Feds reject extending benefits to lead-poisoned Flint children older than 5

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By Steve Neavling
Motor City Muckraker

The federal government has rejected a request to expand WIC benefits for Flint children between the ages of 5 and 10, despite ongoing health problems stemming from the water crisis.

The Michigan Department of Human Services requested the expansion of nutrition funding to help children who have been poisoned by dangerous levels of lead in Flint’s drinking water.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the state Friday that it could not extend the benefits to children above the age of 5 because federal law limits the resources for children 5 years old or younger.

“Any changes to WIC eligibility requirements would require Congressional action,” wrote Tim English, regional administrator for the Department of Agriculture.

WIC provides funding for food, nutrition education and health care referrals for parents of children up to five years old.

Embattled Gov. Rick Snyder seized the opportunity to blame the federal government for failing to extend the funding, despite federal law that prohibits the extension without Congressional action. It raises questions about whether Snyder is trying to deflect blame for ignoring the crisis for 18 months by stirring up a controversy on the federal level.

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“I have strongly and continually stated that it is essential for all levels of government to work together to help Flint recover from this crisis, as it was all levels of government that failed Flint,” Snyder said in a news release today. “While I understand WIC funding does not normally cover children over the age of 5, the improved health and developmental growth that will come from better nutrition for these kids necessitates a waiver of this rule.”

Snyder added: “I strongly urge the federal government to reconsider this request and provide additional support for children ages 5 to 10. We must draw on all resources possible and work cooperatively to meet the needs of the residents of Flint, both immediate and long-term.”

Steve Neavling

Steve Neavling lives and works in Detroit as an investigative journalist. His stories have uncovered corruption, led to arrests and reforms and prompted FBI investigations.