Gov. Bill Lee announces $175M pilot program to help low-income families

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Posted at 6:31 AM, May 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-05-06 08:20:41-04

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WTVF) — A $175 million pilot program is coming to Tennessee to help vulnerable families become self-sufficient.

The Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative was created as part of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Opportunity Act that passed last year. Supporters believe it will revolutionize the impact of social services in the state.

Families that receive TANF assistance will be the ones benefiting from the program. Right now, more than 27,000 adults and children get those benefits in Tennessee.

The $175 million will be broken down between seven groups all receiving $25 million over three years to help better serve low-income families. Officials said it's meant to help vulnerable Tennesseans grow economically, socially and developmentally.

Here in Middle Tennessee, three organizations were chosen: Family & Children's Services, Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency and the Martha O'Bryan Center.

Over those years, each pilot will be subject to a program evaluation process, to see how much of an impact they have.

“Tennessee is taking a comprehensive approach to serving those who are the most economically vulnerable, in a truly transformative way,” said Tennessee Department of Human Services Commissioner Clarence H. Carter.

The money for the pilot comes from a $775 million surplus in state funds from a federal welfare program for families with children. The large surplus came under scrutiny after it was flagged in 2019 in a report by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a conservative think tank. The report found Tennessee received $190.9 million in 2018 through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families but spent only $71.1 million.