Something absolutely can be done to permanently fix the devastating water problem in Jackson, Miss.
Like many poor communities across the nation, Jackson’s water system has suffered from decades of neglect and low maintenance. Roughly 150,000 residents were under a boil-water notice for more than a month before heavy rainfall and river flooding overwhelmed the pumping system on Aug. 29, 2022. Now, on an urgent basis, the system needs $1 billion to fully repair the water-treatment plant and another $1 billion to bring the rest of the water-distribution system up to a state of good repair.
Unfortunately, no current government program is up to the task of correcting Jackson’s water problem. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law passed in Congress last year will provide the entire state with only $429 million to fix all of its drinking and wastewater systems. That’s far below the American Society of Civil Engineers’ 2020 Report estimating the state needs of at least $6.8 billion over 20 years for those systems.
Adding to that, President Biden’s order to send emergency assistance through FEMA might provide bottled and non-potable water for some time, but few funds for permanent capital improvements.
Congress Should Pass National Infrastructure Bank Act
Fortunately, a bill in Congress, HR 3339, would create a $5-trillion National Infrastructure Bank, or NIB, to finance projects that federal, state and local governments cannot afford. Mississippi could receive up to $47 billion over 10 years to cover all of the state’s backlog in infrastructure improvements, including for roads (40% of which are in poor condition), bridges (with a $1.6-billion funding gap), levees and dams (14 and 130, respectively, rated in unacceptable condition), affordable housing, public transport and more.
The massive investment would improve Mississippi’s economy—currently the lowest per capita in the country—as well as create up to 235,000 family sustaining jobs and improve state and local government finances. The National Infrastructure Bank would immediately invest $2 billion to repair and replace the entire water system of Jackson, as a priority.
The model for the NIB has been successfully done four times in our nation’s history thus far. The last one helped
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