Families Come First In Jackson County

It was the first day back on the job for the staff of the Families First Resource Center in Pascagoula. Last month the state was going to close the center, and 33 like it, due to a lack of funding.

"They thought they had over committed TANF [Temporary Assistance for Needy Families] funds. They may have, but then they found some other sources of funds they can use to fund these sites," Jackson County Civic Action Committee Director Diann Payne said.

The additional funds will come from the state's tobacco lawsuit settlement. Last week legislators designated $3.4 million of that money to keep the all 34 resource centers open through September 30. The staff at the Pascagoula location say lawmakers did the right thing by keeping the family resource centers open.

"It's very valuable to people who have low income," said social worker Aurelia McNeil. "People who aren't able to go to other places and pay for the service that we offer."

"We don't just provide them with services, we provide them with support," said Brandy Burch, another social worker who works at the Families First Resource Center.

Lawmakers are seeking federal funding to keep the centers open after September 30. In the meantime, staff members say they will pick up where they left off.

"The first thing I could think about was the kids we tutor and how excited they would be to come back," McNeil said.

The center will begin offering services when they reopen to the public on April 12.