Contact: Mary Graham
United Ways of Tennessee

[email protected]


United Way Launches Tennessee Benefit Kitchen to Support Low-Income Families


November 1, 2022, Nashville, Tenn.—United Ways of Tennessee (UWTN) is pleased to launch 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, we are 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 5 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. It is a powerful tool to help families thrive financially and obtain available resources to sustain their needs and improve their lives,” said Mary Graham, president of UWTN. “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—ALICE stands for Asset Limited Income Constrained, Employed. These households are often our essential workers, but they’re still having a hard time making ends meet. We are offering Tennessee Benefit Kitchen so those in our state can receive the unclaimed benefits they have earned,” said Matt Marshall, UWTN board chair.


About United Ways of Tennessee        

United Ways of Tennessee (UWTN) 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, we are the driving force behind many initiatives that provide solutions to the most critical needs. To learn more, link here: About Us | United Ways of Tennessee (

About Tennessee ALICE

ALICE is deep research, shining a light on the challenges ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) households face.  UWTN and its member local United Ways use this cost of living data to find collaborative solutions to our communities’ biggest problems.  Equipped with this data, we convene, advocate, and innovate to promote financial stability.  Our next ALICE highlights report focuses on Veterans and will be released in November of 2022, and our next “full” ALICE report will be released by close of April 2023.  Links for our two other highlight reports released this year can be found here:   ALICE in Focus on Children | United Ways of Tennessee ( and here: ALICE in Focus on People with Disabilities | United Ways of Tennessee (

About Benefit Kitchen

Benefit Kitchen builds benefit eligibility tools that help nonprofit agencies connect low-income families to federal, state and local benefits. To learn more, link here:

Posted by Kelley Nave

For Immediate Release 
Tuesday, July 26, 2022

Mary Graham
United Ways of Tennessee
[email protected]


New research: 57% of People with Disabilities in Tennessee are Living in Financial Hardship 

New report reveals that federal poverty data significantly undercounts how many people with disabilities are struggling to afford the basics.

The number of people with disabilities in Tennessee who struggle to afford the basics is far higher than federal poverty data indicates — more than 1 million in our state, according to a new report from United Ways of Tennessee and its research partner United For ALICE.

In 2019, while 20% of Tennessee residents with disabilities were deemed in poverty, 37% — nearly twice as many — were ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed). ALICE households earn more than the Federal Poverty Level but less than what it costs to live and work in the modern economy. Combined, 57% of our state’s residents living with disabilities were below the ALICE Threshold, with income that doesn’t meet the basic costs of housing, childcare, health care, transportation and a smartphone plan.

“On the 32nd anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, we see residents in Tennessee with physical, mental, or emotional conditions are struggling financially, and they are not only being undercounted, but also underserved,” said president, Mary Graham. “Having a disability puts individuals at substantial risk for financial instability, more than many other factors. These individuals face barriers to accessing quality services, education, secure jobs and other critical supports.  The pandemic made things harder, with food insufficiency, interrupted learning, depression, anxiety, and work loss even higher for this population.” 

The new research also shows that outdated federal guidelines prevent the majority of residents with disabilities who are living in financial hardship from accessing critical public assistance. According to the new report, a staggering 85% of Tennessee residents with disabilities below the ALICE Threshold did not receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI). The program requires that recipients have income below the poverty level, be unable to work, have a “severe” impairment and have less than $2,000 in their bank accounts, $3,000 if they are a married couple.

Black and Hispanic residents with disabilities — 72% and 64% respectively — disproportionately experienced financial hardship compared to 54% of white people with disabilities. And across the board, Tennesseans with disabilities below the ALICE threshold were more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck than those without disabilities.  And the rates of hardship are likely even higher than could be counted as data is not available for individuals living in nursing homes, correctional facilities and other group settings.

More data is available through the ALICE in Focus: People with Disabilities interactive data dashboard, which provides filters for regional and local geographies, age, race, disability status, living arrangements and household work status. Visit

ALICE in Focus: People with Disabilities marks the second installment in the ALICE in Focus Research Series, which draws from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey (ACS) Public Use Microdata Samples (PUMS). Each installment in the series highlights a specific segment within the ALICE demographic. The first installment focused on children; the next report will feature veterans.

