Brett Favre should acknowledge his role in Mississippi welfare scandal

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More than two years after learning of Brett Favre’s involvement in one of the most stunning embezzlement scandals in Mississippi history, he is now one of 38 defendants charged with embezzling social funds. intended to reduce poverty in the poorest state in the country.

Favre’s role in the scheme is linked to his relationship with Nancy New, a nonprofit director who had access to millions in welfare funds, and John Davis, the disgraced former director of the Department of Human Services. of Mississippi (MDHS) which allocated the money in the first place – including $68 million in federal welfare funds from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Although TANF funding should be used to provide meaningful assistance to low-income Mississippi families, New’s nonprofit has invested millions in retired athlete pet projects, including at least $8 million related to Favre’s business endeavors and a new sports facility at his alma mater, the university. of southern Mississippi.

Favre maintains that he did not know that this money was funded by TANF dollars. What he and his defenders miss, however, is that his responsibility in this situation is not whether the money came from a specific federal grant. He solicited money from an anti-poverty nonprofit organization funded by the Mississippi Welfare Agency. Almost every federal dollar MDHS receives goes to help the most vulnerable people in the state, not the most privileged, and it’s time to stop giving Favre a pass for what he didn’t know. step and start holding him accountable for what he did to know.

To begin with, he knew he had been paid $1.1 million by New’s nonprofit for appearances at events and speaking engagements he did not deliver (which he has since reimbursed to MDHS) . He knew this same non-profit organization awarded $5 million for his application to build a new volleyball facility at Southern Miss, where Favre’s daughter happened to be a member of the team. Hattiesburg is a college town with one of the highest poverty rates in the state, and instead of using resources to help its poorest residents, the MDHS has invested millions to make Favre look like to a hometown hero for his alma mater.

They had to return to for Davis and New when seeking investors for Prevacus, a pharmaceutical start-up specializing in the treatment of concussions. After investing $1 million of his own money and trying (and failing) to get the NFL on board, Favre and his business partner turned to Governor Phil Bryant for help getting Prevacus off the ground quickly.

Two days after meeting with the governor, Favre sent the following text to Prevacus founder Jake Vanlandingham, as reported by the nonprofit newspaper Mississippi Today.

“Text Nancy (News) and include me if you want and basically ask her if she can help with investors, grants or any other way she can. She has strong connections and gave me 5 million for the installation of Vball via a grant. Give it whatever you want.

After Vanlandingham connected with New, Favre made it clear he knew exactly how they could get money for the start-up.

“I believe that if possible, she and John Davis would use the federal grant money for Prevacus.”

And just like that, New and Davis committed $2.1 million in welfare to a project that has done nothing to alleviate Mississippi’s current poverty crisis. (It’s worth mentioning that of the $135 million in TANF funding Mississippi received in 2018, only $7.3 million went to direct cash assistance to low-income families.)

Perhaps most tellingly, Favre knew of the challenges he faced when the governor replaced Davis with a new MDHS director who began paying attention to where the money was going.

“Nancy (New) said (Christopher Freeze, the new director of MDHS) is not our type,” Favre sent Vanlandingham, as Mississippi Today reports.

“F***,” Vanlandingham replied. “Well, we might need the Governor to make him our type.”

Not exactly the strongest case for someone claiming complete ignorance.

Instead of admitting it and using what he knew to shed light on one of the most damaging cases of public corruption in state history, he chose to evade reporters while still causing public brawls with the state auditor who conducted the investigation.

Maybe he didn’t work overtime to clear his name because he’s used to playing the chosen son of Mississippi. It’s Brett Favre, after all! Hancock County Pride. The golden eagle with the golden arm. He would never do anything to hurt the state he loves.

It’s easy to love Mississippi when you don’t have to recognize how many of its people struggle to keep the lights on. You never have to look a kid in the eye who begs a cafeteria worker for a few seconds because the cupboards are empty at home. You don’t have to tell a single mother she’s not eligible for child care assistance until she sue the father of her child for child support and her her only choices are to quit her job or leave her babies home alone so she can earn a paycheck.

It’s easy to love Mississippi when your Mississippi is a place of privilege and opportunity.

It’s much harder when people like Favre profit from decades of good old boy corruption while the state remains the worst place in the country to be a mother or a child. First in infant mortality, child poverty and food insecurity. Almost last in education, health and just about everything else that matters. Welfare officials had access to millions of dollars to do a lot of good for a lot of people. Instead, they chose to be an ATM for one of the richest Mississippians in the world just so they could say, “Brett Favre knows who I am.”

Never mind that Favre was never informed that the money he was asking for was intended to help the poorest families in Mississippi. There’s a reason he hasn’t worked with another agency. There’s a reason he bypassed the process of raising private funds or recruiting outside investors. Through Mississippi’s welfare system, he had access to money that no one was looking at, and he followed it until someone finally looked up.

We all know that Favre will have no trouble shrugging off the negative publicity of this story. It will eventually become a Wikipedia footnote and everyone will go back to writing about their divisive podcast or latest endorsement deal. But he owes the state of Mississippi much more than money, namely the basic respect not to ignore the ongoing crises that keep him at the bottom of every good list and at the top of every bad one.

If Brett Favre loves half of Mississippi as much as he says he does, he should use his influence to hold its leaders accountable and help its most vulnerable people. Because loving something and knowingly contributing to its suffering is the only debt you can’t repay.

For the latest on the Mississippi welfare scandal, read The Backchannel by investigative reporter Anna Wolfe and Mississippi Today.

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