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Public benefits and government assistance from Tennessee DHS.

Find how to get government benefits in Tennessee, including cash assistance, SNAP food stamps and other public aid. DHS will help low income families, seniors and the disabled make it through a difficult period. Social services and financial resources offered will range from EBT cards from SNAP food stamps, medical care, Family First cash grants and utility bill assistance among others. Cash assistance and DHS benefits can be provided for paying bills for basic needs. Find information on public assistance programs in Tennessee below, including by county and city as well as the One DHS Customer Portal.

Government food programs for the low income in TN

Tennessee Food Stamps can help low income children and families, the unemployed, the elderly, disabled, and working families. There are even emergency food stamp applications too which will accelerate the application process. Qualified individuals can receive free food, nutritional support and public assistance benefits. If you qualify for the service, then all food stamp benefits issued to you will be done so electronically using a Benefit Security Card or EBT Card. Learn more on how to apply for emergency food stamps.

The Summer Food Service Program helps low income children, including kids from single mom homes in TN, receive food over breaks or the summer vacation season. Non-profit agencies that may distribute food or meals across Tennessee include nonprofit organizations and local governments.

The Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP) is a federal government funded public assistance program run by DHS that provides reimbursement for meals and food that is served to participants who meet both income and age requirements. The food program is administered by family and group child care homes, child care centers and homes, after school programs for at-risk children, outside-school-hours care centers, and some emergency shelters as well.

Financial help for bills from DHS public assistance in Tennessee

Families First, which is Tennessee’s public assistance/TANF program, will provide qualified families with cash assistance. The Department of Human Services can offer short term cash benefits to low income and working poor families who have children and who may be experiencing financial hardships. The free government cash from DHS can pay for various bills, including clothes, rent, electric, car repairs and more.




The long term goal is to help people become self-sufficient and to get off of public aid or welfare. Therefore the Tennessee Families First program emphasizes job training, employment and in general personal responsibility. To be eligible for the state’s program, participants must sign up for and agree to follow a Personal Responsibility Plan (PRP).

As part of the plan, the participant who receives help from TANF must agree to such activities as keeping health checks and immunizations up to date for their children, keep their children in school, participate in a work/training program for at least 30 hours per week, and co-operate with Child Support Services to establish paternity if there is a question on this. More on Family first cash aid in Tennessee.

Financial assistance and subsidies for child care - Federal government funds are used to help pay for child and day care costs in Tennessee. The parent needs to be working or in some form of training classes or school. Since the program relies on public funding, there is a waiting list in place and only a small number of Tennessee families may qualify for help. In addition, only a portion of your total expense will be paid for and clients will need to contribute as well. Find more details on child care programs in Tennessee.

Public assistance for free medical, dental, and prescription drug needs

TennCare is the state Medicaid program. It provides medical benefits and public health care services to eligible individuals who may have either inadequate medical insurance. There is also support for residents that completely lack health insurance.

What the TennCare program does is it extends medical bill assistance and coverage to the general Medicaid population. These are generally families living in or near poverty. It will extend coverage to individuals and families who were determined to be uninsured or uninsurable, using a system of Managed Care Organizations across Tennessee.





Children and teenagers who are under the age of 19 who were already enrolled in the TennCare program and who have maintained eligibility and children under age 19 who lose Medicaid eligibility may receive their health care coverage through the TennCare uninsured/uninsurable assistance program. While it does not cover dental needs, there are other public options for that type of care. Locate details on free Tennessee dental clinics.

Help for energy, heating, and utility bills from the government

Home energy bill assistance is offered by the Department of Human Services (DHS) from the federal funded grant known as the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The primary goal of this public resource is to assist low income households with paying electric and utility bills. Grants can be used to keep the heat or AC on. LIHEAP can also be combined with other local energy bill assistance programs that are available from most companies in Tennessee.

The financial aid is focused on those who primarily pay a high proportion of their household income on home energy bills, such as seniors, disabled, and low income families. LIHEAP is run by almost 20 local community action agencies. All agencies that provide energy assistance are required to offer both crisis assistance as well as regular LIHEAP.

Public aid in Tennessee can be used to pay an utility deposit as well to get heat, lights, or power turned on. Both LIHEAP as well as local grants can be used for deposits. Very low income families as well as those in poverty can use the public funds in order to get help, especially for medical or health-care type reasons. Find more details on getting utilities turned on when have a low income or when have no access to cash.

The Tennessee Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is paid for by the Federal Department of Energy and is available to low income families. A major focus is on senior citizens as well as disabled people. The Tennessee DHS program provides grants to assist families with the weatherization of the homes, which can help them save money on monthly energy bills. The focus is on disabled adults and families and low income elderly. The government WAP services are available across Tennessee, and it is administered by your local community action agency and/or social service organization.




Apply for government assistance in Tennessee

In order to get more information, or to apply, call the Department of Human Services at (615) 313-4700 or customer service at 1-833-772-8347. Applications can also be done online at the One DHS Customer Portal. The government organization is focused on helping the low income, and they can direct people to, and help them apply for, a number of public assistance programs as well as government social services. Or find a local town or county below.

Davidson County

Knox County

Shelby County


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