It’s a shame that Northwest Oklahoma organizations missed out on an opportunity to participate in $27 million of leftover Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funding to organizations serving low-income Oklahoma families.

The Department of Human Services last week announced the award of nine grants to family service organizations, mostly in Oklahoma and Tulsa counties, but a few in other counties. DHS had received contact information from eight organizations provided by local United Way Executive Director Dan Schiedel, but none of those organizations applied for any of the grant funding.

The TANF program provides states with flexibility in operating programs designed to help low-income families with children achieve economic self-sufficiency. States use TANF to fund monthly cash assistance payments to low-income families with children, as well as a wide range of other services. While the number of families utilizing TANF fluctuates year over year, states receive the same amount of funding each year.

Keili McEwen, of DHS, confirmed Friday that Requests for Proposals (RFPs) were sent through the Oklahoma Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) Central Purchasing Division to all the eight agencies submitted by Schiedel.

Yet, at least two of the agencies told the Enid News & Eagle they did not receive notification from DHS about the proposals. Another organization, when contacted on Friday, said they did not recall seeing the email, but after reviewing old email files, finally found an email from May 17 — however, it didn’t automatically jump out what the funding opportunity was.

There seems to have been a disconnect of sorts regarding this investment opportunity. We have to believe that if these agencies had been better informed or if the TANF funding opportunity had been more clearly spelled out in the email, they would have applied.

The good news is that TANF investment opportunities will be rolled out again sometime next year. OKDHS plans to fund projects focused on five additional strategic priorities through five additional rounds of RFPs to improve outcomes for Oklahoma families including supporting basic needs of families, prevention, economic independence, pregnancy prevention and youth supports.

Future solicitations will be issued by the state of Oklahoma’s contracting agency, Oklahoma Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) Central Purchasing Division.

Agencies that fall under these parameters need to be in contact now with DHS and OMES to make sure they are on the list to receive the proposal request the next time around. And, it would also help if OMES and DHS would take into consideration ways to better spell out these opportunities so they don’t get missed.

The News & Eagle Editorial Board meets weekly to form the newspaper's stances on mostly local and state and occasionally national issues.

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