Two weeks ago, there was a gasp in our newsroom so loud that people came out of their offices to see what happened. That gasp came from poverty reporter Anna Wolfe. She had just received a press release about several arrests in a major embezzlement bust. The state auditor accused the former state welfare agency director along with several others linked to the agency and a program called Families First of misusing millions of dollars meant for poor Mississippians.
That morning, just hours before the news came out, Anna was visiting the Families First office in Jackson chasing that very story.
In fact, she had been chasing the story for two years.
Anna started requesting records related to the state’s spending of federal welfare funds and eventually filed an ethics complaint in 2018.
In May 2019, seven months after her first interview at Families First, Anna exposed a large decline in people receiving cash assistance and the many millions a local nonprofit received to run the program. We also submitted a lot of public records, which costs hundreds of dollars.
During the course of this reporting, the state welfare agency created an inspector general’s office and the state auditor began its investigation. Not long after that investigation started, the state welfare agency director resigned. Anna also reported on the department’s improper monitoring of federal public assistance dollars in midst of the leadership transition.
Although we didn’t break the story, our reporting enabled us to shed new light with previously unrevealed information and documents as the story unfolded.
Since the news broke last week, Anna has written deep contextual stories about the embezzlement case, connected the dots between the players involved and broke news about lawmakers‘ controversial response to address the issue.
This kind of watchdog reporting is vital to our state. It is also expensive.
We know that this story matters to you and Mississippi. Anna’s reporting is far from over, and we want your support.
As a nonprofit newsroom, we’re asking for your investment in journalism that works to hold those in power accountable in the state we love. Help us stick with this story by chipping in or becoming a monthly or yearly donor.
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