Republican Sen. [crscore]Jim Inhofe[/crscore] of Oklahoma countered union criticism Tuesday against his plan to transfer recession-era autoworker subsidies into a Flint relief fund.
Inhofe proposed the bipartisan plan to help address the water crisis currently playing out in Flint, Mich. The corrosive nature of local drinking water caused lead from pipes and pathogens to get into the water supply. Lawmakers’ intent to cut $250 million from the Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing (ATVM) fund to help Flint, but the United Auto Workers (UAW) is opposed.
“The ATVM loan program hasn’t been used in more than a year and has only issued five loans since 2008,” Inhofe said in a statement provided to The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Congress is making a responsible and sensible move by assessing taxpayer money that has already been appropriated, yet is not in demand, and using it to instead fund existing loan programs that help to address aging drinking water infrastructure across the nation.”
The funds were originally designed to help autoworkers keep and create jobs in response to the recent recession. The proposal to transfer funds at the moment has stalled. UAW President Dennis Williams argues the proposal would sacrifice those jobs the subsidies saved.
“The bipartisan ATVM program was signed into law by President Bush and helped create or save over 35,000 jobs at facilities in nine states,” Williams said in a letter obtained by The Hill. “Funds should be utilized to create incentives for keeping work in the U.S. rather than moving it to Mexico. These are jobs that could be used to strengthen domestic manufacturing and employ people in Flint.”
The UAW has otherwise supported those who were impact by the situation. It has held rallies to show solidarity with the victims of the crisis and has demanded lawmakers be held accountable for what happened. It has also encouraged members to send water bottles and other aide to help Flint residents.
Williams adds that lawmakers should seek other ways to help address the water crisis. He recommended using Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) emergency funds instead. The Congressional Budget Office is assessing the fund before deciding whether to bring it should be brought to the House floor for a vote.
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