Tennessee Officials Held Private Budget Meeting Over Federal Covid Funds

Photo: Tennessee State Capitol Building in Nashville

Photo Credit: Public Domain

Published September 3, 2021

The Tennessee Conservative [By Jason Vaughn] –

On Wednesday, September 1, Tennessee officials held a private budget hearing regarding new federal Covid aid. Different state departments pitched ideas on how the $3.8 billion in funds should be spent. A second private meeting was held on Thursday but neither was publicized. 

Tennessee Capitol Building in Nashville

The Financial Stimulus Accountability Group is led by Commissioner Butch Eley and was created by the Department of Finance and Administration. 

In a response to the Tennessean, a spokesperson for the group, Lola Potter, said “This is all deliberative and anything decisive would happen October 6.”

October 6 is the next scheduled meeting for F&A. A reporter for the Tennessean was in attendance, but will not share any details until the meeting next month. 

Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said the decision not to notify media outlets came down to Eley. Some members were not sure why the commissioner chose not to do so. 

“I know if it was a Senate meeting, we would provide notice,” McNally said. 

He added that an additional meeting may take place this month that should be open. 

However, House Speaker Cameron Sexton said that was a decision that would be for F&A to decide. 

Wednesday’s meeting heard from the departments of Human Services, Children’s Services, Correction, Labor, Tourist Development, Mental Health, the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, and more. 

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Ralph Perry, the executive director of the Tennessee Housing Development Agency, said his request for funding was only a small amount of what is available. 

“There was a time when $90 million seemed like a lot of money,” Perry said. 

THDA hopes to use the funds to offset the increased cost of building materials. Other agencies in attendance asked for one-time funds equaling tens of millions. 

The Department of Human Services asked for $20 million to help fund a new pilot program that was recently approved. Human Services also administers the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, which is funded through annual grants. 

Governor Bill Lee is part of the accountability group, along with top financial officials, members of legislature, House and Senate speakers, and constitutional officers. 

Lee did not attend Wednesday’s meeting but sent a representative to take his place. 

Metro Nashville Public Schools recently received federal Covid funding as well, totaling $270 million. Their plan for spending the aid is subject to board approval. 

Metro Director Adrienne Battle said the funding will be “transformative.”

In a recent statement, Battle said “The Federal funding allocated to Metro Schools can be transformative in the services and support we offer to our students, families, and staff as a district. We are also proud to be the only district we know of to be directly allocating a significant portion of our ESSER funds directly to schools to better meet the unique needs of their student populations.”

In March, the state received $2.5 billion from the American Rescue Plan, 90% of which was spread out across school districts. 

Districts were required to have their spending plans submitted to the Department of Education by August 20. These relief funds are one-time and expire in September of 2024. 

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About the Author:

Jason Vaughn, Media Coordinator for The Tennessee Conservative  ~ Jason previously worked for a legacy publishing company based in Crossville, TN in a variety of roles through his career.  Most recently, he served as Deputy Directory for their flagship publication. Prior, he was a freelance journalist writing articles that appeared in the Herald Citizen, the Crossville Chronicle and The Oracle among others.  He graduated from Tennessee Technological University with a Bachelor’s in English-Journalism, with minors in Broadcast Journalism and History.  Contact Jason at news@TennesseeConservativeNews.com

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