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Seven Tennessee organizations send guiding principles for TANF spending to Governor and DHS Commissioner in wake of coronavirus pandemic

Nashville, Tenn.

On March 18, 2020, Tennessee Justice Center, Tennessee Disability Coalition, National Association of Social Workers – Tennessee Chapter, United Ways of Tennessee, Tennessee After School Network, Urban Child Institute, and ACE Awareness Foundation sent guiding principles for spending Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds  to Governor Bill Lee and Commissioner Danielle Barnes.

The communication of the principles comes in response to Gov. Lee’s recent announcement that the Tennessee Department of Human Services has issued a new policy offering emergency cash assistance by utilizing TANF funds for families who qualify and have had a job loss as a result of COVID-19.

Kinika Young, Director of Children’s Health at the Tennessee Justice Center, stated, “While we have not seen how the state will determine which of the many families in need will receive the funds, we urge DHS to prioritize families living in poverty and deep poverty. The Department should consider increasing benefits to families who currently receive TANF grants or allowing those families to receive additional funds to help them cope with the financial impact of the pandemic.”

As stated in the guiding principles:

With more than $700 million in unspent federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds, Tennessee has a unique opportunity to make a substantial long-term contribution to the lives of children living in families with the lowest incomes.

Although the guiding principles were developed before the pandemic hit, they are particularly relevant now since disasters have a greater impact on families with the lowest incomes.