NASHVILLE – As part of the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative, seven public-private groups have been selected by the Families First Community Advisory Board to implement innovative strategies for moving Tennessee families with economic, social, and developmental vulnerabilities beyond their current circumstances and on to self-sufficiency.
Each group will receive $25 million in federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds for their three-year pilots. The implementation grants for these pilot initiatives further the Tennessee Department of Human Services’ (TDHS) vision of fundamentally changing the way government assistance is delivered to families in need. The lead organizations for the seven collaborative groups include:
- Families Matter (West TN)
- University of Memphis (West TN)
- Family & Children’s Service (Middle TN)
- Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (Middle TN)
- First Tennessee Development District Foundation (East TN)
- United Way of Greater Knoxville (East TN)
- Martha O’Bryan Center (TDHS selected, serving Middle TN)
Pilot initiatives were intentionally selected to maximize geographic diversity and coverage across the state. With pilots spanning all three Grand Divisions, in both rural and urban areas, these public-private groups are positioned to identify and address the unique needs of the families living in their areas.
“Tennessee is taking a comprehensive approach to serving those who are the most economically vulnerable, in a truly transformative way,” said TDHS Commissioner Clarence H. Carter.
“Through this collaboration of multi-disciplinary partners dedicated to engaging all sectors of the state, these pilots offer an opportunity for innovation and best practices to match the needs of low-income families in their journey forward. The Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative was created as part of the TANF Opportunity Act (TOA), legislation that passed in 2021. The TANF Opportunity Act offers a pathway to self-sufficiency for TANF recipients, provides for an investment in community partnerships through both the spend down of the TANF reserve and plans for recurring dollars, while also strengthening protections against fraud, waste, and abuse.
In the fall of 2021, the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative began with a request for collaborative groups across the state to submit applications for Planning Grants. More than 80 groups applied and in January 2022, 17 selected Planning Grantees began an intensive collaboration period during which they developed detailed proposals for three-year, transformational pilot initiatives to serve low-income families. Last month, the Planning Grantees presented their pilot proposals to the Families First Community Advisory Board during a two-day pitch-style presentation event.
The Board evaluated each group’s proposal and selected two pilot programs from each grand division of the state. TDHS also selected a pilot program. Over the next three years, each pilot will be subject to a robust third-party program evaluation process. TDHS will work with both a research partner – to enable research that will evaluate the effectiveness of each pilot and illuminate interventions that are most impactful in supporting low-income families – and a training and technical assistance partner – to provide the pilots with operational support in areas such as data collection, deployment of a universal assessment tool, and overall project management.
Funding for the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative is provided through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF is a federally funded program that emphasizes work, family strengthening, and personal responsibility to empower families for long-term success.
The Tennessee Department of Human Services is dedicated to making our state a place where all Tennesseans can move beyond the barriers they may face, to self-sufficiency, and on to new heights.