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Federal funding helps Jackson, Mississippi address ongoing water crisis, aging infrastructure

federal funding for cities
Posted at 11:23 AM, Jan 26, 2023

JACKSON, Miss. — In a city known for its hospitality, it's hard to find a restaurant filled with people that won't make you smile. However, behind those happy faces in Jackson, Mississippi, are concerns about the longevity of their business. Jeff Good owns multiple restaurants in Jackson and one of them is Bravo.

"And I am being put out of business by the very city that I live in because the city's infrastructure is unable to support the business it wants to support," Good explained.

Good sits down with us at his Italian restaurant and bar to explain his experience with the city's water crisis.

"And I really woke up to the issue that the whole system was being held together failing wire, scotch tape, and duct tape, and chewing gum about eight years ago," Good said. "Two of my restaurants were closed for 21 days in February of 2021 because there was no water, and after that, we operated under boiled water for some period of time."

Now, he says, business owners like him have some hope. The $1.7 billion funding bill that went through Congress includes $600 million to Jackson to address their ongoing water crisis. He points out this money is a step to permanent change, instead of just a Band-Aid. We asked him if it was safe to assume that if it wasn't for this money, it would be inevitable that businesses would continue to close or move.

"You're exactly right. It's that bad," Good said.

Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba says it's important to point out just how rare it is for the federal government and the EPA to step up like this for a city.

"What they did was step out of the role as we formally know it in order to create a new model," Lumumba said.

However, he emphasizes this financial help could be necessary for the future to help other cities fight their own battles.

"What we both recognize is that Jackson is only a representation of communities that are either facing the same challenges or will soon face the same challenges if they are not aware of them," Lumumba said.

America is getting older and so is its infrastructure.

"For far too long, we have neglected on both state and federal levels to recognize this aging infrastructure that we now have," Lumumba said.

This $600 million will be the first test of what it takes to fix these failing systems. While $600 million may sound like enough, we asked the mayor if it's enough to get done what they need to.

"You are correct that $600 million does not buy us a perfect system with all new shiny pipes and a new water treatment plant, but it does bring us a significant way along the path of ensuring sustainability," Lumumba said.

Well, it's estimated that number is closer to the billions and even with all of their resources pooled together, they don't have enough.

"When you add everything up they are saying right now, and we didn't have any of this six months ago, we have $800 million and that's it," Good said.

That includes every ounce of help from the city, county, and state. It's just one example of why other cities will eventually lean on this precedent when their time of need comes around.