A combination of poor infrastructure, climate change and racism have long contributed to water issues in Jackson, Miss, and now heavy rainfalls have left close to 150,000 residents without access to safe drinking water.
Mississippi Republicans, like Gov. Reeves, have withheld financial resources necessary for maintaining the capital city or helping residents in their time of need. Reeves, for instance, vetoed bipartisan legislation that would help provide relief to residents with past-due water bills. In a social media post, Reeves defended the decision. “Other cities have issues too, why should only Jackson get a carve-out? There are needy Mississippians who would rather not pay their bills all over.”
Republicans in the statehouse shot down a proposal last year that would have allowed Jackson to raise a citywide sales tax by 1 cent for water and sewer system repairs. Instead of prioritizing water infrastructure issues, however, GOP legislators have focused their efforts on banning critical race theory in schools, outlawing abortion and keeping trans students from participating in sports.
The bipartisan infrastructure funding passed by Congress last year provides the Environmental Protection Agency with more than $50 billion to invest in drinking water programs, replace lead pipes and protect waterways from climate-related threats. All but one of the state’s Republican members of Congress voted against the bill exposing where their priorities lie.
“What we keep preaching to politicians is that the environment in which you raise a child is the attitude you’re going to get from that child,” Womack said. “No one ever thought about upgrading [Jackson’s] infrastructure, mainly because there are no white people there.”