The last month in Jackson has been challenging to say the least. While the 7-week all-city boil water notice was lifted, the reality is that the water crisis in Jackson is much bigger than a few disastrous weeks. As Yamiracle, a Springboard mom said earlier this month in an interview, “They lifted the advisory this week to boil all our water, but I just can’t believe it’s safe. This has been going on for years. It’s basically been going on my whole life. So I think most of us who live here are just asking, ‘If all it took was two weeks to fix this, why haven’t you guys already done it?’ It just doesn’t make sense.”
The Department of Justice is prepared to file an action against the city under the Safe Drinking Water Act after close to 300 boil water notices in the last two years alone, and already, parts of the city find themselves under a boil water notice again. We are hopeful that the attention brought to the system and involvement from multiple levels of government will finally bring about a long-term solution. However, we also know that this is a problem that will take much longer than a couple weeks to fix.
And more importantly, we know that the needs of each family right now is different. While there is the obvious expense of having to buy bottled water, there are plenty of other repercussions from the crisis families are dealing with. Some families are trying to make up for the extra food costs that they had to spend when schools were out and they were unable to get meals. Others need to make up for lost wages when restaurants or other businesses were closed or could offer less service. Still others are trying to make sure that they have Internet ready or funds saved for childcare if their child’s school switches to virtual again with very little notice.
At Springboard, we are dedicated to our radically resident-driven model and honoring our belief that our families know better than anyone else what it is that they need to best care for themselves and their families. With that in mind, Springboard To Opportunities will be providing $150 per month for a minimum of 6 months to each family residing in one of Springboard’s multifamily Jackson communities. This means approximately 700 families residing in low-income housing in Jackson will have additional cash resources to sustain their families through this crisis.
To put this in context, up until last spring, Mississippi’s monthly TANF payment was only $170 for a family of 3 (it has now been raised to $260 – still the 4th lowest amount in the country). At the end of 2021, only about 1,600 families were actually receiving TANF – less than 1% of the total number of families living in poverty in Mississippi. In a state that has historically accepted less than 2% of TANF applications while fraudulently reallocating funds to friends and pet projects, we are rewriting the script on what is possible when you center trust and the voices of families in times of crisis.
Since the launch of The Magnolia Mother’s Trust in 2018, Springboard has been helping to drive forward the conversation on cash and modeling what it looks like to believe that families know better than anyone else what they need. This time is no different. As we continue to learn alongside our families in these next few months, we look forward to getting show on a larger scale than ever before that when families are offered trust and have agency over their own lives and resources, they are able to thrive.