UCHRA kicks off project to overcome poverty in UC

UPPER CUMBERLAND — In order to move the needle and move clients out of poverty, it will take all of us working together. That’s the message from Mark Farley, UCHRA Executive Director to community partners in attendance for the TANF Opportunity Act collaboration kickoff meeting held Jan. 5.

In December 2021, the Upper Cumberland received word that it had received a $445,000 TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, planning grant to work with state leadership, the Families First Community Advisory Board, the Tennessee Department of Human Services, research partners and professionals, and collaborations of community partners that see firsthand the challenges that vulnerable Tennesseans face.

“I’m excited for us to forge new partnerships and have the opportunity to work with folks and organizations to bring children and families out of poverty,” Farley said. Farley estimates the Upper Cumberland region received one of the highest award amounts distributed during the initial round of disbursements.

The Upper Cumberland Human Resource Agency (UCHRA) will serve as the backbone entity for grant administration; working with workforce development, employers, nonprofit organizations and the faith community to establish best practices and analyze system gaps and barriers.

The TANF Opportunity Act grant allocates approximately $180 million in TANF funds for innovative pilot programs aimed at transforming the lives of Tennesseans living in poverty. The Upper Cumberland collaboration, which includes Cookeville Regional Foundation, Highlands

Economic Partnership, Tennessee Tech University, Upper Cumberland Development District, UCHRA, Upper Cumberland Local Workforce Development Board and area Tennessee Colleges of Applied Technology, was one of 17 collaborations selected across the state; allowing the Upper Cumberland to go after a three-year, $25 million implementation grant.

Upper Cumberland’s collaborative team will have approximately three months to plan a poverty alleviation system that will move away from the traditional poverty management model toward a poverty alleviation approach; seeking to lift 500 children out of poverty rather than treating the symptoms of poverty in the current poverty management system. 

At the end of the three-month planning period, the team will have the opportunity to pitch the proposal to the selection committee that the Upper Cumberland’s collaborative effort is ready for the challenge to bring approximately 500 children out of poverty during the three-year pilot grant period. It is estimated that over 16,000 children in the Upper Cumberland live in poverty.

To learn more about getting involved with the planning effort, emails may be sent to TOA@uchra.com.

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