Funds

Ex-Mississippi governor helped Brett Favre get welfare funds for USM volleyball facility: Report

Former Mississippi governor Phil Bryant helped former NFL quarterback Brett Favre obtain welfare funds for the building of a volleyball stadium at the University of Southern Mississippi, according to an investigative report from Mississippi Today.

Text messages from 2017 to 2019 reportedly show Bryant, Favre and others working together to secure at least $5 million in welfare funds for Southern Miss, Favre’s alma mater and where his daughter played volleyball at the time. Mississippi Today reviewed the text messages that were filed Monday by an attorney representing Nancy New, a friend of Bryant’s wife, in a civil lawsuit against New.

New founded the Mississippi Community Education Center, which was tasked with spending tens of millions in federal welfare funds to help the state. She has pleaded guilty to 13 felony counts related to her role in the welfare scheme. According to Mississippi Today, the volleyball stadium is not part of the state’s civil lawsuit, and neither Favre nor Bryant have been charged criminally.

The text messages, per Mississippi Today, show Favre, Bryant and New discussing how to get at least $5 million in welfare funds for the volleyball stadium.

In a 2017 text exchange obtained by Mississippi Today, Favre asked New, “If you were to pay me is there anyway the media can find out where it came from and how much?”

New responded: “No, we never have had that information publicized. I understand you being uneasy about that though. Let’s see what happens on Monday with the conversation with some of the folks at Southern [Miss]. Maybe it will click with them. Hopefully.”

The following day, according to Mississippi Today’s reporting, New texted Favre: “Wow, just got off the phone with Phil Bryant! He is on board with us! We will get this done!”

Under federal regulations, states are prohibited from using money from Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), a federal welfare program, on the construction of buildings. However, New and her son reportedly worked around the rule by disguising the USM project as a lease agreement involving the Southern Miss Athletic Foundation, Mississippi Today reported.

In a statement to the outlet, Bud Holmes, Favre’s attorney, denied the former Green Bay Packers quarterback knew the money he received was from the welfare fund.

“Brett Favre has been honorable throughout this whole thing,” Holmes said.

When Mississippi Today asked Favre by text in 2020 if he had discussed the volleyball project with Bryant, Favre said, “No.”

Last year, Favre had to repay the state of Mississippi $600,000 after he received $1.1 million from the state for speaking engagements he did not make. He still owes $228,000 in interest and could be taken to court if he does not pay. The money Favre received reportedly came from TANF.

(Photo: Cindy Ord / Getty Images for SiriusXM )

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