Why Individuals, Not the Government, Are The Ones Actually Helping the People of Flint, Michigan

For nearly two years, elected officials told the people of Flint, Michigan that their water was completely safe. Instead, the city’s 100,000 residents (40 percent of whom live below the poverty line and 60 percent are African American), were drinking water laced with lead. Consuming lead in any quantity is unsafe, but the residents of Flint were ingesting as much as 900 times higher than the limit set by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). This monumental lie will affect people in this Michigan city for the rest of their lives.

Right now government officials, along with Democratic and Republican party leaders in Michigan and around the country, are cartoonishly pointing the finger of blame in every direction but their own. Yet, there’s no question this disaster occurred because the government tried to cut corners and then cover up their misdeeds. Even worse, the environmental agency meant to make sure the government was following proper guidelines ignored the peoples’ pleas as well. 

But what happens now?

Everyone agrees we need to help the people of Flint, and many are taking to the airwaves to voice their anger and frustration. But, beyond the rhetoric, we wondered what was being done right now to aid residents? Many are calling on the federal and state governments to come in and fix the problem, but as they seem to be rhetorically battling it out rather than proposing legislation to help or identifying other avenues for public aid, we thought we’d check into who’s supporting the people of Flint until their pipes are fixed. Turns out, it’s a whole array of charities, companies and private citizens from across the country.

It’s impossible to know how much money is flowing into charities serving the people of Flint right now and difficult to calculate the amount of money donated because some individuals are giving bottles of water instead of money. To give some perspective, we decided to use Good360s prices as our baseline for interpreting some of the numbers. We weren’t able to translate all of the figures, but it still give some perspective.

As of February 11th, here’s the breakdown of who’s helping the people of Flint, Michigan:


Before authorities declared a crisis:

  • The General Motors Foundation donated $50,000 for water filters.
  • The United Way of Genesee County donated $25,000 from its general fund.
  • Making Our Children Smile Foundation donated $10,000.

General Motors Co. and the United Auto Workers have promised a further $3 million to the United Way of Genesee County.

Walmart, Coca-Cola, Nestlé and PepsiCo promised 6.5 million bottles of water for about 10,000 children in school ($887,656).

This is in addition to what the companies had already given:

  • Since July 2015, Walmart had donated 504,000 bottles of water ($68,828) and 1,792 water filters ($39,424).
  • Coca-Cola had donated 78,720 bottles of water ($2,460).
  • Nestlé had already donated more than 190,000 bottles ($25,947).
  • PepsiCo has donated almost 95,000 bottles of water ($12,973).

Detroit Pistons owner Tom Gore is campaigning to raise at least $10 million from the private sector. Within a week, the campaign donated $500,000 to the United Way of Genesee County.

Ezekiel Ansah of the Detroit Lion’s, with other players on the team, donated 94,000 bottles of water ($12,839).

The Detroit Lions donated an undisclosed amount of money.

Eminem, Wiz Khalifa, Sean (P. Diddy) Combs and Mark Wahlberg pledged: 1 million bottles of water ($132,424)

Pearl Jam, partnering with Republic Records, Universal Music Publishing Group, Brandi Carlile’s Looking Out Foundation and Ticketmaster, raised $300,000. The band also launched a crowdrise which has raised an additional $100,000.

Rapper Big Sean launched a Crowdrise that has raised almost $64,000.

Rapper Meek Mill pledged $50,000 and sent 60,000 bottles of water ($8,194).

Jack White’s Third Man Records raised over $18,000 on Crowdrise.

Aretha Franklin promised to house and feed 25 to 50 people from Flint after passing a screening process.

Jimmy Fallon, Madonna, Rosie, O’Donnell, Seth Meyers, Jon Cryer, Judd Apatow, Jussie Smollet, and Kem donated $10,000 each.

Cher partnered with Icelandic Glacial to donate 181,440 bottles of water ($24,778).

