Tennessee Governor: Reforming TANF Strengthens Families

NASHVILLE, TN (STL.News) Today, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee and the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) Commissioner Clarence H. Carter recognized the passage of the TANF Opportunity Act (HB142 / SB751) by the Tennessee General Assembly.  This legislation is the result of more than a year of collaboration with the Tennessee General Assembly TANF Working Group to modernize Tennessee’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

The TANF program is a federal workforce development and employment program emphasizing work, training, and personal responsibility.  It is a temporary benefit focused on gaining self-sufficiency through employment.

“By modernizing these vital funds, we are providing a pathway to prosperity for Tennessee families,” said Gov. Lee.  “I am especially proud that we are increasing educational opportunities that can bridge the gap to self-sufficiency for Tennesseans.  I applaud the General Assembly for innovating and strengthening program integrity.”

Key components of the legislation include:

· Increasing the monthly average cash assistance families receive under Tennessee’s TANF funded Families First Program from $277 to $387.

· Creating a two-year Educational Opportunity Pilot Program for qualifying families seeking a degree, certification, or other educational advancement.

· Establishing the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Program to invest $180 million in providing comprehensive support to families as they move from crisis to career pathways.

· Providing $50 million in Families First Community Grants to smaller non-profits across the state.

· Establishing a 21-member TANF Advisory Board to provide input on the direction of the TANF program and select partners to conduct program research.

· Implementing a $191 million TANF reserve cap so that beginning in Federal Fiscal Year 2022, unspent funds beyond that cap will be used to fund Families First Community Grants.

· Protecting the integrity of the TANF program by increasing civil penalties for individuals who try to secure benefits with a false identity.

“From the beginning, we have been focused on creating a conservative thoughtful way to put those dollars into play to help the Tennesseans who need them,” said TDHS Commissioner Clarence H. Carter.  “The TANF Opportunity Act is a comprehensive plan that modernizes our policies, partnerships, and programs to grow the capacity of families we serve to reduce dependency.”

Gov. Lee will be recognizing this legislation with a ceremonial bill signing at the Martha O’Bryan Center in Nashville today, June 30 at 10:30 am.