Decisions remain on TANF funds for needy Tennesseans

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WJHL) — What should the state do with over $700 million in unspent funds for needy Tennesseans?

In the last eight days, a legislative working group, a budget hearing, and a press conference all scrambled to address the more than $700 million not getting to Tennessee’s working poor.

The $191 million yearly from Washington, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), that’s grown to $732 million in reserves has divided state lawmakers.

“The economy at some point will go down,” says Republican Rep. Susan Lynn, who chairs the House Finance Committee.

While defending some reserves, Rep. Lynn would like to see part of the TANF money go to women coming out domestic violence to help with things like childcare and travel needs as they start a new life.

House Democrats wonder why the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) wasn’t getting the money to those it is designed to help.

“Over and over again, we are seeing that the legislature is going to have to step in to spend money that is supposed to be spent automatically,” said House Democrat Caucus Chair Mike Stewart last Friday.

The unspent funds have left lawmakers and Gov. Bill Lee’s administration scrambling to come up with various plans to get the money to those needy families.

On Tuesday, DHS released its plan to spend down about $400 million of the reserves.

It miffed some lawmakers who felt they were not given notice of actions by the department.

This came a day before its commissioner appeared before the House state budget hearing and a day before a Senate-House working group on the TANF funds met for the first time on where that money should go.

Still ahead are a lot of decisions on who gets the TANF funds and when they might get to those who need them.

Click here to view a news release from DHS about the department’s plan for the TANF funds.

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