Tennessee DHS Commissioner addresses 'elephant in the room'

Nov 6, 2019

Tennessee DHS Commissioner Danielle Whitworth Barnes
Credit tn.gov

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (OSBORNE) -- Gov. Bill Lee is asking the Tennessee Department of Human Services to cut its budget, even as revelations surface that the state is holding more than a billion dollars in unspent welfare funding.

Commissioner Danielle Whitworth Barnes on Monday proposed a reduction of $2.4 million in the DHS budget for the coming fiscal year. Her presentation came during Gov. Lee's annual departmental budget review.

A convervative Nashville think tank recently revealed the state has a surplus of more than $700 million in its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families account. The Tennessean discovered an additional $300 million in a fund meant to help working families with child care.

Responding to those revelations, Commissioner Barnes said she wanted to address “the elephant in the room.” She defended spending levels, saying the department's focus is on helping current welfare recipients and their children break the cycle of poverty.

“This would not have been possible if we had simply grown the number of people on our rolls. Instead, we really are truly committed to breaking cycles of poverty...of generational poverty. And I think that’s important.”

Barnes did ask Gov. Lee for permission to expand three programs. One helps released inmates reconnect with their children. Another helps Tennessean’s with mental disabilities find work.  A third helps working families access childcare.

Would you like to view Commissioner Barnes' full proposal?