About United Ways of Tennessee    

United Ways of Tennessee is the network of the 30 United Ways in our state.  As Tennessee’s leading community solutions provider, United Way is the driving force behind many initiatives that provide solutions to our most critical needs.  We are working to advance the common good by focusing on the building blocks for a good life—education, income, and health.  In addition to providing more than $100 million in funding each year to more than 1200 programs, services, and agencies, we are directly involved in initiatives that address crucial community needs, including: 

  • Crisis response with basic assistance for victims of disasters, such as the pandemic, tornadoes, and fires
  • Food, shelter, and other basic needs for those facing tough times
  • Free 2-1-1 phone access to find health and human services and volunteer opportunities
  • A 1700+ member TN Afterschool Network, advancing the quality and availability of out-of-school programs for children and youth
  • Prevention that reduces use of opioids, tobacco, and other substances
  • Job skills training for people who want to work
  • Health care and other assistance for disabled, vulnerable, and aging populations
  • Initiatives creating economic opportunity and reducing homelessness and poverty

For more information about United Ways of Tennessee, or to find and contact your local United Way, link to  

About United For ALICE 

United For ALICE is a driver of innovation, research, and action to improve life across the country for ALICE (Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed) and for all. Through the development of the ALICE measurements, a comprehensive, unbiased picture of financial hardship has emerged. Harnessing this data and research on the mismatch between low-paying jobs and the cost of survival, ALICE partners convene, advocate, and collaborate on solutions that promote financial stability at local, state, and national levels. This grassroots ALICE movement, led by United Way of Northern New Jersey, has spread to 24 states and includes United Ways, corporations, nonprofits and foundations in Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Louisiana, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, Washington, D.C., West Virginia and Wisconsin; we are United For ALICE. For more information, visit:

Posted by Kelley Nave

Contact: MaryGraham 
President and CEO

                                                                                                                                                       UnitedWays of Tennessee

[email protected]


United Ways ofTennessee announces that 2 United Ways were Honored with Awards 
at the 2022 UnitedWay Southeast Regional Conference

On April 26, 2022,more than 345 United Way staff from 18 states gathered in Greenville, SC forUnited Way’s Southeast Regional Conference. To honor the resilient, innovative,and impactful work of local United Ways, awards were presented to a small tomid-sized United Way and a large United Way in the following categories:  Exemplary United Way Leader, OutstandingLocal United Way, Exemplary COVID-19 Response, and Trailblazer in Diversity,Equity and Inclusion.  United Ways ofTennessee (UWTN) is pleased to announce that two Tennessee United Ways have wonawards.

Angela F. Williams,President and CEO of United Way Worldwide, presented awards on Friday, April 29during the final day of the Southeast Regional Conference.  

Matt Marshall,president and CEO of United Way of West Tennessee won for Exemplary United WayLeader.  This award honors leadership,initiative, integrity, accountability, innovation, and strong communication andmentoring skills, with vision that leads the team to meaningful successes,while promoting a positive work environment.

UnitedWay of Greater Knoxville, with the team under the leadership of president andCEO Matt Ryerson, won for Outstanding Local United Way. An outstanding United Wayshows measurable progress in improving the lives of those in their community,with meaningful growth in community engagement, revenue, partnerships, andinnovative work that improves lives.

 “We are very proud of our two winners and ofall the organizations and leaders who were nominated from our state and acrossthe southeast. These United Ways represent the larger network of  United Ways who are all deserving ofrecognition and inspire such confidence in our future success as a network thatfights for the education, health and financial stability of our communities,”said Mary Graham, president of UWTN.

In addition to theawards presentations, conference attendees were inspired by keynote speakersand attended workshops that offered knowledge exchange and practicalapplication tools. Rounding out the four-day event were networkingopportunities and 29 innovation stations that provided exposure to provenpractices and innovative ideas. The United Way Southeast Regional Conferencehas existed for more than 60 years and continues to serve as the premierregional learning opportunity for United Way leaders.


Posted by Kelley Nave