By KIMBERLEE KRUESI
Associated Press

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) - Gov. Bill Lee says his administration is gearing up to use a portion of its $732 million in reserves from a federal welfare program for families with children.

The large surplus has come under scrutiny after first being flagged last month in a report by the Beacon Center of Tennessee, a conservative think tank.

According to the report, the state receives $190.9 million annually through the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program but last year spent just $71.1 million of that money.

Lee, a Republican, initially defended the reserve amount by arguing that the surplus would provide a cushion for a potential future economic downturn.

However, on Monday, Lee told reporters that he was open to using the surplus on a variety of options to continue helping Tennessee's poor.

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