House Democrats press Mississippi governor on use of federal water funds
House Homeland Security Committee Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) and House Oversight Committee Chairwoman Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.) requested further information on Mississippi’s use of federal funds allocated for water infrastructure following the September water crisis in Jackson.
After torrential rain in late August, Jackson’s main water treatment facility failed. Residents were reliant on bottled water and remained under a boil-water advisory even after water pressure was restored. Full water service was only restored on Sept. 15.
Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba (D) has said upgrading city water infrastructure could cost billions, but the predominantly Black capital has faced receding tax revenues for years. Over the decades, the city’s Democratic, predominantly Black leadership has frequently called on Republican, predominantly white state leadership to take action, while state leaders have blamed mishandling of funds at the municipal level.
In a letter sent to Gov. Tate Reeves’s (R) office and first reported by NBC News, Maloney and Thompson, whose district includes most of the city, called the crisis a “disaster waiting to happen” that would likely recur without further investment in city services. They also noted that the Environmental Protection Agency has issued warnings about the city’s water infrastructure for decades and that extreme weather associated with climate change is likely to create similar crises in the future.
Recent federal infrastructure legislation included billions for Mississippi to address water infrastructure in overburdened areas, the representatives noted.
“However, criteria used by the Mississippi Municipality and County Water Infrastructure Act to allocate funding — such as median household income, possible population decline, and unemployment rate — may limit the funding Jackson receives compared to other locales, despite Jackson’s much greater need,” they wrote.
“We are also troubled by the Mississippi legislature’s decision to allocate federal funding from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program on a matching basis with municipalities, which risks further perpetuating underinvestment in Jackson,” they wrote.
The Hill has reached out to Reeves’s office for comment.
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