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Thompson: Jackson shouldn’t expect federal help on water crisis until a plan is put forward

The 2nd District Congressman says no one from Jackson has shared the facts of the problem or a plan to correct it with him.

Congressman Bennie Thompson, a Democrat representing Mississippi’s 2nd District, says the federal government will not consider helping the city of Jackson with its water crisis until a plan of action is submitted outlining how federal money will be spent.

In an interview with WJTV over the weekend, Congressman Thompson said he has yet to see a proposed plan from the city of Jackson on how the municipality plans to address the continued water crisis.

“I think it would be advantageous for the city to come up with a plan, and to share that plan with as many sources of help as possible. I know there’s a water problem with the city of Jackson, but nobody has shared the facts on the problem with me, as one of the Representatives, as well as what the cure or the plan for correcting it.”

Thompson added that as soon as those who can help are informed of what the details of the issues are, they will “roll up their sleeves” to help. But he cautioned that expectations of money would not come without details.

The Congressman said he was aware of concerns from the EPA and the Mississippi State Board of Health, adding that there is typically a roadmap provided from communities asking the federal government for assistance before an investment from Washington is made.

“When we don’t see the plan for that investment, then there’s a reluctance to invest on it,” said Thompson. “So, I encourage the city of Jackson to develop that plan.”

Chokwe Lumumba, Mayor of Jackson

Jackson Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city has made repeated attempts to meet with Thompson, but he may not be up to date on those requests.

“It’s possible that Congressman Thompson, while protecting our democracy by holding the January 6 insurrection hearings, is simply not up to date with our frequent engagement with the leadership of several U.S. agencies and departments or the multiple requests of our lobbyists to meet with him. We look forward to sharing our fully outlined plan, one that is supported by the expert advice of the U.S. Water Alliance and the Kellogg Foundation,” Lumumba told WJTV.

But when it comes to state assistance, Thompson said Mississippi “doesn’t have skin in the game.” He said they have only given Jackson what was handed down from the federal government through American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds.

However, legislation from the 2022 Legislative session would contradict Thompson’s claim.

The Legislature did appropriate over $90 million to the city of Jackson out of their $1.9 billion in ARPA funds. However, the state took it one step further by agreeing to match dollar for dollar to every city or county that used some of their own funds to address infrastructure needs.

Governor Tate Reeves

“My understanding is that the city and the county are only going to put up $25 [million] of their over $90 million dollars,” Governor Tate Reeves said in an early August press conference.  “I don’t know how they can suggest that these water and sewer challenges they have are a priority if we’re willing to give them dollar for dollar match and they can only come up with about 25 percent of what they are given and they spend everything else on other things.”

Those dollars would then be approved through the Mississippi Department of Finance and Administration to ensure they were actually spent on infrastructure projects.

Governor Reeves said there is very little trust between the state and the city of Jackson to appropriate a lump sum while simply assuming the city would spend it in an efficient manner to address the problem.

The dollar-for-dollar legislation received bipartisan support in the Legislature.

Reeves added that projects are ongoing within the Capitol Complex Improvement District, noting the millions that have been invested into the Capitol Police to increase their employment numbers and officers’ salaries furthering aiding Jackson.

“Again, these are things that we don’t do, because we don’t have to do in other towns and municipalities throughout the state. But it is incredibly important that the city of Jackson improves, gets better, is safer for individuals to live there because as a state we need our capitol city to thrive,” said Governor Reeves.

Despite admitting that the conversation surrounding the constant boil water notices is on the “tips of the tongues” of all Jackson residents, Congressman Thompson said he has yet to hear of a solid plan and does not expect that those at the federal level will provide assistance until that happens.

You can watch Congressman Thompson’s interview with WJTV below.

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