Growing Relational and Occupational Wealth in West Tennessee Households
A community partnership led by the University of Memphis has been awarded a Tennessee Opportunity Pilot Initiative Implementation Grant in the amount of $25,000,000 to improve outcomes for West Tennessee’s low-income families. The grant was awarded in November 2022 by the Tennessee Department of Human Services and Families First, the state’s Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. This represents the largest grant received by the University of Memphis to date.
GROWWTH is a part of a study funded by the Tennessee Department of Human Services which is being conducted to determine how these pilot programs help people improve their economic well-being. During the study, all new eligible applicants will be randomly selected into one of two groups that receive a different mix of program services.
The project is named Growing Relational and Occupational Wealth in West Tennessee Households (GROWWTH). The grant funding will allow GROWWTH to work toward its goal of eliminating key barriers to self-sufficiency for low-income wage earners the West Tennessee region. GROWWTH has developed plans to improve family access to needed resources for economic mobility, implement a holistic approach to improving the personal and professional well-being of families, strengthen the existing system through partner resources and inspire families to appreciate the value of growth and lifelong learning.
Additionally, GROWWTH will address labor force challenges experienced by existing regional employers and prepare for the evolving workforce demands of Ford’s Blue Oval City, which will create approximately 6,000 jobs in Stanton, Tennessee.
GROWWTH serves constituents in the 21 counties that make up West Tennessee, including Benton, Carroll, Chester, Crockett, Decatur, Dyer, Fayette, Gibson, Hardeman, Hardin, Haywood, Henderson, Henry, Lake, Lauderdale, Madison, McNairy, Obion, Shelby, Tipton and Weakley.
The GROWWTH goal is to serve 2,500 low-income households during the three-year funding period. The resulting outcome will yield a net benefit of an estimated $850 million over the next 10 years, including a boost to the gross domestic product and a savings of $330 million from reduced social safety net spending.
GROWWTH’s efforts are highly collaborative. Led by the Center for Regional Economic Enrichment at the University of Memphis, a variety of units within the University will work with a network of three regional workforce boards (Workforce MidSouth, Southwest Tennessee and Northwest Tennessee), the Greater Memphis Chamber and a group of community organizations and local businesses.
The plan includes GROWWTH Academy — an accelerated workforce readiness program designed in direct response to the needs of local businesses and the target population. The innovative curriculum of the Academy addresses gaps to readiness for stable employment and employer readiness for offering sustainable career pathways. Businesses throughout the region have committed to hiring Academy graduates.
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