LANSING, Mich. — President Obama on Saturday declared a federal emergency in Flint, meaning federal financial aid will be available to assist with the drinking water crisis.
But a request from Gov. Rick Snyder to declare Flint and Genesee County a disaster area was denied, a spokesman for Snyder said.
The president's actions authorize the Federal Emergency Management Agency to coordinate responses and provide 75% federal funding. The president also offered assistance in finding other available federal assistance, the news release said.
The order authorizes FEMA to provide water, filters, filter cartridges and other needed items, FEMA spokesman Rafael Lemaitre said on Twitter.
"I appreciate the president approving my federal emergency request and supporting Flint during this critical situation," Snyder said in a news release.
"I have pledged to use all state resources possible to help heal Flint, and these additional resources will greatly assist its efforts under way to ensure every resident has access to clean water resources."
Snyder on Thursday night asked Obama for federal financial aid in the public health crisis through declarations of both a federal emergency and a federal disaster.
No disaster declaration was part of Saturday's announcement from the White House.
Rep. Dale Kildee, D-Mich., whose district includes Flint, welcomed the emergency declaration and issued a statement:
“I welcome the president’s quick action in support of the people of Flint after months of inaction by the governor. The residents and children of Flint deserve every resource available to make sure that they have safe water and are able to recover from this terrible man-made disaster created by the state.”
On Friday, Kildee led a bipartisan effort in support of the request for federal assistance. Kildee had long called for Snyder to request federal aid.
Typically, federal aid for an emergency is capped at $5 million, though the president can commit more if he reports it to Congress.
Under a federal disaster declaration, normally reserved exclusively for natural disasters rather than man-made ones such as the one in Flint, much larger sums are available.
Snyder's application said as much as $55 million is needed in the near term to repair damaged lead service lines and as much as $41 million to pay for several months of water distribution and providing residents with testing, water filters and cartridges.
In what's become a huge government scandal, Flint's drinking water became contaminated with lead after the city temporarily switched its supply source from Lake Huron water treated by the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department to more corrosive and polluted Flint River water, treated at the Flint water treatment plant.
The switch was made as a cost-cutting move while the city was under the control of a state-appointed emergency manager. The state Department of Environmental Quality has acknowledged a mistake in failing to require the addition of needed corrosion control chemicals to the water. That caused lead, which can cause brain damage and other health problems in children, to leach into the water from pipes and fixtures.
Residents’ complaints about the taste, odor and appearance of the water, which began immediately after the switch, were largely ignored by state officials. The state also dismissed reports of elevated lead levels in the blood of Flint children from pediatrician Mona Hanna-Attisha before for the first time publicly acknowledging a problem around the beginning of October in 2015.
U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., said in a news release she appreciates "the president's quick action in responding to the urgent needs of families in Flint."
"I will continue to push for federal resources to address this crisis, and for a commitment of resources from the state to meet the immediate needs of the community and to set aside a Future Fund to address the long-term needs of children and families," Stabenow said.