Mississippi Agency Denies NAACP's Jackson Water Discrimination Claim

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A Mississippi official has denied the NAACP's claim that the state has discriminated against Jackson, a majority-Black city, in how it distributes federal funds for its water system.

According to the Associated Press, Christopher Wells, the executive director of the Mississippi Department of Environmental Quality, wrote in a letter to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) last month that the NAACP's discrimination complaint lacked “a single fact to support” the state's alleged mishandling of funds.

Wells said the complaint is politically motivated, and Jackson's outdated water infrastructure falls on city officials. According to Wells, the EPA has long known about the problems in Jackson, well before the recent water crisis shined a light on the city's deteriorating infrastructure.

“Jackson received a loan for every completed application it submitted. And, because the amount of the loan is based on the cost of the project, no loans were reduced for any reason that could be considered discriminatory,” Wells said in the letter, per AP.

The NAACP’s federal complaint alleges that Mississippi violated Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which prohibits federal fund recipients from denying benefits on the basis of race, color, or national origin.

NAACP President and CEO Derrick Johnson previously said Mississippi’s “racist funding policies” have blocked water infrastructure improvement that could have prevented last summer's crisis in Jackson.

“In 2022, there is no excuse as to why our government cannot provide the necessary infrastructure to ensure that all of its residents have access to this basic human right,” Johnson wrote. “The residents of Jackson, Mississippi, a predominantly Black community, have suffered at the hands of discriminatory state leadership for far too long.”

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