Yes, the Flint water crisis is still going on and Congress must act
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When I am in Washington, D.C., I am sometimes asked by well-meaning people, “Is the Flint water crisis still going on?” But in my hometown of Flint, Mich., the water filters and blood tests are constant reminders that this tragedy continues. One of the hardest things about this crisis has been watching Flint’s mothers and fathers cope with their new normal as they strive to ensure their children have safe water to drink, cook and brush their teeth with.

But the harshest blow came when a young boy asked, “Can I still be smart after drinking water with lead in it?” It was a heartbreaking question coming from anyone, but particularly from a young child. In truth it is up to us to determine the answer to the question posed by this innocent victim of the Flint crisis. With the proper educational and nutritional support, that boy WILL have all the opportunities we want for any of our children. But it is incumbent on Congress to do its part to make sure Flint has the resources to make that possible.

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The city’s drinking water first became contaminated with lead after the state of Michigan switched the water source to save money. And although people in the community complained for months about what they knew to be unsafe water, they were continuously assured there was nothing to worry about. Now we know that the administration of Gov. Rick Snyder hid the hazardous levels of lead.

Thankfully, people and organizations from around the world opened their hearts with bottled water, donations, time and compassion. But today, Flint still lacks the resources to deal with this crisis.

Water in people’s homes still requires filtering to drink. And we are only beginning to fully understand the long-term impact the lead in the water will have on Flint’s kids as they grow up.

This is why Congress needs to act on aid to help Flint. Congress will soon spend nearly $1.2 trillion in discretionary spending to operate the government. To put this figure in context, if we were to spend $300 million of this to help the people in Flint, it would amount to only approximately .025 of one percent of the federal budget for a crisis that has been ongoing for years. This is a small price to pay to help mitigate the tragedy of an entire city, particularly a tragedy it did not create.

The people in Flint did not cause this crisis, a failure of government and a Michigan state-appointed emergency financial manager did. While this disaster was caused by human failure, not a natural disaster, it does not alleviate Congress’ responsibility to act. For the people of Flint, this is a disaster that demands a response from every level of government. One of my first votes in Congress was to send aid to the people impacted by Hurricane Sandy, and I am hopeful that Congress will do the same to ease the suffering caused by the recent flooding in Louisiana and Texas. But the need in Flint is equally acute.

Recognizing this, 172 Members of Congress have co-sponsored my legislation to aid Flint, H.R. 4479 ― The Families of Flint Act. And before Congress went on recess in July, nearly 70 Members of Congress spoke on the floor of the House of Representatives about the need to stay in Washington and pass legislation to help Flint. But, unfortunately, the House failed to take up my bill before Congress’ seven week recess. No hearings, no votes. Silence.

Some in Congress do not believe it is the federal government’s role to assist the people in Flint. They argue that the state of Michigan should do more. In part, I agree ― the state of Michigan’s response has been wholly inadequate. But in creating this crisis, hiding it and failing to adequately respond to it, Gov. Snyder has demonstrated an inability to serve the people impacted by this tragedy. Congress must act and Michigan must make a long-term commitment to the people of my hometown.

The people in Flint are not just Michiganders, they are Americans. They deserve to have the federal government and Congress come to their aid during this time of need, just as so many organizations and individuals have done.

One of the many things that make America great is that when a challenge presents itself, we do not wait for others to meet it. Congress needs to stop waiting and act on Flint.


The views expressed by authors are their own and not the views of The Hill.