United Way launches Tennessee Benefit Kitchen

United Ways of Tennessee is launching the Tennessee Benefit Kitchen.

Every year, 103 million Americans leave $80 billion in public benefits unclaimed.

United Way is committed to ensuring that struggling families in our state are aware of the benefits for which they qualify and know how to apply for them. In response, it is launching Tennessee Benefit Kitchen, a free screener that all Tennesseans can use to determine eligibility for several tax credits and many federal, state and local public benefits—and to access the application sites to apply for those for which they qualify.

Tennessee residents simply text “Benefits” to 211-211, and they receive a screener that takes five to 10 minutes to complete. Once completed, they immediately receive notice of tax credits and benefits for which they are eligible, along with the links to apply to each benefit.

The tax credits and benefits covered in the screener currently include:

• Food Stamps (SNAP)

• Cash Assistance (TANF)

• Women Infants and Children (WIC)

• Head Start

• School Meals

• Child care assistance

• TennCare (Medicaid, for adults and children)

• ACA (Affordable Care Act for adults and children)

• CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program)

• County medical services

• Home Energy Assistance (HEAP)

• Lifeline

• Child tax credit

• Childcare tax credit

• Earned income tax credit.

“United Way is excited about this initiative to support households that are struggling with basic necessities,” said Mary Graham, president of United Way. “It is a powerful tool to help families thrive financially and obtain available resources to sustain their needs and improve their lives.

“We know many Tennesseans are not aware of all the benefits available to them, let alone how and where to apply. This service makes it easier for them, improving the quality of life throughout our communities.”

In areas where United Way or its partners provide financial empowerment centers, financial counseling and related services, staff will help Tennessee residents complete the screening on a web application of Benefit Kitchen, which is translatable into many languages. Where such services are in place, the web-based, counselor-supported version enables United Way and its partner agencies to work with clients not only on completing the screener, but also on completing the applications for benefits. It also allows them to identify and prepare clients for budget changes that impact benefit eligibility, known as benefit cliffs and curves.

“United Way works to support both Tennesseans living in poverty, as well as ALICE households—Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed,” said Naomi Asher, United Way board chair elect. “These households are often our industry and service workers, who are finding it increasingly more difficult to make ends meet. We are offering Tennessee Benefit Kitchen so those in our state can receive the unclaimed benefits they have earned but aren’t aware of.”

United Ways of Tennessee is the association of 30 United Ways in our state, coming together for collective action to fight for the health, education, and financial stability of everyone living in our state.

As Tennessee’s leading community solutions provider, the groups are the driving force behind many initiatives that provide solutions to the most crucial needs.