder requested the federal declaration Thursday, saying needs “far exceed the state’s capability.” He says emergency measures could cost $41 million.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.