How could this be? Why didn’t Tennessee policymakers know? What should we do with all this money?
Those are questions being asked in response to a recent report issued by the Beacon Center, a conservative Tennessee think tank. In October Beacon reported that Tennessee has amassed a $732 million surplus reserve of federal TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) funding. They noted that while most states carry a modest surplus, Tennessee’s is the largest by far of any state in the nation.
Most state policymakers and the administration leadership learned about the reserve for the first time from the Beacon report and media coverage provided by The Tennessean.
And there’s more. It turns out there are also approximately $250-300 million in federal funds for child care that have gone unspent over the past five years. Unfortunately, the few states like Tennessee who don’t spend these funds forfeit them to other states. In fact, Tennessee was only one of two states last year that didn’t use all of its CCDF funding. This is all the more troubling given the dire child care situation in Tennessee. In case you missed it, check out: Want to Grow Tennessee’s Economy? Fix the Child Care Crisis.
What’s next for all this money?
The administration is considering its options. And the legislature has established a working group. We choose not to point fingers and instead to think of this as a big opportunity for Tennessee. Both TANF and CCDF funds can be used to support many of our policy priorities. Especially important is that investments be strategic, and tied to clear goals for lifting our neediest families out of poverty and distress. It’s also crucial that greater government transparency and accountability be tied to these future investments.
What is TQEE doing about it?
We’re actively talking to state policymakers about how to invest these funds wisely. Read our policy brief that we’ve shared with them . With 28% of Tennessee’s children living in poverty, our top priorities are to provide those children and families with:
- Affordable, high-quality child care
- Early home visiting programs that are proven to help struggling parents build parenting skills and support their child’s school readiness
- After/before-school and summer care and enrichment programs for children
- Counseling and health services for children and their families
- Training and employment support for qualifying parents
- Transportation and housing supports for qualifying families
Want to help?
If you want to help, there are a number of things you can do. Join us on February 19th at TQEE’s Day on the Hill. That’s when together we’ll meet with legislators and promote our priorities.
Alternatively, sign up to volunteer in other ways!
Finally, DONATE! Your donation helps fund our advocacy work so children win!