United Way connecting those in need to unclaimed benefits

Staff reports

United Ways of Tennessee recently launched Tennessee Benefit Kitchen – a free, virtual tool that screens users for unclaimed public benefits. In response, United Way of West Tennessee and other local United Ways across the state are collaboratively spreading awareness about this resource.

Every year, 103 million Americans leave $80 billion in public benefits unclaimed. To help mitigate this problem, Tennessee residents can text “Benefits” to 211-211 to receive a free screener, which can be completed in several minutes. Afterward, users will immediately receive notice of eligible tax credits and benefits, along with links to apply for these benefits.

The tax credits and benefits covered in the screener currently include food stamps, cash assistance, WIC, Head Start, school meals, childcare assistance, TennCare, ACA, county medical services, home energy assistance, lifeline and various tax credits.

“United Way works to support both Tennesseans living in poverty, as well as ALICE (Asset, Limited, Income, Constrained, Employed) households – those who financially struggle to make ends meet. We want to ensure they are receiving their unclaimed benefits through Tennessee Benefit Kitchen so they can achieve greater financial stability,” said Matt Marshall, President/CEO of United Way of West Tennessee.

The staff at the Jackson Financial Empowerment Center, located at United Way, and its nonprofit partners can also help clients complete the Benefit Kitchen screening via a multi-language web application to identify and prepare for budget changes that impact benefit eligibility.

In addition to the Benefit Kitchen, United Way is also providing over 70 iPads to public libraries and senior centers in West Tennessee. These iPads will serve as kiosks that offer free, virtual access to needed resources on the 211 Hub. Several have already been installed in public libraries in various counties and will be available to the public during normal business hours.

Regarding resources for local nonprofits, United Way will be offering in-person agency training sessions for any area nonprofit interested in becoming a United Way partner agency. All agencies who request funding are required to attend one of the four sessions. Only participating agencies will be eligible to apply for funding during the 2023-24 grant cycle. Below are the following dates and times for each training session:

  • 2-4 p.m. – Tuesday, Jan. 10
  • 9-11 a.m. – Wednesday, Jan. 11
  • 2-4 p.m. – Wednesday, Jan. 11
  • 9-11 a.m. – Thursday, Jan. 12

Last year, United Way partnered with 44 agencies to invest over $850,000 in 56 different programs, all focused in the areas of Education, Health, and Financial Stability.

Applications can be filled out by local 501c3 health and human service organizations that serve individuals from United Way’s 15-county service area. Please email Matt Marshall at mmarshall@unitedwaytn.org by Friday, Jan. 6 to reserve a spot to one of the four sessions. An agency representative must attend the entire session to receive a United Way application.  Virtual options will be provided.