Think tank finds $732 million for Tennessee’s poor goes undistributed

Story by Kristi Jones / Contributing Writer

While analyzing state financial data, a new Beacon Center of Tennessee think tank found that Tennessee has over $700 million dollars sitting in a reserve fund not being used. The unused federal grants are designated to help poor families and Welfare needs.

The state government receives $109.9 million a year from the federal government’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program. The government currently uses just over $70 million dollars of that annually, despite the fact that the number of families receiving TANF cash assistance is decreasing even though the number of poor families in Tennessee is not.

“In 2017, for every 100 poor families with children in Tennessee, only 23 received TANK cash assistance, down from 43 in 2001,” according to the Center on Budget Policy and Priorities.

Tennessee is using less than 40% of their annual funding, and it is possible that the state will not receive as much money in the future if they do not take advantage of the grants now.

“Congress will cut funding to states that fail to use money allocated in a previous budget year. One reason why Tennessee may not have spent a big part of the grant is because Bill Lee took over as governor this year. It may be that the Governor wants to change the way the grant money is used,” said Michael Federici, MTSU department chair of political science.

The money is sitting in a reserve fund that has grown exponentially, placing the rainy-day fund at all all-time high. This money is a surplus, rather than money that is planned to go into reserves.

Beacon Center executive vice president Stephanie Whitt said, “If we don’t come up with some type of plan, then we probably shouldn’t continue getting $109 million each year.”

These funds could be used for an increase of funds in the Families First program disbursement to families in need and organizations that further help in-need individuals.

There are no other plans set in motion for how to use TANF funds in the future.

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1 Comment

  1. Sheryl Berge
    November 3, 2019

    How about building housing for the homeless , tiny home movement , or more affordable housing for the poor . Like a habitat for humanity community , gardens, community space , people helping people , the largest part of a poor person expense is housing . Make it beautiful , so they feel proud , safe , for young , old, and for families .