WASHINGTON, DC – The effort to provide much needed aid to replace the aging water
infrastructure in Flint, Michigan and other communities with drinking water
emergencies is finally gaining bipartisan momentum. A key obstruction to the
bipartisan Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act was removed last night when
one U.S. Senator lifted a hold. The bill contains several key provisions championed
by U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) to reinforce effective lead poisoning prevention
programs and protect children’s health. The legislation is coauthored by U.S.
Senators Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) and Jim Inhofe (R-OK), and cosponsored by Senator
Reed, as well as U.S. Senators Gary Peters (D-MI), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Richard
Burr (R-NC), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Rob Portman (R-OH), Dick Durbin (D-IL), and Mark
Kirk (R-IL). The bipartisan group of senators hope their coalition can now move the
long-stalled effort to address the Flint water crisis forward.
«This is an important bipartisan agreement to help Flint with its water crisis and
boost funding for lead poisoning prevention programs nationwide, but our work is not
finished. Millions of Americans, including a staggering number of children and
families right here in Rhode Island, remain at risk to lead exposure. We must be
proactive and continue to invest in the health and development of our communities,»
said Senator Reed, a member of the Appropriations Committee.
Under the new bipartisan agreement – worth up to $220 million in total — the
federal Drinking Water State Revolving Fund would be authorized to distribute an
additional $100 million in subsidized loans or grants between now and October 2017
«to any state that receives an emergency declaration… to a public health threat
from lead or other contaminants in a public drinking water system.»
The Drinking Water Safety and Infrastructure Act also provides $70 million in
subsidies which could be used to create a pool of $700 million in low-interest
financing for water infrastructure projects through a newly created fund.
It also makes $50 million in aid available for national use to address and prevent
impacts from exposure to lead. From this pool, Reed helped include:
* $10 million for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC)
Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention Fund, which develops programs, educates the
public and health providers, supports research, and provides funding to states to
address and prevent childhood lead poisoning.
* $10 million for the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development
(HUD) Healthy Homes Program, which provides grants to states to identify and
mitigate a variety of environmental health and safety issues such as lead, mold,
carbon monoxide, and radon.
* $10 million for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS)
Healthy Start Initiative. This program provides assistance to pregnant women and
new mothers and connects them with health care and other resources needed to foster
healthy childhood development.
Each year, Senator Reed leads efforts to maximize funding for lead hazard control
programs and healthy homes/lead poisoning prevention programs at the CDC, HUD, and
The bipartisan agreement is needed to overcome a legislative impasse on this issue
in the Senate. Last month, Senators Stabenow and Peters proposed a $600 million aid
package for Flint, but Senate Republicans blocked the measure. The new package was
introduced this week as both a standalone bill and as an amendment to a
comprehensive energy bill already under consideration by the full U.S. Senate. U.S.
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) had put an initial hold on the bill, but last night his
office announced it would lift the hold and allow the measure to be considered by
the full Senate. The bill is not completely out of the woods yet, but Reed,
Stabenow, Inhofe and others are working on a bipartisan basis to try to ensure
No date has been set yet for a vote on the new compromise, but the bill could be
considered by the full U.S. Senate as early as next week.