Tennessee announces plan to spend millions of surplus grant funds for needy families

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – The Tennessee Department of Human Services has announced plans to invest hundreds of millions in surplus funds from the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grant.

The state receives $190.9 million annually through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, but last year spent just $71.1 million of that money. A report from the Beacon Center of Tennessee said the state had amassed more than $732 million in TANF grant money.

“Unprecedented growth in our state’s economy has created a sharp decline in our TANF qualified population and also generated a generous surplus in funds,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “We now have an opportunity to innovate and better serve our families in need through our Two Generation Approach while appropriately saving for a potential downturn in the economy.”

The department will retain a three-year surplus of funds of approximately $342 million and TDHS will re-open the Two Generation (2Gen) grant process for extended partnerships with non-profit groups and community organizations.

By 2020, there will be more than $84 million invested in 2Gen grants with further investment planned. The department will work closely with other state departments in funding projects focused on housing, family and stabilization, educational support for children, drug addiction, and workforce development.

The following will be obligated within 2020:

  • A $56 million grant to the Tennessee Dept. of Health to expand home visitation services to every county in Tennessee as part of early intervention efforts.
  • A $30 million investment to expand resources and collaboration with the Tennessee Dept. of Education to expand family resource centers.
  • Approximately $30 million in new resources and assistance to the Tennessee Dept. of Mental Health to expand programs like the Therapeutic Intervention, Education, and Skills Program and other programs that support families facing drug addiction or mental health issues.
  • Approximately $10 million investment for additional collaboration with the Tennessee Dept. of Children’s Services to create a program that assists relative caregivers and helps keep children together with their families and prevention/mitigation of adverse childhood experiences.

TDHS will also invest more than $80 million in programming that supports the following efforts:

  • Implementing a child support unit to provide employment and re-entry services to non-custodial parents
  • Employment programming that addresses the medical and mental health needs of Families First clients
  • After-school programs to provide tutoring, healthy lifestyles, abstinence education, and work force development for teenagers
  • Programming to assist families with transportation barriers in both rural and urban communities.

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