Tag Archives: poverty

Mississippi’s Politicians and Powerful are the Real Welfare Queens

Greenville, Mississippi   In the ongoing conservative war against the poor, welfare or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) spending was converted to a block grant program, allowing states, purportedly, to design their own best practices and programs.  In many ideologically based, conservative dominated southern and up-north states, block grants allowed them to reduce or curtail welfare programs designed for families to make the benefits more miserly and access to the programs virtually impossible.  Worse than that, welfare designed for the poor has now been found to be a slush fund for politicians, the powerful, and the well-connected.

The Mississippi state auditor released a 100-page report this week questioning $94 million in expenditures largely on questionable pass throughs to two play-pretend nonprofits, Mississippi Community Education Center (MCEC) and Family Resource Center of North Mississippi (FRC).  All of this was facilitated by the state director of the Department of Human Services and enabled by palms greased all over the Magnolia State.

According to the Jackson, Mississippi based, Clarion Herald,

“Among the audit’s “questioned” spending:

  • The two nonprofits used welfare money to hire lobbyists, often without paperwork describing the work they were supposed to do.
  • MCEC gave contracts to, and hired, family members of Davis, sometimes making lump sum payments. The payments and salaries to his nephew and brother-in-law totaled more than $1 million over the last several years, auditors said.
  • Brett Favre’s company, Favre Enterprises, was paid $1.1 million by MCEC over two installments for appearances, promotions, autographs and speaking engagements by the former star quarterback from Mississippi. Auditors said after reviewing dates and other details they determined Favre “did not speak nor was he present for those events.” They wrote the amount Favre made in the deal was “unreasonable.” The Clarion Ledger has reached out to the Favre’s agent for comment on this story and several related DH stories and has not received a response. He faces no criminal charges.
  • Both nonprofits gave welfare money to a trio of wrestlers, Ted DiBiase, Ted DiBiase, Jr., and Brett DiBiase — some of it for work never performed, some for “unreasonable” travel costs.
  • MCEC paid Victory Sports Foundation with welfare money to run fitness programs. Mississippi legislators and other officials or staffers participated in some of them, free of charge. The trainer who runs Victory, Paul Lacoste, has said he did not know he was receiving welfare money from the nonprofit.
  • MCEC bought three cars with welfare money, each worth more than $50,000, for New and two sons. Salaries, cellphones and other expenses were also paid using welfare money. The vehicles included a 2018 Nissan Armada, a Chevrolet Silverado and a Ford F-250. In each case, the vehicle was registered to MCEC, but auditors said the vehicles were for personal use.
  • The report highlighted many questionable advertising, promotional and branding expenses paid using welfare money. As previously reported, they included payments to a number of media outlets — including the Clarion Ledger for digital ads, TeleSouth Communications, which owns SuperTalk, and to WAPT-TV.
  • MCEC used welfare money for sports-related purposes, including sponsoring a college baseball tournament and other NCAA events.
  • MCEC cut a $3,000 check to a bookkeeper at the organization, though a handwritten note said that “$3,000 cash was given to” Davis, the DHS executive director.
  • MCEC moved $6 million in welfare money to a private school and organization run by New, and bought supplies for the school.
  • The audit confirmed Clarion Ledger reporting that New and her son had invested welfare money in a Florida medical company, Prevacus, in exchange for the company conducting “clinical trials of the new medicine on children in Mississippi.” Several TANF payments were made to the company, but after auditors first began asking about use of TANF funds in July 2019, the payment description was changed to “Bingo” in accounting software used by the nonprofit, auditors wrote.”

My hair is on fire!  Mississippi has some of the hardest and lowest welfare benefits in the country, long victimizing minorities and the poor.  Some of these folks are under indictment and may go to jail, but what about all of the people behind the outstretched hand for perks and favors while Mississippi mothers and children were going hungry?

The poor have already been penalized on a daily basis.  Will those responsible all up and down the line face any penalty?  Who in their right mind believes this is a Mississippi-only problem and not repeated in states throughout the country?

Food Delivery slow going in Honduras

Food Crisis Growing in Honduras Cities

New Orleans       Central America doesn’t get the press on the coronavirus pandemic, but it’s as real there as it is in other countries, except perhaps more dangerous since these countries lack the same level of infrastructure and capacity.  Guatemala managed to break into the news cycle recently with a plea to the White House that it halt deportations from the United States southern border that risked importing coronavirus cases into the country’s weak infrastructure.  A Sunday call with ACORN Honduras organizers brought the harrowing issue of food insecurity home to me with a vengeance.

ACORN has worked for years in Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula, along with the colonias and smaller cities supporting the maquila industries around the San Pedro Sula manufacturing hub.  Both cities and much of the country are on stay-at-home orders, but it’s complicated.  Residents are allowed different days when they are allowed to leave their homes in order to buy groceries, go to the bank, or other essential errands.  The system is based on the last digits in the national identity cards for all Hondurans.  Organizers report though that no matter the design of the system, Fridays are the biggest days, perhaps because of the impending weekend, although the sequencing was technically designed to regulate the flow evenly throughout the weekdays.  What this has meant is huge lines at bank ATMs, groceries, and pharmacies and shortages particularly involving food.

In the best of times hunger is an issue in the communities where ACORN lives.  Food insecurity is such a dainty euphemism for the gripping pain and damage of persistent hunger approaching famine.  The government has promised to provide 800,000 food packets that they claim will be delivered to homes in lower income areas that would provide basic requirements for several weeks.  The government also has publicly committed $2.5 billion in relief, but without details.  The President and members of his family have been caught in a drug trafficking scandal with indictments in the United States.  More than ten years after golopistas upended the government, the fallout continues and includes suspicious election results, terms that breach the constitution, an unpopular regime, and a divided populace, all of which leads to concerns about the transparency of the relief expenditures.

Organizers report that the government has been slow to implement the program and delivery seems to favor some areas over others, exacerbating hunger and fear in our membership.  Trying to get a grip on reality, we are organizing our members to report where food is being delivered and where it is not, so we can create a map with geocoding in order to pressure the government for an equitable and transparent food delivery system.  Members are in constant touch via telephone, texting, and WhatsApp, so we’re hoping we can assemble the data on the ground that leverages basic food needs in our communities.

Some parts of the world can cry about toilet paper and the run on hot dogs and hamburger, while for countries like Honduras, its about the basics of having enough rice and beans to survive the pandemic.


Please enjoy Devil Put the Coal in the Ground

Thanks to WAMF.