01/21/20: Why Tennessee hasn't distributed $79 million to help parents with affordable childcare


by Kathleen Jacob

Tuesday, January 21st 2020

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WZTV) — FOX 17 News is investigating why the state isn't distributing $79 million to families needing affordable childcare. Nashville Mayor John Cooper announced Tennessee is just one of two states not spending their Child Care Development Funds, and the money is set to expire soon.

“I have three kids. I have two boys and a girl. They are 12, nine, and eight years old,” mother Amanda Curry said.

For her, hearing about the unspent money is beyond frustrating.


“My kids are all older, so we've reached the time limit where that assistance would apply to us,” Curry said.

She says the requirements to receive state funding for childcare are strict, and often trap parents in a vicious cycle by cutting off funding when a parent starts to work more hours or make enough to get on their feet.

“It's frustrating coming from my perspective. I am a single mother and I've dealt with a lot of different things, but I've tried to use the government for my assistance because I want to get on my feet,” Curry said, “But it's almost as if you're punished for taking the steps that you need to take.”

FOX 17 reached out to the state to get answers about the unspent money. They declined an interview but offered to send an on-camera statement.

“We have spent the last year making a number of changes to invest in improving access to childcare, but the simple fact is we don't currently have enough childcare providers taking part in the program to make that access a reality,” Press Secretary for the TN Department of Human Services Sky Arnold said.

He says the money must be distributed directly to families in need. Right now, Davidson County is in a childcare desert with more than three times the number of kids than there are childcare spots.

In response to Mayor Cooper calling on the state to distribute the funds, Arnold says they’d welcome the collaboration.

“If any local governments or any agencies want to play a role in providing child care to families, we encourage them to reach out to us,” Arnold said.

However, for moms like Curry, it's past time to distribute that money.

“In the lives of people like me, it's a recession right now. We shouldn't have to wait. Find a way to use those funds to get childcare,” Curry said.

If you'd like to apply for childcare assistance, here’s a link to requirements and facilities accepting applicants.

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