As elected officials at every level of Mississippi government decide how to spend more than $10 billion (and counting) in federal funds, Mississippi Today has launched “Follow the Money,” a newsroom-wide project that will closely track that spending and hold leaders accountable.
This historic influx of cash, most of it from coronavirus stimulus packages and the new infrastructure package, will provide Mississippi leaders a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to address generational problems like:
- The absence of employment opportunities across much of our state, which leaves so many Mississippians stuck in a cycle of poverty and lacking the resources to get out.
- Public schools that have been starved for resources and dependent upon an inequitable funding formula that’s gone underfunded by billions of dollars since its inception and dwindling local tax bases.
- No access to high-speed internet, keeping many Mississippians disconnected from the rest of the world and even the next town over.
- Crumbling roads and water systems that pose critical health and safety risks to every single Mississippian.
- A health care system that was never been built to care for every Mississippian regardless of their locality, race, or socioeconomic background.
The whole idea of this project is to ensure elected officials are publicly held accountable. Too often in Mississippi, a lack of transparency in government spending allows contractors, lobbyists and interest groups to reap the benefits of large pots of money intended to make our state better. Meanwhile, the Mississippians who need help most miss out. And all too often, the public isn’t even aware that it’s happening.
We cannot let that happen now. In the poorest state in the nation, where so many of our neighbors are struggling, the need is just too great and the moment too important. We’re devoting a newsroom of focus and energy to asking the tough questions of the decision-makers and tracking every dollar.
We hope our project page will serve as a hub for Mississippians, a place where basic information about the money is easily accessible and easy to understand. The page is a living, breathing thing, and we will add more resources, databases and coverage to it.
While our team of state government reporters is uniquely positioned to cover the state-level spending, so much of this money will be spent at the local level. That’s where you, the readers, come in.
City councils, boards of aldermen, boards of supervisors and school boards will have plenty of discretionary spending authority, and we need you to be our eyes and ears in those hundreds of halls. If you have questions, concerns or tips about how the federal money is being spent in your community, please reach out to us at [email protected] or [email protected] Check back soon for an interactive form that will allow us to more quickly respond to your comments regarding the federal spending.
As you follow this coverage, please don’t hesitate to reach out and tell us what we’re missing. We want you to help us provide this needed accountability.