Dear Leader Schumer, Speaker Pelosi, Minority Leader McConnell, and Minority Leader McCarthy:
On behalf of the NAACP, I am writing to urge Congress to provide emergency supplemental funding of $600 Million, before the end of the year, for critically needed water system repairs to the City of Jackson, MS, as detailed in the Biden Administration's Supplemental FY '23 request to Congress.
This funding is needed to remediate deficiencies of the O.B. Curtis and J.H. Fewell water treatment plants. Remediation of the plants can serve as a model for the nation, ensuring that residents, particularly in Black communities, have access to safe, affordable drinking water and sanitation at a cost that will improve equity and satisfy requirements of the EPA Consent decree in effect. While past decisions have all but secured a catastrophic future for places like Jackson and other Black communities. This is an opportunity to right some of those wrongs.
Over multiple administrations, actions taken by the state of Mississippi have intentionally reduced the City's, and its state capital's, ability to direct funding to water infrastructure. The state of Mississippi minimized by statute Jackson's ability to direct its own sales tax revenue, reducing Jackson's ability to maintain the water system. The state also de-annexed wealthier municipalities surrounding Jackson, reducing its tax base. Consequently, and in contrast with surrounding municipalities that have a smaller population of Black residents, Jackson's residents have been normalized to live with boil water notices and high utility rates. Similar to many Black communities across the country, the absence of racial equity is grossly unfair when residents of the capital pay taxes but receive sub-standard service and a higher burden of utility costs.
Despite these obstacles, the city of Jackson has undertaken an extensive planning effort to identify and prioritize infrastructure; $2 Billion in short and long-term repair to stabilize the system, add capacity and resilience. An EPA appointed expert third-party manager has been identified and contracted to guide this process. Furthermore, the City has identified existing and potential sources of funding to address its most pressing needs.
Like many Black cities with aging infrastructure, Jackson will require direct investment by the federal government. In line with the President's promise to prioritize historically excluded communities, the NAACP supports the President's request for $600 Million, and additionally encourages direct federal oversight of actions taken by Mississippi state government that erode local control. Federal funding and interventions are needed to ensure that the priorities of Jackson's elected leadership are followed and that Jackson's residents finally have access to safe drinking water and sanitation. The time is now to ensure that Congress acts to protect Black communities and communities that have long suffered environmental racism due to systemic challenges beyond their control.
The NAACP encourages Congress to support the President's request, and we thank you for your attention to the needs of Jackson's residents.
President and CEO
- NAACP Letter of Support for Jackson MS