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The State of the State on caring for Tennessee’s vulnerable

To the Editor:
Pastors across the state call on Governor Lee to pursue an agenda that includes caring for the most vulnerable among us by using the stockpile of over $800 million TANF funds that were given by the federal government to help families in poverty across the state. Due to the pandemic and unemployment crisis, hundreds of thousands of Tennesseans are now unable to pay bills or buy food for no fault of their own. Faith leaders remind the Governor and Legislature that the Scripture calls on leaders to prioritize the interests of others over political aspirations. Philippians 2:3-4 says, “Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.”
I, Pastor Steinhauer of Faith Lutheran Church in Lebanon, Tenn., learned about the $800 million TANF surplus in an in-person meeting with Republican Leader, Rep. William Lamberth, about a year ago. I was informed there was a concern about spending the money down, and the reserves were there for a “rainy day.” I am not sure exactly how many inches per hour of rain Representative Lamberth, or our Governor, Bill Lee, consider worthy of pulling out the social-safety-net-umbrella of funds, for people in need, but in the world I live in, it has been raining 365 days and nights, and, not only have those funds NOT been spent, they have GROWN to over $800 Million. Governor Lee, when one is poor, EVERY DAY is a “rainy day.”
In Luke 12, Jesus tells the parable of the Rich Fool, which is basically a warning about being selfish and stockpiling food. Withholding $800 Million from Tennessee’s neediest citizens is one of the most selfish acts I’ve ever seen. Governor Lee, as a man of faith, I ask you: “How do you intend to put that $800 Million to work for the people it is intended to help?”
Pastor J. Mathias Steinhauer
Southern Christian Coalition