The $600 million award may be the largest settlement ever paid by Michigan’s government.
On Friday, Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer confirmed that the state will pay $600 million to victims of the Flint water crisis.
While rumors of an impending settlement began circulating early last week, they were only confirmed Friday by Gov. Whitmer and Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel.
According to The Associated Press, Nessel said the settlement—totaling $600 million—will likely be the largest pay-out in Michigan history.
Once the agreement is finalized, tens of thousands of Flint residents—mostly children—will be eligible to receive individual payments. Whitmer said the settlement is intended to make amends with Flint.
“What happened in Flint should never have happened, and financial compensation with this settlement is just one of the many ways we can continue to show our support for the city of Flint and its families,” Whitmer said Friday.
The Associated Press notes that eligible claimants likely will not receive any funds for at least several months. Award amounts will be adjusted in relation to the number of overall claims, as well as individual damages sustained between April 25th, 2014, and July 31st, 2016.
Most of the money—about 80% of the total—will go to children who were affected by the water crisis.
Tens of thousands of Flint residents were harmed, or had the potential to be harmed, after former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder appointed an emergency financial manager to restructure the city’s fiscal policy.
Emergency financial managers—which were appointed to other cities, including Detroit—were criticized by opponents of the Snyder administration, who claimed such appointed managers were able to override cities’ democratically-elected leaders.
Among the first decisions made by Flint’s former emergency financial manager was cutting a water supply contract with a Detroit-area processing plant.
Flint residents’ water supply was rerouted to the heavily-polluted Flint River.
The change in water supply led to excess led being found in Flint drinking water. While consumption of lead-contaminated water can be harmful to people of any age, it has the potential to seriously impact children’s cognitive development.
Corey Stern, an attorney for affected Flint residents, said eligible minor claimants could receive awards in the high five- to six-figure range.
“It was our responsibility to achieve the best possible settlement for the children and families of Flint,” Whitmer said in a Friday statement.
However, some Flint residents have said the settlement—no matter its value—cannot reverse damage wrought. Bishop Roger Jones, for instance, told the New York Times that while he hopes the claims process is fair, money will not negate the lifelong effects of lead ingestion.
“I hope the distribution process is fair,” Jones told the Times. “But some of these kids are having problems that no amount of money can solve. They’re going to be dealing with these issues the rest of their lives.”