TANF Opportunity Act

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What's Next for TANF in Tennessee

TANF Opportunity Act 

The TANF program in Tennessee is modernizing policies, partnerships, and programs to increase self-sufficiency and build pathways to prosperity for families.

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 the protections against fraud, waste, and abuse.


Incentivizing Self-Sufficiency for Families

The TANF Opportunity Act will enable TDHS to incentivize self-sufficiency for families.

  • Educational Opportunity Pilot: The TANF Opportunity Act creates a two-year pilot program which provides enhanced cash assistance to individuals who are actively pursuing educational opportunities. This encourages TANF     recipients to attain degrees which will help them bridge the gap to self-sufficiency.
  • TANF Allotment Increase: The TANF Opportunity Act increases the TANF allotment, bringing the monthly allotment     for a family of three from $277 to $387. This increase will assist families during the current economic climates, but still     keep Tennessee fiscally conservative.

TANF Reserve Investments

The TANF Opportunity Act outlines how Tennessee will invest TANF reserve funds in communities.

  • Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Program: The TANF Opportunity Act establishes the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot     Program, which will provide $180 million across seven pilot programs, two in each grand  division and one to be     offered by TDHS. Pilots will include planning grants and will be subject to third party, academic review for program     evaluation. Pilot programs will encourage collaboration and collective impact to provide comprehensive supports to     families as they move from crisis to career pathways.

TDHS Pilot: Beyond the Cliff Demonstration

Benefits Cliff

The Beyond the Cliff Demonstration will leverage flexibilities in TANF to provide timely interventions of cash assistance and wraparound services to ensure customers can weather the challenges of benefits cliffs.

When families increase their earnings on the pathway to self-sufficiency, they often become ineligible for benefits and experience a “cliff effect,” when net resources still do not allow families to afford basic expenses like child care and transportation.

TDHS will soon launch this demonstration through the Families First Program, using data and outcomes to inform future policies, partnerships and program.

  • Families First Community Grants Program: The TANF Opportunity Act creates the Families First Community Grants program, which will allocate varying amounts in each grant cycle, infusing TANF reserve funds into the community through organizations providing services to low-income families.  
  • TANF Advisory Board: The TANF Opportunity Act establishes a 21-member TANF Advisory Board, including representatives from state agencies, legislators, local government, private and non-profit  organizations, business industry, faith-based organizations, regional Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) partners, and current or former customers. Membership will be appointed by the Speakers of both the House and Senate, as well as the Commissioner of TDHS. The TANF Advisory board will be responsible for reviewing the Tennessee Opportunity Pilots,     providing input regarding the effectiveness of existing Families First and two-generation program policies and grant programs, and making recommendations to enhance the TANF program and its spending.
  • TANF Reserve Amount: The TANF Opportunity Act sets that TDHS will ensure the TANF reserve does not exceed $191 million. This amount is equal to the annual TANF block grant award. This ensures that the State will retain a reasonable reserve that can act as a rainy-day fund for changing economic conditions.

Unspent Annual Award

The TANF Opportunity Act addresses how TDHS will utilize any unspent funds from the annual TANF award

  • Unspent Annual Award: The TANF Opportunity Act provides that funding not spent from the Department’s previous year’s annual $191 million award shall be used to fund community grants that will be spread statewide. This will ensure that the reserve does not accumulate, and that funds are being used to reach low-income families through partner organizations.

Program Integrity Protections

The TANF Opportunity Act strengthens program integrity, establishing mechanisms to ensure TDHS continues to combat fraud, waste, and abuse     

  • Increasing Civil Penalties: The TANF Opportunity Act increases civil penalties for individuals using false identities to  secure benefits
  • Confidential Reporting of Fraudulent Activity: The TANF Opportunity Act provides for confidential reporting of SNAP and TANF fraud to encourage reporting of such activity.

There's much more to come in implementing the TANF Opportunity Act

Information on the TANF Opportunity Act will be added to this website in the coming weeks and months, including answers to frequently asked questions, detail on the TANF Advisory Board, grant opportunities, and much more. Check back often to get the latest news, or sign up to the TANF Opportunity Act contact list.


Join the TANF Opportunity Act Contact List