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Mississippi Officials Gave Millions In Welfare Money To Rich Folks But Ignored Looming Jackson Water Crisis

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Jackson Mississippi water plant and water crisis

Source: The Washington Post / Getty

UPDATED: 5:00 p.m. ET, Sept. 14

Originally published on Sept. 2

More information has been revealed in Mississippi’s ongoing civil lawsuit over the welfare scandal involving former NFL quarterback Brett Favre.

According to Mississippi Today, text messages were released Monday that suggested former Gov. Phil Bryant helped channel at least $5 million of the state’s welfare funds into a volleyball stadium project for Brett Favre and the University of Southern Mississippi. Favre’s daughter plays volleyball for the university and he received most of the fundraising credit for the project.

The text messages allegedly show that Phil Bryant guided Favre through writing the funding proposal to make sure it was suitable for the Mississippi Department of Human Services.

The messages also reveal that Favre asked Bryant how the new agency director might affect their plans to fund the volleyball stadium. Bryant told Favre, “I will handle that… long story but had to make a change. But I will call Nancy and see what it will take.”

Other messages show Favre received a separate $1.1 million welfare contract to promote the volleyball program. 

Nonprofit founder Nancy New has pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts related to the scheme, but Favre nor Bryant have been charged.

Former welfare agency director John Davis was fired by Bryant and awaits trial.  Earlier this month, Favre was questioned by the FBI for his involvement in a Mississippi welfare-money scandal.

According to reports, Favre was paid $1.1 million in federal welfare funds in 2017 and 2018 for motivational speeches he allegedly never gave.

Although Favre has paid some of the money back, the Mississippi state auditor says he still owes  $228,000 in interest.  

The auditor also revealed that $70 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) welfare funds were dished out to a multimillionaire athlete, a professional wrestler, a horse farm, and a volleyball complex. 

Favre and his lawyer have repeatedly claimed he did nothing wrong, but there is a bigger issue here. 

Mississippi is the poorest state in the union. 18.8% of its residents live at or below the poverty line. The state also boasts the highest child poverty rate, with 27.9% of its under-18 population meeting federal poverty guidelines. 

Jackson, the state’s biggest city, is currently engulfed in a water crisis, which has left more than 180,000 residents without running water. And this isn’t a new problem, just one that seems to get ignored time and time again. 

According to Time, Jackson has struggled with safe water access since the 1940s, but nothing has been done. 

In the 1970s and again in 2020, the EPA warned that the city had to get serious about updating its infrastructure to improve water quality, but they didn’t. 

Jackson’s Mayor Chokwe Antar Lumumba said the city’s water plant had failed numerous times since 2020. According to the official, in early 2020, the city’s water system failed an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) inspection. In the report, the agency wrote that the drinking water “had the potential to have the presence of” harmful bacteria and parasites, “based on evidence” of turbidity and cloudiness in the water. They also expressed concerns about the “condition of the distribution system.”

How can a state justify spending $70 million in welfare money on rich people’s agendas when hard-working folks in Jackson can’t even get water to brush their teeth? It’s hard to believe state officials care much about the Black folks in Jackson. If they did how could they ignore the many calls to action to fix the looming water crisis before it reached its tipping point? 

Now thousands of Americans are suffering.

SEE ALSO:

Here’s What We Know About Jackson, Mississippi’s Water Plant Crisis

Deion Sanders Says Jackson State Football Program Is In ‘Crisis Mode’ Because They Have No Water

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