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‘Tobacco money’ saves Families First

Families First Resource Centers around the state can continue toprovide services now that additional funding has been received fromthe Attorney General’s Office, said Don Taylor, executive directorof the Department of Human Services.

Taylor said DHS is getting $3.4 million from the AG’s office’sHealthy Mississippi Initiative, funded by the tobacco litigationsettlement, for the resource centers. The centers had been orderedclosed in March.

“That will take them at least through Sept. 30 of this year,”Taylor said Wednesday after speaking with the Brookhaven KiwanisClub.

The 34 Families First Resource Centers around the state providesuch services as supervised parental visits, tutoring for studentsand parenting classes. Taylor said most of the centers would beable to stay open with the funding.

In ordering the centers closed earlier, Taylor cited an overcommitment of $20 million in Temporary Aid for Needy Families(TANF). Budget reduction efforts lowered that amount, but notenough to be able to get the centers open.

“It was not something we want to do,” Taylor said about theclosures, adding though that some hard decisions had to bemade.

Taylor said center supervisors were being notified Wednesdaythat they they would be able to stay open. He was hopeful thatadditional money would be available to keep the centers open beyondSept. 30.

Jason R. Case, director of the Lincoln County Families FirstResource Center on Union Street, said he was notified by telephoneWednesday regarding continued operations.

“Beyond that, we haven’t been told anything else,” Case said,indicating there could be some changes in oversight of the centers.”We’re glad they found the money so we could stay inoperation.”

Resource center personnel, which includes three full-time andthree part-time employees, had moved equipment and other itemsfollowing the closure announcement. Case said the focus now ispreparing to resume services.

“We’re in the process of getting everything moved back into theoffice,” Case said.

Case said he expected to learn more about operational proceduresand the revenue situation later this week or next week. He saidcenter services should resume in the near future.

“I’m hoping next week to be back in operation and up andrunning,” Case said.