The Latest: Obama pledges federal support for Flint

AP News
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Posted: Jan 19, 2016 7:35 PM

LANSING, Mich. (AP) — The latest on the Gov. Rick Snyder's annual State of the State speech, which was devoted mostly to Flint's drinking water crisis (all times local):

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7:30 p.m.

President Barack Obama is pledging the federal government's support as local officials deal with the water crisis in Flint, Michigan.

Obama met with Flint Mayor Karen Weaver on Tuesday at the White House. The White House says Weaver conveyed to Obama how Flint residents are dealing with the crisis and what challenges remain.

A White House statement says Obama "reiterated that his Administration will continue to support state and local officials in their response." Earlier Tuesday, the White House announced that a Health and Human Services Department official would coordinate federal efforts to help Flint.

Weaver also met with Obama's senior adviser and his intergovernmental affairs director on Tuesday. The White House says the officials assured Weaver that the federal government would be a "constructive partner" on the city's response and recovery.

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7:15 p.m.

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder is pledging in his annual State of the State speech to fix the water crisis gripping Flint.

According to an outline of the speech distributed to news organizations before delivery, Snyder wants to commit $28 million more in the short term to fix the disaster that has put residents at risk for lead exposure. He also is deploying more National Guard members to the city and promises to quickly release his emails regarding the crisis that has engulfed his administration with criticism from across the country.

He also plans to appeal President Barack Obama's denial of a federal disaster declaration for the area.

Almost all his other priorities, except the mounting financial problems in Detroit's state-overseen school district, were shelved from the speech due to the crisis. Snyder, who is exempt from public-records requests, plans to release his emails on Wednesday.

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6:40 p.m.

Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz says the drinking water crisis in Flint is a "travesty" and represents "a failure at every level of government."

Speaking to reporters Tuesday at a campaign stop in Center Barnstead, New Hampshire, Cruz says the children of the city "have been poisoned by government officials" through "negligence" and "ineptitude." He added local, county and state officials need to be held to account.

Corrosive water from the Flint River caused lead to leach from old pipes into homes after the city switched from Detroit's water system in 2014 to save money. Tests later showed high levels of lead in the blood of some children.

Flint has returned to Detroit water, but many residents are relying on bottled water.

GOP Gov. Rick Snyder is expected to devote much of Tuesday night's State of the State address to the emergency.

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4:50 p.m.

Michigan budget officials are recommending $28 million in supplemental funds for programs to aid Flint during the city's water crisis.

The request was sent Tuesday to the chairs of the Michigan House and Senate Appropriations committees.

Corrosive water from the Flint River caused lead to leach from old pipes into homes after the city switched over from Detroit's water system to save money in 2014. Tests later showed high levels of lead in the blood of some local children.

Flint has returned to Detroit water, but many residents are relying on bottled water.

Bottled water, water filters, treating people with elevated lead levels in their blood and a study assessing the infrastructure that supports Flint's water system are among the things that would be paid with the supplemental funding.

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3:35 p.m.

Rick Snyder began his second term as Michigan governor promoting the same achievements that propelled him to victory in 2014: The state was in the midst of an economic comeback, and Detroit had emerged from bankruptcy.

Now the water crisis gripping Flint threatens to overshadow nearly everything else Snyder has achieved, and his annual State of the State address has become perhaps the most important speech of his career.

Snyder has little choice but to devote much of Tuesday night's address to the emergency, which has put Flint families at risk for lead exposure and engulfed his administration with criticism.

He plans to offer more details during his speech to the GOP-led Legislature, including proposals to provide health services to kids with elevated lead levels and to prevent water shutoffs if bills are unpaid.

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1:30 p.m.

The White House is appointing a Health and Human Services Department official to lead federal efforts to help the city of Flint, Michigan, deal with its water crisis.

White House spokesman Josh Earnest says he anticipates that President Barack Obama will meet with the city's mayor on Tuesday.

Mayor Karen Weaver had already visited with the president's senior adviser, Valerie Jarrett, earlier in the day.

Earnest says state and local officials are responsible for managing the response. He says an assistant secretary at the department, Nicole Lurie, will coordinate federal help.

The crisis began in 2014 when a state-appointed emergency manager switched Flint from Detroit water to Flint River water to save money. Flint returned to the Detroit system after elevated lead levels were discovered in children.