Battle Over Charitable Money Nears End

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - A multi-year court battle over how to spend $35 million meant for Tennessee charities is close to ending.

Davidson County Chancellor Ellen Hobbs Lyle has issued an initial order that distributes the money among seven charities that focus on senior citizens.

It is a victory for senior citizen advocates who fought against an initial recommendation to spend the $35 million on creating a new Foundation that would promoting healthy living in Tennessee.

Critics called the plan to create a new Foundation redundant and wasteful.

The $35 million came from the settlement of a lawsuit involving two non-profit nursing homes in 2013.

The Tennessee Attorney General's office said it had the right to determine how the $35 million would be spent because it oversees non-profits in Tennessee.

It's initial recommendation called for creating a "Foundation for a Greater Tennessee." Its goal was to "promote healthier communities in Tennessee."

But senior citizen advocates challenged that proposal and said the money should be spent on senior programs because it came from a settlement involving nursing homes.

Chancellor Lyle demanded that the Attorney General's Office change its recommendation for spending the money, but the office refused.

The battle went to the Federal Court of Appeals which ruled that Chancellor Lyle had the right to determine how the money would be spent.

Chancellor Lyle put together a Consortium to take proposals from charities that support senior citizens.

It received applications from 38 different groups, but only seven were chosen.

Jim Shulman with the Tennessee Commission on Aging and Disability helped oversee the Consortium that reviewed proposals.

"We've never had this much money put into the system in terms of aging programs at once ever before. So, it's a once in a lifetime thing," Shulman said.

According to the initial court order, the money will be divided among charities that had a plan to help seniors across the state. The $35 million will be divided as follows:

$13 million for Habitat for Humanity of Greater Memphis (the money will be spent across the state).

$1 million for Westminster Home Connection of Middle Tennessee to assist in repair and modification of homes for seniors across the state.

$5.5 million for the Tennessee Alliance for Legal Services.

$100,000 for Nashville Public Television to create a segment on their Aging Matter series regarding legal services for seniors.

$12.5 million for Interfaith Dental of Nashville to put together a statewide network of partners to help with senior dental care.

$100,000 for Nashville Public Television to create a segment regarding senior dental services.

$3.6 million for the Southwest Tennessee Development District (and other programs) to help with senior citizen transportation.

The Court asked the Consortium to finalize and revise budgets and report back to the Court by December 15.

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