FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE -  December 27, 2000

-Tennessee is Awarded $9.5 Million for Success with Families First

NASHVILLE- Tennessee is one of the top states in the country for helping welfare recipients move into the workplace, and the state will receive $9.5 million dollars in "bonus" money for its successful efforts, said Human Services Commissioner Natasha K. Metcalf.

The state was notified earlier this week by Health and Human Services Secretary Donna E. Shalala that Tennessee would receive $9,576,190, because it was seventh in the nation in the number of welfare recipients entering the workplace during the fiscal year 1999. Tennessee also ranks 14th in terms of retention --the percentage of Families First customers staying on a job for a given length of time.

"This award shows the hard work and diligence of everyone involved in the Families First program," Metcalf said. "We've placed a strong emphasis on education, job training and work, and it continues to pay off."

"Tennessee has one of the best welfare reform programs in the whole country," said Governor Don Sundquist. "I'm pleased that we're being recognized and rewarded for the hard work of everyone who participates in Families First, because it really is a team effort."

The bonus money is awarded to the top performing states in each of four work measures related to moving welfare recipients to work and maintaining their success in the workplace. According to DHS and HHS records, Families First put 65 percent of unemployed recipients in a job during fiscal year 1999, up from 62 percent the previous year.

Bonus money must be used for the state's welfare reform program, including the diverse support services provided by Families First to help clients succeed in the workplace.

The awards are part of the 1996 federal welfare reform law, and are incentives for states to do more than merely cut welfare rolls. Forty-nine states competed for this year's bonus awards; 28 of them received a share of the money.

Contact: Paul Ladd, (615) 313-4707