Low income and working poor families in the counties of Campbell, Morgan, Scott, Union, or Claiborne may be able to get help from East Tennessee Human Resources Agency. The non-profit is one of the region’s leading poverty fighting organizations. Various assistance programs are administered, with a focus on basic needs and long term self-sufficiency. They also provide coverage to Anderson, Blount, Cocke, Hamblen, Loudon, Sevier, Meigs, Knox and several other counties as noted below.
The agency does rely on government grants, and as annual allotments allow there may be funds for paying for needs such as heating bills or food. Vouchers for rent, referrals to government benefits such as SNAP food stamps, and various employment services may also all be offered by ETHRA.
As one of Tennessee’s designated Community Action Agency, ETHRA’s mission is to provide comprehensive services and support to assist financially disadvantaged residents. It works by strengthening families as well as individuals and providing strong support systems.
One such service administered is EMP, or the Emergency Management Program. The goal of the program is to address the emergency needs of families experiencing short and long term crisis situations. Once this is accomplished, they can work on becoming financially self-sufficient.
Seniors as well as their spouses can get support from East Tennessee Human Resources Agency. The organization provides a range of services for East Tennessee seniors, with the local Senior Centers as the hub. The non-profit and its partners offer free health-screening services, educational opportunities, recreational and physical fitness activities and more for persons who are 60 years of age or older.
The goals for the senior centers in counties such as Morgan and Claiborne include serving as a single focal point for our older residents, providing opportunities for socialization with peers, and promoting good health through check-ups and other programs.
The Legal Assistance for the Elderly Program (LAEP) provides a number of free legal services for senior residents of the service area. In addition, LAEP representatives or lawyers appear before senior center groups, civic groups, faith based groups and so on throughout the region. They will provide information and education on legal issues that affect seniors. LAEP services are dispensed to all, regardless of income level.
Economically disadvantaged seniors are also encouraged to take advantage of the Senior Community Service Employment Program. The program provides support services, part time employment and job training as clients seek employment.
Free meals for the elderly, in either in a congregate setting or delivered to their homes, are coordinated by ETHRA and its volunteers. The Congregate Meal Program provides a hot, nutritious meal at a designated site, typically one of the local Senior Centers. Besides nourishment, other benefits include the opportunity to socialize and interact with peers and to participate in activities. For those who need it, low cost transportation service is available.
For seniors in Tennessee who are homebound and unable to prepare meals on their own, the non-profit community action agency will offer low cost Home Delivered Meals. Often, this can mean the difference between living in one’s own home and resorting to assisted living or a nursing home.
Both Congregate and Home Delivered Meals services are planned by a registered dietician, who ensures that each serving meets one-third of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for this age group. The meals consist of milk, meat or an alternative, vegetables, fruits, bread or alternative, dessert, and other healthy additions.
ETHRA operates a Summer Food Program to ensure that children and students from the community have the opportunity to eat nutritious meals similar to those provided during the school year through the federal government funded free lunch/breakfast program. Utilizing funds provided by the USDA and DHS, the agency contracts with public school food services or private vendors to supply and prepare meals.
There are sites throughout the service area (including Morgan, Scott, and Campbell County) where children from low income families can eat a well-balanced meal at no charge each weekday during the week. This program is available only during school summer break.
Using federal funding from the USDA and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture, the Commodities Program provides free supplemental food or groceries on a quarterly basis to eligible households in various Mountain Valley Counties.
NFCS - National Family Caregiver Support provides respite and support services for family caregivers. The services are available on both in-home and community-based situations for the elderly or disabled. NFCS support services include information about and referral to available community services, in-home caregiver training in areas such as decision-making and problem solving, counseling and access to other support groups.
Information on health insurance plans is offered. Understanding them can be confusing and daunting. To assist area residents, Human Resources Community Action Agency provides free, objective counseling and assistance in regard to Medicare, TennCare, Medicaid, and other related health insurances, such as prescription drug coverage. Learn about this and more through the State Health Insurance Assistance Program (SHIP).
Rental Assistance is available through the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher Program, also commonly called section 8. The Housing Choice Vouchers allow clients a few months to find affordable and safe housing in Eastern Tennessee. They can select a house, apartment, or mobile home to live in.
Once the unit is inspected and found to meet Housing Quality Standards, ETHRA contracts with the landlord to provide the family with rental help as part of the Housing Assistance Payments. Note that apartments must pass Housing Quality Standards inspections each year after that, and families must be re-certified. Assistance with paying utility bills or even cooling is also available for families who meet certain income criteria.
Rental assistance recipients are also eligible to participate in the Family Self-Sufficiency Program from East Tennessee Human Resources Agency. This provides educational and employment services that help families reach the goal of being self-supporting.
Additionally, FSS furnishes savings-building escrow accounts to participating families who are successful in increasing their earned income. ETHRA then makes occasional deposits into the accounts on behalf of the clients. Upon successful completion of programming, clients of the non-profit organization receive the escrow money deposited in the escrow accounts, plus any interest that has accumulated as well.
Low income utility bill assistance is administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services and it is funded by the U.S. Department of Health. The program, known as LIHEAP, assists eligible low-income households with meeting their immediate home energy needs by making a one-time payment directly to energy providers or utility companies on behalf of the clients. Home-delivered fuel vendors that operate in the region will receive a voucher authorizing delivery of fuel.
Air conditioning costs can also be paid by East Tennessee Human Resources Agency as part of this. Eligible families may also receive financial help in the form of a one-time cash payment for home cooling. Priority is given to very low-income households and the elderly that pay a high proportion of household income for home energy.
WAP, or the Weatherization Assistance Program, is a US Department of Energy funded program working toward the goal of reducing fuel costs for low-income households by making energy efficient alterations to their homes. Each home can be weatherized once, with the opportunity to re-weatherize after a period of ten years or so.
Some of the services provided by this federal resource may include insulation of attic and floors, window replacement, adding extra caulking, and/or weather stripping. Incidental repairs for furnaces, roofs or other equipment may also be made if they are directly related to energy efficiency measures. WAP is administered by the Tennessee Department of Human Services.
The ESTRA HOME Services Program benefits low-income and/or disabled residents by rehabilitating or replacing their existing housing. The applicant is required to occupy the home, and must be able to produce a deed of trust showing ownership of the property. While this is not commonly offered, replacement is typically provided for mobile homes. The goal of HOME Services is to promote the preservation and rehabilitation of suitable housing for low and very low-income households.
Job placement and training is part of the Workforce Investment Act, or WIA. It is in place to improve opportunities for all on the economic ladder. ESTRA assists job seekers and the unemployed, whether adults, youth, or dislocated workers, with the development and implementation of plans for obtaining and retaining employment.
The main program goal is to build a high-quality workforce, reducing dependency on government assistance or benefits, and enhancing the productivity of this area. WIA will utilize workforce investment activities through the Tennessee Career Center system.
As part of this resource, Workforce Investment provides job search skills development, formal training, case management, on-the-job training, and more. The Future Stars Program is specifically targeted to providing the youth in eastern Tennessee with job skills, work experiences, and other programming to develop the social and behavioral skills required to succeed in the workplace.
The main locations of East Tennessee Human Resources Agency include the following.
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