Chairs Maloney and Thompson Launch Formal Investigation into Mississippi Governor’s Distribution of Federal Funds for Water System Repairs in Jackson
Washington, D.C. (October 17, 2022)—Today, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney, Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, and Rep. Bennie G. Thompson, Chairman of the Committee on Homeland Security, sent a letter to Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves requesting information on how the state plans to distribute more than $10 billion in federal funding from the American Rescue Plan Act and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including $429 million that was specifically allotted to enhance the state’s water infrastructure.
“We urge you to take action to protect the health and safety of Jackson residents and direct funding to Jackson immediately to fix this life and death issue,” wrote the Chairs.
On August 30, 2022, President Biden declared the Jackson water crisis a federal emergency after torrential rain in the Jackson area left residents without reliable access to safe drinking water for more than two weeks.
Scientists have concluded that the rise in coastal sea-levels and frequent flooding in Mississippi—which contributed to the water crisis in Jackson—are a direct result of climate change. The city, the majority of whose residents are Black, has also suffered decades of disinvestment, and residents report they have not gone more than a month without a “boil water” notice in effect for over two years.
The American Rescue Plan and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law made billions of dollars available to Mississippi to address a variety of problems, however, criteria used by the state to allocate federal funding may limit the funds Jackson receives compared to other locales, despite Jackson’s much greater need. The Mississippi legislature’s decision to allocate federal funding from the State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds program on a matching basis with municipalities risks further perpetuating underinvestment in Jackson. The cost of necessary maintenance to Jackson’s water distribution systems is projected to be as high as $1 billion. Under the matching formula Mississippi adopted for American Rescue Plan funds, Jackson would directly receive, at most, around $84 million for water projects.
Jackson city officials informed Committee staff that the state has repeatedly sought to limit funding for Jackson to address its unsafe water systems, including the state’s initial plan to bar communities of more than 4,000 people from competing for additional funding from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.
In light of this information, the Chairs requested that the Governor provide the Committees with information related to the State of Mississippi’s efforts to address the water crisis in Jackson and improve drinking water infrastructure, including the distribution of federal funds to localities, by October 31, 2022.
Click here to read today’s letter.