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White House to help bankrupt Detroit demolish buildings, hire firefighters

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House will send a group of top officials to Detroit on Friday to offer millions in assistance for knocking down empty buildings, hiring firefighters and adding buses to the city fleet, as the city struggles after filing for bankruptcy.

The federal aid has been tapped from a variety of existing programs and is part of a patchwork of grants complementing investments by the city, state and private foundations.

"We're going to continue to support the efforts under way in Detroit and ensure the federal government is an active partner in supporting the revitalization of the city," said Gene Sperling, director of the White House National Economic Council, who has led federal discussions with Detroit on how best to help.

Sperling and cabinet officials will discuss the plan at a meeting with Michigan Governor Rick Snyder, Detroit Mayor Dave Bing, the city's emergency manager Kevyn Orr, members of the Michigan congressional delegation and other leaders.

"This effort is about lifting up Detroit, and committing to a shared, long-term investment that will enable the businesses and residents in Detroit to expand opportunity and renew this world-class city," Sperling said in a statement.

Attorney General Eric Holder, Housing and Urban Development Secretary Shaun Donovan, and Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx will be at the meeting.

The plan includes about $150 million to tear down dilapidated properties and revitalize blighted neighborhoods. Some of those funds will come from the federal government, with other funds coming from the city, state, businesses and the Ford, Kresge and Skillman foundations.

The federal government also will pledge $25 million to hire 150 firefighters, and provide more than $100 million in transit grants for buses, a streetcar project, and a bus rapid transit system, the White House said.

The White House has said since July 18, when the city filed for bankruptcy, that it would try to find ways to help Detroit, while making it clear that a bail-out was not an option.

(Reporting by Roberta Rampton; Editing by Ken Wills)

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