Grandpa: $600 million settlement a long time coming for Flint 5-year-olds with developmental delays

Best friends and cousins Matthew and Chase Bell were born just months after the Flint water switch in 2014
Published: Aug. 20, 2020 at 6:32 PM EDT
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FLINT, Mich. (WJRT) - The Flint community has learned over the last six years that lead exposure is extremely dangerous, especially for kids.

It can cause death and cognitive learning disabilities, which 5-year-olds Matthew and Chase Bell are struggling with. Their upcoming share of the proposed $600 million settlement to civil litigation against the state of Michigan will help them as they grow up.

The cousins’ birthdays are only three days apart. They were born just months after Flint’s drinking water source switched to the Flint River in April 2014.

It’s hard to tell they’re struggling. The two best friends love Legos and dinosaurs. They can talk forever about Jurassic World. But for Matthew, his grandpa Floyd Bell said he has difficulty paying attention.

“He has a list of flashcards and I can go -- we can go over ‘em, he can ace em all day long and then tomorrow morning it’s like the words were written in German,” Floyd said. “It’s sad. I don’t let him see me. But sometimes I go away from the session always encouraging him but to myself, I’m in tears.”

For Chase, it took him some time for him to speak.

“He’s very articulate right now, but his speech development took so long to come,” Floyd said. “He’s 5-years-old and I’m just now understanding him.”

Bell watches both grandkids during the week and he’s become Matthew’s legal guardian. He has stayed positive that a settlement would come thanks to his faith and friendship with his attorney.

He got the call late last night.

“I was just like, it’s been six years. It’s been a long time,” Bell said.

His attorney, Corey Stern, predicts Flint kids who were 6 and under during the water crisis will receive a six-figure award. Bell said that money will be set aside to make sure the kids get the extra help they need.

They're still learning what long-term struggles the boys will have to deal with.

“We just have to be positive with it. You know, cause you’re gonna have so many people -- that’s not enough,” Bell said. “But if that’s what the settlement is, that’s what it is. Then we just have to be positive and make the best use of it for the kids. And that’s what it’s about -- the kids.”

Bell understands people are skeptical, but he is hopeful that parents uncomfortable with admitting their kids are struggling will participate in the settlement.

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