JXN Water SNAP discount blocked by DOJ and state AG

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Jackson, MS at height of water crisis in 2021

JXN Water, the capital city’s official water and sewer manager, has been denied access to state files of Jackson area recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) funds in Mississippi, thereby suffering a major blow to an innovative plan to provide discounts on water and sewer fees to nearly 15,000 of the city’s lower-income households.

The Department of Justice and the Mississippi Attorney General’s office have filed appeals to block an order by United States Judge Henry Wingate that would have turned over certain Department of Human Services (DHS) SNAP files to JXN Water for its billing system. 

A three-way agreement between the federal government, the State of Mississippi, and the City of Jackson governing the city’s water supply system has been in effect since November 2022. Citing the need to gain access to data on thousands of SNAP households for a special discount to low income families, JXN Water administrator Ted Henifin asked Wingate, who holds judicial oversight in the case, to grant access to the records. The judge agreed to the request on April 16 and issued his order granting JXN Water access to the DHS’ SNAP data. 


Under Henifin’s plan released to the public in January 2024, the 16 percent of Jackson households receiving SNAP benefits would each save about 69 cents a day on the average household rate of $40 per billing period for water. That would amount to a $10 monthly base rate for a SNAP household. But the water agency didn’t have all the information it needed on SNAP households and asked Wingate to order DHS to turn over its SNAP client list to Henifin, whose official title is Interim Third Party Manager (ITPM) of Jackson’s water and sewer system. 

The Department of Justice, however, announced after Wingate’s order that all of Mississippi’s SNAP money would be cut off if the state turned over the records to JXN Water. State Attorney General Lynn Fitch notified Henifin that her office was also appealing Wingate’s order and that DHS would not be allowed to provide the information.

“The SNAP data is needed by the ITPM to identify customers that are eligible to be included in the new SNAP customer classification implemented with the new rate structure made effective on February 1, 2024,” Henifin’s office announced in response to the blocking action taken by DOJ and the AG. “The rate for customers in the SNAP customer classification includes a reduced availability fee, ensuring water and sewer bills can be paid by all. It will also allow the ITPM to avoid spending significant amounts of ratepayer money seeking to collect bills which these customers are simply unable to pay.”

The JXN Water press release also stated “the ITPM’s rate schedule constitutes a federal assistance program under the SNAP statute” and that JXN Water should be allowed access to SNAP household information in the Jackson area. 


The U. S. Department of Justice has doubled down by threatening to withdraw SNAP benefits for all of Mississippi if the state complies with Judge Wingate’s order, says Henifin. That threat has forced the Mississippi Attorney General to also appeal Judge Wingate’s order.

“While we would have preferred that Mississippi’s Attorney General not appeal Judge Wingate’s order, we recognize that the US DOJ has put them between a rock and a hard place given their threat to punish all SNAP recipients in Mississippi if the State gives the ITPM the Jackson area SNAP list,” Henifin said.

The DOJ action will delay or potentially eliminate the ability to provide water rate relief to the estimated 15,000 households served by JXN Water which currently receive SNAP benefits. Under the ITPM’s revised rate structure, SNAP recipients would save $30 per month and save the JXN Water untold collection costs.


This was the second time Wingate has ordered specific household records be turned over to JXN Water administrator Henifin’s office. As the third party interim manager, Henifin is charged with the responsibility of restoring Jackson’s water system. Financed by $800 million-plus in federal funds under the court’s Stipulated Order of November 2022, Henifin had almost completed his plan and was ready to get on with the work of restoring Jackson’s broken-down water and sewer system. But he had no accurate account of nearly half the households in Jackson consuming the city’s water and many not paying for it. 

On August 22, 2023, Wingate compelled Entergy Mississippi to give JXN Water the names, addresses and contact information for its customers in 30 zip codes in the Jackson area. 

“This is essential to updating and correcting the information contained in the City of Jackson’s records of active and inactive water and sewer accounts,” Wingate wrote at that time.

Wingate justified his order by saying that JXN Water’s proposed SNAP discounts are equivalent to a federal assistance program.


JXN Water said in its statement release Monday that the DOJ policy was “misguided” and that the bureau’s opposition to the confidential use of SNAP recipients’ names and addresses to provide significant water rate assistance in Jackson is “inexplicable and disheartening” for a community with an 80 percent African American population. 

“DOJ’s ill-advised and unnecessary opposition is particularly troubling given the water-related suffering these residents have endured for years,” the JXN Water statement said.

JXN Water is the Mississippi corporation formed for the appointed Interim Third Party Manager to achieve the objectives of the federal stipulated orders that re-establish the utility’s operations and maintenance functions for the entire water system. 

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JXN Water SNAP discount blocked by DOJ and state AG

By Earnest McBride
June 25, 2024