New UofM program looks to alleviate poverty in West Tennessee households

Published: Jan. 24, 2022 at 6:01 AM CST
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - A new pilot program at the University of Memphis hopes to eliminate barriers for TANF eligible populations.

While they’re in the early stages, they’re looking for public input and they received more than $400,000 to get started.

It’s called the GROWTH Program which stands for “Growing Relational and Occupational Wealth in West TN Households.” The goal is to remove barriers that TANF recipients face without the need for government intervention. Those barriers could include transportation, childcare, shift work and more.

Someone involved with the program says there’s a variety of factors resulting in a disconnect. Through the planning stages of this program, they’re looking for ways to fix the system to make it work better for everyone involved.

“The intent is to promote healthy and prosperous families enhance economic mobility and essentially reduce dependence on federal benefits. And so its workforce development initiative, essentially, so that we can reduce or significantly reduce the poverty within our region,” said Richard Irwin, UofM Global & Academic Innovation Executive Dean.

Right now, the group at UofM is interviewing companies that employ people who use TANF to understand the obstacles they face. The goal is to use this information to create data-driven solutions.

In the next phase, UofM could win an award of $25 million -- something a representative from the university says would make a huge impact in the region and the local community.

As they create something to present in the next phase, they want to map out a plan that makes the best use of the funds and supports impacted populations.

“And beyond that, Benefits Cliff gets them into a well-paying job that leads to a career that’s really part of our mantra is it’s not just about landing in a job that something short term, it’s about moving into something that leads to a career and that’s where we feel that we have a lot to offer,” said Irwin.

After they’re done collecting data, they’ll be going to Nashville to make their presentation pitch of what they would implement over the next three years.

Program leaders are still looking for ideas and input. If you have some, visit

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