In 2017, the Mississippi nonprofit Operation Shoestring received a federal grant worth more than $200,000. When the organization sought to renew the funding a year later, the money was no longer available. “It had been reallocated in ways we’re reading about now,” said Robert Langford, executive director of the organization, which has been providing aid to families in need for more than a half-century, said in an interview. Mississippi’s widening welfare scandal involves tens of millions of dollars and has embroiled the state’s former governor, Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre and professional wrestlers, among others. Organizations such as Operation Shoestring, and the at-risk populations that rely on their funds, continue to feel the sting, the Washington Post reports.
As Langford tried to renew the funding in 2018, the state officials tasked with distributing the money were found to be funneling millions away from those it was intended for. The scandal’s impact will be felt for years, advocates say. “It makes my blood boil,” Langford said. “We’re talking about funds that were supposed to be used to help move people out of poverty in the poorest state instead becoming literal currency for favors, both political and financial for people. It’s amazing.” Last week, John Davis, the former executive director of the Mississippi Department of Human Services, pleaded guilty to two federal charges and 18 state counts of embezzling federal welfare funds. The U.S. Justice Department said Davis misused the money and helped create “sham contracts … knowing that no significant services would be provided.” His plea has led to speculation that Favre and others could be further implicated. Favre received $1.1 million intended for welfare recipients in exchange for speeches and appearances the state auditor says he never made. And text messages show Favre was heavily involved in discussions that resulted in $5 million in welfare money going toward the construction of a volleyball facility at his alma mater, the University of Southern Mississippi, where his daughter played volleyball.