Metro Detroit flood victims to receive $10 million in emergency relief funding

The state of Michigan will disburse $10 million in emergency relief funding to help Detroit-area and other southeastern Michigan residents whose homes, businesses and belongings were damaged by recent flooding caused by a late June rainstorm, according to Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

The money will be given to communities which will distribute it on the basis of greatest need, Whitmer told reporters Thursday in a Detroit neighborhood where basement and street flooding was among the worst following the June 25-26 storm that dumped 6 inches (15.2 centimeters) of rain in a matter of hours.

Whitmer added that the money essentially is to fill the gap for people who already have submitted claims through the federal Small Business Administration and FEMA, but "did not receive as much support as they needed to rebuild."

About 30,000 people already have signed up for federal assistance with more expected to do so, she said.

"Extreme weather has hurt a lot of families and has caused a lot of damage to property, to individual’s homes, as well as businesses," she said.

That storm left thousands of basements and dozens of streets flooded in Detroit, the Grosse Pointes, Dearborn and other communities. Sections of freeways resembled shallow lakes where cars, SUVs and even large trucks became trapped.

In many neighborhoods, water and sewage damaged furniture, appliances and clothing waited for curbside trash pickup days after most of the water subsided.

Whitmer also said her office is working with financial institutions on a plan to allow families impacted by flooding to delay monthly mortgage payments, and that Michigan’s Department of Health and Human Services is offering cash assistance directly to families to help pay for home repairs, utilities and other expenses.

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Meanwhile, the board for a regional water authority has approved the selection of engineering firms that will look at system operations during the June storm and one on July 16.

Global infrastructure consulting firm AECOM and consulting engineering firm Applied Science Inc. will conduct what the Great Lakes Water Authority board calls an "independent and transparent review" of the storms.

The board also selected local attorney Jeffrey Collins as legal representation.

The water authority board said Wednesday that the review is expected to take 60 to 90 days to complete and will assess the operational challenges and power supply concerns related to pump stations.

Authority Chief Executive Sue McCormick told reporters several days after the late June storm that two water pumping stations in Detroit experienced power-related problems but did not fail. McCormick added that due to an electrical service issue only three of six pumps at one station were able to be brought online, while a power outage at a second station slowed efforts to turn three of its pumps on as the rain poured.

President Joe Biden approved a disaster declaration for Michigan due to the June flooding. The July 16 storm also caused flooding in some basements and on streets.

The Great Lakes Water Authority provides drinking water and wastewater services to about 88 communities. Its board includes representatives from Detroit and several surrounding counties.

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Candice Miller, public works commissioner in neighboring Macomb County, had called for an independent investigation, saying there appeared to be a management failure at one of the pump stations.

On Wednesday, McCormick formerly submitted her resignation to the board. McCormick said earlier this week that she would step down but didn’t cite the June flooding as the reason for her departure.

The board is discussing the process of appointing an interim chief executive, as well as conducting a national search for its next chief executive, according to the authority.

Miller said that with McCormick’s resignation the water authority "has an opportunity now to do a nationwide search for an operational expert who can get the most out of existing infrastructure assets and advocate for the investment needed to position our region properly for the future."

Whitmer said Thursday that she wants more facts.

"We need to understand what happened," she said. "We need to make sure that it never happens again where there are things that we do control. We also know that climate change is a major contributing factor and old infrastructure, as well."