Flint residents get temporary relief on water bills

Lawmakers battle over how to provide Flint aid
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Story highlights

  • Flint mayor announces suspension of water bills; billing is expected to resume in April
  • Michigan city needs time to apply credits to water customers, mayor says
  • A state of emergency declared in city in January after tap water contaminated

(CNN)Flint residents will get a temporary reprieve from water bills as the Michigan city struggles with a man-made crisis that polluted its tap water.

The city of Flint is suspending the mailing of the utility bills to 85,000 accounts, Mayor Karen Weaver announced Wednesday.
    The money owed by residents isn't going away exactly, but they won't receive any more bills until the city recalculates account balances with credits to reduce costs.
    "The credits are coming," Weaver said. "Flint residents need and deserve this relief. I've said from day one, Flint residents should not have to pay for water they cannot and are not using."
    The city needs to time, among other things, to get the proper computer programs that would calculate and apply the credit adjustments to water customers, the mayor said.
    A study in February found that as recently as early 2015, residents in Flint were paying the highest water bills of 500 communities surveyed nationwide, according to a nonprofit advocacy group.
    Flint was deemed the "most expensive" water provider of the nation's 500 largest community water systems in January 2015, and its residents paid $864.32 yearly for 60,000 gallons of water, the Food & Water Watch group said.
    Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder approved a $30 million plan to help Flint residents pay for their water. Flint water customers are expected to get an average of $600.
    Billing is expected to resume in April.
    Last year, researchers and medical personnel discovered high levels of lead in Flint residents, especially children. Lead has been tied to a host of medical problems.
    The problem occurred after the city switched its water source about two years ago to cut costs. Flint used to buy Lake Huron water through the city of Detroit, but the state ordered the source changed to water from the Flint River.
    The city reverted to using the Lake Huron water supply in the fall.
    In January, the governor declared a state of emergency. Now the mayor is leading the way to replace the water pipes.