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TN pastors call for Gov Lee to end the hoarding of TANF funds meant for children in poverty
January 28, 2024, 6:00 p.m.

If elected leaders claim the Christian faith they need to prioritize funding the needs of families and children struggling in poverty

NASHVILLE, TN - Pastors across Tennessee have been calling for the end to the hoarding of TANF (Tennessee Assistance for Needy Families) funds, along with the rainy day fund, for at least 5 years. While one-fifth of Tennessee children live in poverty, over $700 million has still been sitting in the TANF fund since 2019 all while Tennessee families and children in poverty continue to struggle with a lack of adequate housing, food, and other essentials. Today, pastors continue their ongoing call to demand that these funds be spent quickly in order to help these families and children.

Rev. Travis Meier, Pastor of First Lutheran Church in Nashville, released the following statement:

"Budgets are moral documents. They show how you distribute resources and how you invest back in your communities if you're a state overseeing a budget. Knowing that budgets are moral documents it's easy to assume that Governor Lee and the Supermajority Legislature think that corporations are more important than our children. Currently there is over $700 million in the TANF fund, $700 million of money reserved for children that are in need of housing, clothing, food, basic resources.

"Here in Tennessee one-fifth of our children live in poverty. Now if budgets are moral documents and we see that Governor Lee and the Supermajority are willing to give corporations tax breaks it seems amoral to me that they would leave all that money on the table and not invest it back into the wellbeing of ouc children. It's amoral and it's antithetical to Jesus."

"Let me explain [...] In Mark 10 Jesus is journeying with his disciples and he is approached by a wealthy individual who wants to know how to receive eternal life and Jesus responds with 'you know the commandments' and he starts listing them [...] Then he slips one in, 'you shall not defraud' If you go back to the law in the Old Testament and the prophets, there is not statement, 'you shall not defraud,' Jesus adds it. And it's interesting that this particular word in Greek is about economic exploitation. It can mean specifically refusing to return goods or money deposited to another for safekeeping or keeping back the wages of someone who works for you. That's what it means to defraud.

"This hoarding of $700 million is clearly defrauding the taxpayers of Tennessee and as a pastor this is absolutely amoral. To me it is antagonistic to following Jesus. As a taxpayer I see it as an abuse of power and absolutely a misuse of funds. And as a father I am concerned about the wellbeing of my child, but also the wellbeing of all children, especially those who are most vulnerable and especially those here in Tennessee. As a Tennessean I want a good life for all folks.

"I'm asking you to work alongside me as we hold our elected officials accountable. Call them, email them. Let them know that we want our tax dollars to be distributed equitably and that we absolutely care about taking care of the most vulnerable in our midst, not just giving tax breaks to big corporations. It's time we need to work together. Our kids are worth it."

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