By Tom Travis
This article has been updated to include new developments in a press release from the Mayor’s office on Friday afternoon, 9/30/22 – EVM Editors
City council has passed an $8.6 million resolution, funded out of the $94 million ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) funds that aims to bring relief to Flint water customers in the form of a one-time $300 credit. The resolution aims “to respond to the public health and negative economic impacts of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic by addressing water bill costs,” according to the resolution presented to council.
“As of this afternoon [Friday, Sept. 30], the City of Flint has applied $300 credits to all residential accounts with active meters—a total of 28,057 accounts … The credit has been applied to all residential accounts with active meters as of September 29, 2022, regardless of payment status. The credit has been applied as a payment to past due accounts and a credit to current accounts,” according to a press release from the Mayor’s office Friday afternoon.
In a meeting that lasted over eight and a half hours the resolution passed by a 5-2 vote. The resolution has been bantered back and forth by the council and Mayor Sheldon Neeley’s administration through committee meetings and finally in council since July.
“I’m so proud that this administration accomplished another one of our goals today in reducing the cost of water for Flint residents,” Neeley said. “This water credit is long overdue for Flint residents. We’re working toward a more permanent reduction in the cost of water moving forward,” said in an email to East Village Magazine.
Details of the $300 credit
The $300 credit will be treated as a payment for water customers facing a shut-off, according to City Treasurer Amanda Trujillo. The city’s Treasury Division will identify water accounts eligible for the $300 credit. The resolution will cover only households, not business water accounts. If a resident’s water bill is delinquent they will still receive the credit, according to Trujillo.
The city claims that a $300 credit is the equivalent of three months of the average water bill.
The resolution states, “the city wishes to exercise its right to extend and disseminate” funds from the $94 million ARPA (American Rescue Plan Act) received from the federal government. The resolution added, “A water bill relief credit in the amount of $300 per household meter will provide immediate financial relief to residents, many of which are disproportionately minority and are low to moderate income earners. The water relief credit will be applied to those accounts with active meters as of the date credits are applied.”
During city council’s discussion of the resolution for the $300 credit some suggested the credit should be more. Councilperson Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward 5) implored the council to pass a resolution to “wipe clean” everyone’s water bill. Councilpersons Winfrey-Carter and Eric Mays (Ward 1) made a motion to double the amount of the credit to $600. That motion failed in a 7-2 vote.
Councilperson Ladel Lewis (Ward 2) contended that if the city were to “wipe clean” everyone’s water bill that would be “$50 million.” While agreeing something “more” could be done, in the end, voted in favor of the $300 credit. Lewis asserted if everyone’s water bill were to be wiped clean what about all the residents who have been paying their water bill.
Councilperson Judy Priestley (Ward 4) argued the $8.6 million ($300 credit for every water customer) would be nearly ten per cent of the city’s $94 million ARPA funds. Protesting the $300 credit Priestley noted that the $8.6 million has not been leveraged. She said if we give the credit “it will just be gone.”
Council President Dennis Pfeiffer told EVM at a press conference last week, “I don’t know where the council stands on it, but I am for it,” Pfeiffer said. “One thing that many are talking about is the rising cost of many necessary items including natural gas. This money is pandemic-related, the inflation is pandemic -related, so this will help the community.” He added, “I wish it was more.”
In the end the council voted 5-2 to approve the $300 credit. Councilpersons voting for the resolution were Ladel Lewis (Ward 2), Quincy Murphy (Ward 3), Council Vice-President Allie Herkenroder (Ward 7), Council President Dennis Pheiffer (Ward 8) and Eva Worthing (Ward 9). Councilpersons Eric Mays and Judy Priestley (Ward 4) were not present for the vote.
Councilpersons Jerri Winfrey-Carter (Ward 5) and Finance Committee Chair Tonya Burns (Ward 6) voted against the resolution.
The Flint City Council meets on the second and fourth Monday each month beginning at 4:30 p.m. with Special Affairs Committee and the council meeting immediately following. The City Council Committees meets the first and third Wednesday each month beginning at 5 p.m. The meetings can be viewed on the city council’s YouTube page.
EVM Managing Editor Tom Travis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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