KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — Governor Bill Lee announced the effort to help low-income families through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families fund, also known as TANF.

“Every Tennessean deserves our best effort,” Lee said.

The commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Human Services, Clarence Carter, said this has been an effort they have been working on in hopes of closing some gaps.

“Tennessee embarked on a bold experiment to transform the way our safety net serves our most vulnerable Tennesseans,” he said.

The plan is to distribute $175 million to seven groups and organizations, giving them $25 million apiece over the span of three years.  Each of them is now responsible for creating a plan, and United Way Greater Knoxville is one of the organizations in charge of distributing the funding.

“Starting at the beginning of November, the state will start distributing those funds,” Brewton Couch, the chief strategy officer of United Way Greater Knoxville.

So far United Way plans to distribute $15 million out to families directly. It was a decision made over a course of three months.

“We had 13 different community conversations with over 300 families and really asked what would help you, what would be the best use of these funds in your life,” Couch said.

The feedback included the need for affordable housing, quality early childcare and education and food security, but Couch said there’s more to consider.

“We’re also talking about mental health, access to good transportation, really those building blocks of a strong and successful life,” she said.

United Way will be responsible for multiple counties in East Tennessee. The money will not only benefit the Knoxville area. How the money will be distributed hasn’t been decided yet, however, Couch said they do plan walk through the process with as much involvement from the community. 

“The work really starts for us now,” she said. “Where we get to bring in the community, bring in non-profit partners and really put into place a great way to implement this pilot program.”