Amid delays in funding and frozen grants by the Mississippi Department of Human Services (MDHS), the doors are still open at Itawamba County’s Families First for Mississippi (FFFM) Resource Center, at least for now.
Buddy Collins, Regional Coordinator for FFFM, told The Times he was aware the organization’s funding had been delayed late last year, but said he’s learning details of the ongoing investigation into the statewide organization at the same time everyone else is.
“Right now we are learning about this just like everyone else,” Collins said. “We haven’t shut the doors. We are just carrying on business as normal as possible with very limited staff.”
As reported by the Daily Journal, last week, MDHS froze grant funds intended for the Family Resource Center, which manages FFFM services, amid an ongoing audit and questions raised about potentially improper spending by the regional nonprofit.
Documents show that last December, DHS awarded the Family Resource Center and 11 other organizations a sub-grant for “workforce training and education programs.” This grant money came through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.
State Auditor Shad White’s office arrested the former Mississippi DHS Director John White on Feb. 5 in what he calls the “largest embezzlement case in state history.” White and others are accused of diverting millions of dollars in public TANF money for personal use.
Family Resource Center managed FFFM services within 42 counties in the northern half of the state, including Itawamba County.
Itawamba County’s FFFM opened in early 2018 in the historic Fulton Grammar School. The ongoing goal of the organization and the various programs it offers is to help people get on their feet. Classes include family-focused educational programs and GED based programs to help individuals pursuing their high school diplomas.
Collins said because of the support of the city and county government, right now he can keep operating the local organization.
“We are very fortunate that our city and county officials are willing to assist us and we can keep the doors open,” he said. “That says a lot for our leadership.”
Collins said he is carrying on business as usual but cannot speculate what the future holds.
When asked his thoughts on the circumstances that threaten to shutter the local Family Resource Center’s doors, Collins replied succinctly:
“It’s sad,” he said.