Come on Up Mississippi

Corruption welfare

           Pearl River      Almost anyone paying attention knows about Mississippi-native and former NFL great Brett Favre rip and run with welfare funds in what many refer to as “one of the biggest scandals” in state history in a fraud scheme that ran from 2016 to 2019.  There are a lot of allegations, some still charged, some restitution, and many lawyers enriched, while others are doing time.  There’s a deeper tragedy that for all of the “good ole’ boy” excuses and posturing by those who profited and were caught on the web, welfare recipients in the Mississippi, regularly ranked as the poorest population in the country, continue to suffer the aftershocks of this horrible abuse of welfare funds, as I discovered when I stumbled on a full-page article from Mississippi Today in the Sun Herald, a Gulf Coast paper.

Ostensibly, the piece was about a techie-kind of company called Lobaki, which had sidled up to the trough, fed fully from welfare funds, while benefiting from lax or nonexistent supervision by the welfare authorities or state officials, and is finally among the first to settle and agree to a partial repayment plan.

The real story that creeps in between the lines is the continuing price the poor are paying.  As the report writes,

The public funds Lobaki received came from the federal safety net program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or “TANF,” which is known for providing cash assistance, or “welfare checks,” to very poor families.  But Mississippi only uses 5% of the funds this way.  States may also use the block grant to “end the dependence of needy parents on government benefits” through workforce development.

Come on, Mississippi, is there no shame:  5%?!?

No, is the answer, the scandal revealed that Mississippi was spending the money inappropriately, and once the cash was shifted to nonprofits or contractors, believing it no longer had any responsibility to monitor expenditures or benefits to the poor.  In fact, the state, contrary to federal regulations, waived income eligibility tests, which it had already set at 300% poverty level, in order to pay less to the actually entitled.

Worse, now that they have been caught looking the other way and not serving the poor and in fact converting welfare money into personal piggybanks, welfare recipients are being neglected even more.  As the report details,

Since the state has tightened up spending in light of the scandal, it has amassed an unspent balance of $146 million in TANF as of 2022 – money that the state could direct towards fighting poverty.  When Lobaki received the welfare grant in 2018, the state was serving roughly 4500 families through the traditional cash assistance program and reported a TANF approval rate of 20%.  Today, as the welfare civil suit enters its third year, MDHS is serving just 1600 families and approves roughly 9% of monthly applications, according to 2023 data.

Pathetic!  It makes you want to weep.  The Mississippi welfare department has learned nothing from its own scandals except, it seems, to harden its heart against the very poor it is supposed to serve.

Come on, Mississippi, do right!