Reforming TANF Strengthens Tennessee Families, Builds Self-Sufficiency

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. – 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.

For more information on TANF, visit:

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