UPDATED 5:30 PM PT – Thursday, August 20, 2020
More than six years after the Flint water crisis began, residents have reported the city is still broken.
“When I hear my son get up at night and cry because his bones hurt, there’s nothing I can give him, nothing I can do for him to take away his pain,” explained one resident. “I feel completely helpless.”
Now, officials are now hoping to take one big step forward. A long-awaited preliminary settlement has finally been reached between the state of Michigan and victims of the incident.
The agreement, which was announced Thursday, called for $600 million in damages to be distributed among Flint residents, especially children, businesses and special education services.
80% of the funds will be dedicated to settling the claims of children and those who were under the age of 18 in 2014, when the city switched its water source from Lake Huron to the lead-tainted pipes of the Flint River.
About 15% will be set aside to help adults cover property damages or possible business losses. $9 million will go towards funding special education services, while $35 million will be placed in a trust fund for the “forgotten children” who may file claims in the years to come.
Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel called it “likely the largest settlement in the history of the state” and said the deal “puts the needs of Flint’s children” first.
“This preliminary agreement is a step forward in the healing process,” she added.
According to the governor, it was the very best officials could do without causing any further delays. She has vowed to continue working on the issue.
“We recognize the settlement might not provide all that Flint needs. We hear and respect those voices, and understand that healing Flint will take a long time. The uncertainties and troubles that the people of Flint have endured is unconscionable. It is time for the state to do what it can now.” – Gretchen Whitmer, Governor of Michigan
The agreement must still go through the courts for final approval. The process is expected to take around 45 days.
In the meantime, the effects of the catastrophe, including the elevated blood lead levels of residents and a steady rise in the number of special needs children, continue to be monitored closely.