Report Lists the Top 10 Tennessee Agencies That Took the Most Federal Taxpayer Money in 2018


Ten Tennessee government agencies accepted more than $13 billion in federal taxpayer money in 2018, according to a document Tennessee Comptrollers released last week.

The report examined how state agencies handled the money that Washington, D.C. bureaucrats bestowed upon Tennessee.

Some of those state agencies plan to take less federal money in the future — but some plan to take even more.

As The Tennessee Star reported, the Tennessee Department of Health Care Finance and Administration took in more federal taxpayer money than any other state agency in 2018, a sum of $7.2 billion.

The Tennessee Department of Human Services ranked second, taking in more than $2 billion of federal taxpayer money.

Human Services spokesman Sky Arnold said in an emailed statement the agency took in slightly more federal taxpayer money the year prior. That amount was $2.1 billion.

“Federal Assistance is largely dependent on the state’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program caseload, which is currently declining. For this reason, the Department of Human Services is likely to have an overall decrease in federal assistance for the foreseeable future,” Arnold said.

“It’s important to recognize the real impact Tennessee’s improving economy is having on our programs like SNAP.  Nearly 914 thousand individuals were receiving benefits from the program in March of this year.  Five years ago, that number was more than 1.3 million and the federal dollars spent on those benefits was $50 million higher.”

Federal taxpayers, meanwhile, had to give the Tennessee Department of Education, more than $1.15 billion, according to the Comptroller’s report.

TDOE spokesman Jay Klein told The Star his agency took in slightly less money in 2017. That amount was $1.12 billion.

“It has been typical for the total federal funding amount to increase slightly each year,” Klein said in an emailed statement.

“These increases are most often due to increases in appropriations from Congress for large programs like Title I (funds for districts and schools with the highest student concentrations of poverty) and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (funds for the education of children with disabilities).”

Federal taxpayers gave the Tennessee Department of Transportation $867 million.

TDOT spokeswoman BJ Doughty all state DOTs receive federal funding from the federal gas tax, which funds the Highway Trust Fund.

“While the number can fluctuate from year to year, it is usually in the same ballpark,” Doughty said.

“It is not up to TDOT exactly how much federal funds we get. The money from the Highway Trust Fund are dispersed to states based on a formula. Our federal funding makes up about half of our yearly budget, with funds from the state gas tax making up the other half.”

The University of Tennessee received $636 million. No one from the school returned our requests for comment. Nor did anyone from the Tennessee Department of Health, which received $357 million.

The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development received $356 million in federal money in 2018.

TDLWD spokesman Chris Cannon told The Star his department received $142 million in federal grant funding in 2017.

“The $356 million figure from the Comptroller’s audit you referenced includes the Tennessee Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund balance,” Cannon said.

“That is not grant money, but a fund of collected employer taxes used to pay Tennessee unemployment insurance benefits. The benefits paid through the trust fund are audited as part of the total federal funding to the Department, because unemployment and the trust fund are federal programs.”

Cannon went on to say federal funding for divisions within the department fluctuate from year to year. One program may get more funding one year, while another program gets less in the same year.

“Because of this, overall federal funding to the department has remained at a steady level for the last several years,” Cannon said.

“Future funding is dependent on the economy and the monies needed to operate certain programs impacted by any fluctuation in the economic stability of the state.”

The Tennessee Housing Development Agency received $298 million in 2018, while the University of Memphis received $183 million. Representatives from neither state agency returned requests for comment.

The 10th state agency, The Tennessee Department of Children’s Services, received $154 million in federal taxpayer money, according to the Comptroller’s report.

Tennessee Department of Children’s Services spokeswoman Jennifer Donnals said her agency received slightly less, $133 million in 2017.

Donnals said she will not know until June 30 how much federal money her department will get for the new fiscal year.





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