Meanwhile, rapper The Game beat them all when he partnered with Michigan-based AvitaWater to donate $1 million.

Beyonce announces her charity will work with the United Way in Flint and other charities to provide people with fresh water now and help Flint’s children in the future. So far, the amount is undisclosed.

Michigan-based Meijer Inc. donated $500,000.

AT&T Michigan donated $50,000.

Craigslist Founder Craig Newmark donated $50,000 and 25,000 cases (unknown number bottles) of water.

Oskar Blues and Ball Corp sent 100,000 cans of water (unsure of cost) to Flint and $5,000 to help get children tested for lead poisoning.

Anheuser-Busch sent 51,744 cans of water to Flint.

Nonprofit Great Lakes Health Connect donates $250,000 to help electronically connect hospitals in Flint to streamline care of city residents.

The University of Michigan promised to spend $100,000 to research ways of fixing the water crisis.

The Little River Band of Ottawa Indians donated $10,000.

At the very least, if all of the pledges are upheld, the people of Flint will receive over $16 million in private donations.


October 1: $20,000 Development Block Grant from the Feds for water filters.

On December 14th, Flint Mayor Karen Weaver declared a state of emergency for the city.

On January 15th, Michigan Governer Rick Snyder declared a state of emergency for Flint, which allowed state officials to send state funding to the city.

On January 16th, President Obama declared a federal state of energy for Flint, which opened up to $5 million in funds for the state to use for the next 90 days. However, he denied Michigan Governor Snyder’s request for major disaster assistance and the $96 million that would come with it, stating that because the problem was man-made, Flint was ineligible for that level of help. The governor appealed, saying the city and state could not manage the crisis on their own—stating it equates to flood status because the extent of the water contamination is still unknown–but the president ignored the request.

Instead, on January 21st, President Obama said he’d send $80 million to the state of Michigan to help fix the infrastructure. However, as some have pointed out, Michigan was due to receive that $80 million anyway. Even more, none of the money was specifically directed toward Flint.

On January 28th, Michigan’s legislature sent $28 million to the city of Flint. Because of the amount of water donated by private individuals, they were able to spend money on other projects like paying water bills, studying the city’s water infrastructure, hiring nine new nurses for schools, buying supplies and others. About $4 million is devoted to treating the children of Flint who have been poisoned. But that’s nothing in comparison to the projected $195 million that’s going to be needed to fix the water system—and that’s in a budget that has yet to pass.

This comparison between the private and public sector responses may be leaving you rolling your eyes. You may be thinking to yourself, “Sure, private individuals and celebrities have been giving away an incredible amount of money, but that doesn’t compare to what the government can do with one swipe of a pen.” That’s true. If Beyonce sunk her entire fortune into helping the people of Flint, she’d still have money left, but no one expects one person to give that much away. Or even several. However, comparing the actions of the government to those of charities and individuals, who have no legal obligation to help, shows how much more charities value human life compared to cost-cutting government officials. While government assistance and legislation can get tied up in red tape and political posturing, ordinary citizens can immediately send aid without waiting for politicians to see if a deal will hurt their popularity ratings.

In an age where people are calling for more and more government programs and for the government to protect us, it’s good to remember the horrific things that can happen when bureaucrats have all of the control. Hillary Clinton, who is always quick to promise government intervention, recently made her way through Flint to campaign. Though she delivered fierce rhetoric, there’s no public record of her donating any funds from either her campaign or personal wealth—something that was not lost on the people of Flint. Rampant distrust permeates this Michigan city, and is it any wonder?

Thankfully, charities, companies and individuals across the nation have stepped up to help. And, if Michigan truly can’t handle rebuilding the infrastructure of Flint, as they say, there’s no telling how much more they’ll have to fall on the generosity of private individuals to make their town livable once more.

Want to help the people of Flint? There are a dozen independent charities fundraising money, but the most prominent are FlintKids.org, the United Way of Genesee County and the American Red Cross. Please join us and donate to them here.


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