Legislation To Modernize Program For Needy Families Passes
The Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) is applauding the recent passage of key changes to the State’s Families First program.
These changes help ensure families receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits administered through Families First have the necessary assistance they need to meet today’s economic realities.
The legislation approved by the Tennessee General Assembly this year and signed by Governor Haslam makes several key changes to Families First, including:
• Increasing TANF benefits to meet the current standard of need. Prior benefits were approximately 20% of the standard of need in 1996.
• Incentivizing work by extending benefits for six months after a family begins employment to help reduce the fiscal cliff.
“I would like to thank the Tennessee General Assembly and the Governor for helping us make needed improvements to our Families First program,” said TDHS Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes. “These changes will raise the allotments families depend on to today’s cost of living along with promoting a new incentive to find employment and help create the thriving Tennessee we all want.”
State Senator Kerry Roberts, R-Springfield, and Representative Dan Howell, R-Georgetown, joined together to sponsor the legislation that also had the support of Governor Bill Haslam.
“It’s a compassionate program that provides temporary assistance for families in difficult circumstances, but the assistance is based on the 1996 level of need,” said Senator Roberts. “Food and necessities are far more expensive today; increasing the assistance is the right thing to do.”
Representative Howell says the legislation was personal for him. The East Tennessee State Representative’s family received government assistance when he was a child.
“Had it not been for the public assistance my family received I probably would’ve been one of those statistics that dropped out of school and got a job in a factory or a cotton field,” said Rep. Howell. “I want them to have the same opportunity I had.”
The legislation additionally provides TDHS with tools to reduce fraud, waste and abuse of both TANF and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) benefits.
TDHS now has the authority to join a multi-state cooperative that identifies individuals who illegally receive benefits from more than one state. The legislation also enhances the state’s authority to investigate TANF and SNAP fraud and strengthens current practices to prevent multiple EBT card replacements.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal block grant administered in Tennessee through Families First. Families First helps more than 51,000 participants in Tennessee reach self-sufficiency by providing temporary support for transportation, child care assistance, education, job training, employment activities and other support services.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal program offering nutrition assistance to nearly a million eligible, low-income individuals in Tennessee.
Learn more about the Tennessee Department of Human Services at www.tn.gov/humanservices.