ETHRA offering utility assistance to East Tennesseans

Investigations

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The East Tennessee Human Resource Agency (ETHRA) has received extra COVID-19 money to assist low-income families and individuals in six rural East Tennessee counties.

An additional $800,000 is coming from the federal CARES Act approved earlier this year.

WATE 6 On Your Side’s Don Dare visited a Campbell County woman who is getting help from ETHRA.

The money from ETHRA is coming from its Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which recently received a boost from the federal CARES Act with $325,000. And additional $500,000 from the CARES Act has gone to ETHRA to help provide housing assistance, vision and dental care for those with a low income.

Allison Goins, a single grandmother, enjoys her Jack Russell puppies. Shortly after the pandemic struck Tennessee in March, Allison lost her job. She was an over-the-road truck driver, delivering boats in a big rig across the country.

“We just couldn’t get boats to work with because the boat companies that built the boats shut down,” Allison Goins said.

Federal pandemic unemployment checks kept her afloat for three months, but when federal compensation ended July 31, her bills piled up.

“I went in debt for a truck. I had a car paid for. But I went in debt for a truck right before Covid hit.  That is what got me. It’s 800 dollars a month. I’m at the point of maybe filing bankruptcy,” she said.

ETHRA’s Executive Director Gary Holiway says the agency he leads is stepping in to help people in financial need. With a grant from the CARES Act, he says an extra $325,000 will be added to the Home Energy Program across six rural counties.

Nearly broke during the economic depression 12 years ago, Allison received energy assistance from ETHRA then and is getting help again.

“This year with the CARES act, we’re able, we’re required actually, to go back to those we served and give them an additional 325 dollars through the CARES Act money,” Holiway, said. “The utility company will give them credit based on what their utility bill is.”  

“I went down there and they paid my electric bill for this month because I didn’t have the money to pay it. Yes, it’s helped a lot. Without it, I wouldn’t have had any electricity,” Goins said.

“We have this grant, we have this program. We feel it is our responsibility to reach out and find people who have the needs. We’re always looking for somebody that needs help that isn’t being helped,” Holiway said.

We were told nearly 5,000 households will benefit from the low income energy assistance program in six rural counties, which include Anderson, Campbell, Claiborne, Morgan, Scott and Union.

If you live in one of these counties and previously received energy assistance from ETHRA, get in touch with the agency again; you can ask about the wider-serving community services block grant.

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