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NASHVILLE — The Tennessee Department of Human Services is encouraging smaller nonprofit organizations with experience helping low-income families break "cycles of poverty" to apply for up to $50 million in program grant funding from the department's Two-Generation program.

The 2Gen grant program, which began in 2014, is aimed at assisting groups moving children and their parents toward "educational success and economic security."

Tennessee's work, according to DHS, is nationally recognized. Grants are funded by the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The latest Innovation Grant cycle is focusing on smaller organizations with short-term awards.

"These grants will encourage the innovation we need to create strong families and build a thriving Tennessee," said Department of Human Services Commissioner Danielle W. Barnes in a news release. "The Two-Generation Approach is a critical part of our work every day and we look forward to expanding it with a diverse group of new partners across the state who are committed to making a true impact in their community."

The department requires that services provided by 2Gen grants increase economic mobility and well-being for low-income families and help foster at least one of TANF 's four goals:

— Providing assistance to needy families with children so that they can live in their own homes or the homes of relatives.

— Ending dependence of needy parents on government benefits through work, job preparation and marriage.

— Preventing and reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

— Promoting the formation and maintenance of two-parent families.

In the past, 2Gen grants have helped organizations including Agape, Project Return and the Nurse Family Partnership with East Tennessee State University make measurable difference in the lives of families.

Eighty percent of families served by Agape in Shelby County are paying rent on time; 72% of parents served by Project Return in Davidson County found a job within 90 days, and 91% of mothers served by the Nurse Family Partnership in East Tennessee received prenatal care in the first trimester of pregnancy.

Eligible organizations that are interested in applying for an Innovation Grant are encouraged to visit the website tn.gov/humanservices/building-a-thriving-tennessee-through-2gen. Applications will be accepted online until 5 p.m. Central Time on March 10.

Contact Andy Sher at asher@timesfreepress.com or 615-255-0550. Follow him on Twitter @AndySher1.

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