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Gov. Reeves Requests Federal Aid For Jackson Businesses Hit By Water Crisis

a photo of Tate Reeves speaking to a room with his arms out in a questioning way, and Chockwe Lumumba standing behind him, hands clasped
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, pictured here at a press conference with Jackson Mayor Chokwe A. Lumumba on Sept. 7, 2022, requested a federal declaration on Sept. 12, 2022, that would allow Jackson businesses dealing with the city’s water crisis to receive up to $2 million in disaster loans. Photo by Nick Judin

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves is asking the federal government to step in and help Jackson businesses overcome economic hardships caused by the capital city’s ongoing water crisis

In a letter to U.S. Small Business Director Kem R. Fleming, the governor requested a Small Business Administrative Declaration, which would open the doors for businesses in Hinds County to obtain funds through the SBA’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.

“Jackson businesses have been hit incredibly hard by the ongoing water crisis,” the governor said in a statement Monday. “They have shown their resilience and their commitment to this city throughout the years, and my administration will continue to do everything it can to support them during this difficult time.”

Since July 29, Jackson has been under a boil-water notice, forcing businesses in the capital city to make costly changes in operations, especially in hospitality businesses like hotels and restaurants.

“First, you’re gonna have to start a couple hours early,” John Tierre, the owner of Johnny T’s Bistro & Blues in Downtown Jackson, told the Mississippi Free Press in mid-August. “That’s already labor in itself, whatever you’re paying per hour. You gotta get in and start boiling water for everything that you’re gonna be using in service. … 

“Not only do we have to boil water just to wash dishes, for the bar, for glasses, but there’s the $200 or $300 a day in ice purchases, canned sodas, bottled water, things of that nature.”

The situation only grew more dire for residents and business owners alike on Aug. 29, when failures at the city’s main water treatment plant resulted in a loss of running water citywide. With the help of state and federal resources, water pressure resumed a week later, but the same issues Tierre was dealing with throughout August are still present because the city remains under a boil water notice.

The governor’s statement on Monday noted that “daycare centers were forced to limit or eliminate services because they could not easily keep their facilities clean. With little to no running water throughout the city, businesses could not serve, clean, cool or sanitize, forcing them to either suffer losses or temporarily shut down.”

In his letter to Fleming, Reeves also said that “hotels saw a severe drop in reservations due to the unavailability of water for patrons” and that “businesses unable to provide bathroom services resorted to renting portable toilets for their few patrons and staff.”

SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loans can provide Jackson businesses with up to $2 million “help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred,” the agency’s website says. The loan amount is based on “actual economic injury” and the company’s financial needs.

Reeves previously requested and President Joe Biden approved a federal emergency declaration for Jackson, allowing the federal government to come in and assist Jackson.

In a statement on Sept. 8, U.S. Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss., called on the president to include Jackson in his federal $47.1 billion funding request to Congress.

“Jackson’s water crisis is nothing short of a full-blown emergency, and it’s disappointing and concerning that the city’s water and wastewater infrastructure needs did not make it in the administration’s $47.1 billion emergency request. … Support for Ukraine, COVID-19, monkeypox, or natural disasters in other states should not take priority over the needs of Jackson residents to have access to clean water,” Hyde-Smith said.

See the Mississippi Free Press’ full Jackson water-crisis coverage, starting in March 2021.

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