Knoxville group ‘inundated’ with calls after free family assistance goes live
In April 2022, United Way of Greater Knoxville was one of seven public-private groups selected by the TN Families First Community Advisory Board to receive funding from the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative (TOPI) grant.
KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) - For the first time, a $25 million plan to help get East Tennesseans off of public assistance is available. The three-year care coordination program for East Tennessee families is now accepting referrals and eligible families can apply to be part of the program.
The program was designed to increase economic opportunity pathways, enhance social support, and help families navigate the pitfalls of the “benefits cliff.”
The Boys and Girls Clubs of the Tennessee Valley, YMCA of East Tennessee, YWCA Knoxville, the Tennessee Valley Knox Area Urban League, Centro Hispano de East Tennessee and United Way came together to help pull families from public assistance and walk into financial independence through state funding. The group named themselves the East Tennessee Collaborative.
Since WVLT News’ last visit to United Way, Director Kaki Reynolds said dozens of families signed up for the program, which went live Wednesday.
“Hearing that from people that saw a news story or read about our programming, we know that this is something that’s incredibly prevalent in our community right now,” Reynolds said.
In April 2022, United Way of Greater Knoxville was one of seven public-private groups selected by the TN Families First Community Advisory Board to receive funding from the Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative (TOPI) grant. United Way serves as the backbone organization for the ETC and brings experience in administering large state grants and working collaboratively across all community sectors.
Families now have the option of working with a mentor from either of the participating groups to reach their long-term goals. Mostly half of the $25 million will cover cash assistance while the rest will pay for support services.
“Let’s say a family you know is struggling with parenting a toddler and they need a parenting class. We can pay for those things,” said Reynolds. “If we have a participant that’s interested in seeking a certification we can help pay for materials and classes and application fees, anything that can tie to a family achieving their goals. Were able to use those dollars to pay for services.”
A family’s commitment could go as long as a year.
To get started on an application click here.
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