The federal fingerprint in efforts to fix Detroit is growing larger as the Obama administration has found millions of dollars in grant money to help the bankrupt city hire more police and firefighters, and clear out blighted neighborhoods.
The Motor City is at least $18 billion in debt.
Fact sheet from White House: Breakdown of Detroit support
Four high-ranking White House officials discussed federal efforts and other opportunities Friday during a closed-door meeting at Wayne State University with Gov. Rick Snyder, state-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr, Mayor Dave Bing and community and business leaders.
--A protestor outside the meeting
The federal money being directed Detroit's way by the U.S. government totals more than $100 million and will be augmented with about $200 million more in resources from foundations and Detroit businesses.
Gene Sperling, chief economic adviser to President Barack Obama, said the administration scrounged through the federal budget and found untapped money that "either had not flowed or had not gotten out or not directed to the top priorities for Detroit."
“This is a special and aggressive effort that the president has directed us to do," Sperling said. "We don’t expect this to be easy, we expect this to be successful."
Sperling and three other top Obama aides -- U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder, Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx and HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan -- met and spoke with state and local officials Friday.
“We all believe this will be one of the greatest comeback stories," Donovan said.
The funding announced included $65 million in Community Development Block Grants for blight eradication, $25 million in a public-private collaboration for commercial building demolition and nearly $11 million in funds to ensure working families can live in safe neighborhoods.
Holder announced millions will be used to hire new police officers an. About $25 million also will be expedited to Detroit to hire about 140 firefighters and buy new gear. The Michigan Department of Corrections will also get $100,000 for the Detroit/Wayne County re-entry facility.
The gathering Friday follows a series of meetings with the White House to plot ways to pull Detroit from a fiscal pit that this summer made it the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy protection.
“I think we can do it. I do believe over some period of time, over the next two or three years, we’re going to begin to see a difference in our city," Bing said.
Detroit has had a poor record in making sure grant money is used properly and even spent at all.
In 2011, Mayor Dave Bing fired the director of the city's Human Services Department after an internal investigation revealed $200,000 intended for poor residents was spent on office furniture for staff members.
The following year, his office had to scramble to use about $20 million in grants that had been left sitting for demolitions of thousands of vacant houses. The city's Police Department also allowed a $400,000 grant to lapse for a new armored vehicle.
The grant troubles have rankled Orr, the emergency manager Gov. Rick Snyder appointed to lead the city out of its financial mess.
In addition, Orr, the city's emergency manager, has told the city's two municipal retirement systems he wants to freeze Detroit's pension plans and move to a 401(k)-style system.
Orr has said Detroit is so poor that it can't afford to lose out on any resources. In July, he made Detroit the largest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy protection.
Grants only can pay for things the city otherwise couldn't afford. Several businesses even pitched in $8 million earlier this year to help pay for a new fleet of emergency vehicles, including 23 EMS units and 100 police cars, to boost public safety and reduce response times.
Police Chief James Craig said Thursday he was in Washington a few weeks ago in search of federal resources for his department.
"Our work together is critical in achieving our goals of making Detroit a safe city and providing the necessary resources in raising the morale of our most valuable asset, our people," Craig said.