Registration for Flint water crisis settlement funds begins next week

Anyone who wants a share of the settlement has to register between Jan. 27 and March 29
Published: Jan. 21, 2021 at 6:17 PM EST
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - Preliminary approval of the $641.2 million Flint water crisis settlement starts a clock for people to register for a share of the funds.

U.S. District Judge Judith Levy issued a 72-page ruling Thursday that grants preliminary approval of the agreement to settle dozens of civil lawsuits filed after the Flint water crisis. Flint residents and business owners who want a share of the fund have to register with legal counsel between Jan. 27 and March 29.

An online registration form will be available next week and any required documentation must be returned by Aug. 26. A court-appointed special master will manage the claims process.

Levy is planning a fairness hearing in federal court on July 12, where people who registered for part of the settlement can provide comments on whether they believe the deal is fair and equitable. Final approval of the settlement would come sometime after that hearing.

About 80% of the settlement will go to children who were younger than 18 during the Flint water crisis. Adults, homeowners and businesses will split the remaining 20%. No settlement funds will be disbursed until Levy grants final approval of the deal.

“I feel relieved I feel excited for my clients. I feel hopeful for the city,” said attorney Corey Stern, who is representing more than 2,500 victims from the Flint water crisis.

The first civil lawsuit connected to the crisis was filed in November 2015 -- six years before Thursday’s action to move the process forward. Levy’s ruling means the Judge believes the settlement both sides came up with is fair.

Residents and businesses likely will have to submit proof they lived or operated a business in Flint while the city was drawing drinking water from the Flint River in 2014 and 2015. A third party will go through those claims and put each person in categories based on the criteria laid out in the settlement.

Stern has heard complaints that $641.2 million is not enough. He reminds the community that the current settlement only covers the state, the City of Flint, McLaren Regional Medical Center and Rowe Professional Services.

Civil litigation continues against the EPA, JP Morgan Chase, along with consulting firms Veolia and Lockwood, Andrews & Newman.

“There are other entities who are very very culpable who have the wherewithal to withstand significant judgments, who will ultimately be held to account. And so this really is the beginning it’s not the end,” Stern said.

Floyd Bell, a grandfather to two 6-year-old boys affected by the water crisis, said he knows how badly needed this money is.

“It’s a long process,” he said. “It’s been almost six years in the works, so I’m just happy that it’s moving forward.”

Bell is legal guardian to one of his young grandsons, Matthew, and cares for the other, Chase, during the week.

The boys were born just months before Flint’s water source switched to the Flint River in April 2014. They consumed lead-tainted water daily during the first year of life and Bell said he sees every day how it has poisoned their young minds.

“We may have to work a little harder because of some of the issues, but I’m OK with it,” he said. “But like I said it is a struggle.”

Bell is looking forward to the expected six-figure award from the settlement, because he knows the boys will need it to supplement their education and aid in their continued development.

“They have the best interest of the kids at heart so that’s -- I’m sure they’re gonna be taken care of in the right way,” he said.

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