Imagine dominoes falling.

Recently, a Chattanooga family facing a tough situation was referred to our Department of Youth & Family Development (YFD) by a caseworker from one of our local hospitals. The mom had been diagnosed with cancer, which meant that her husband was missing a lot of work so that he could take her to and from various doctors’ offices and medical centers for her treatments.

The dominoes keep falling. The reduction in his work hours led to a significant drop in their household income, to the point where making ends meet suddenly wasn’t possible. Even more dominoes fell. The couple had recently been granted custody of two young relatives, placing additional strains on their limited — and shrinking — household income at a moment when every penny mattered.

Stories like this could be told by many families throughout our city and across our country. A lot of people discover just how economically fragile their lives are when they are faced with a medical emergency or other unexpected hardship, dropping them into a never-ending cycle of grim choices.

Tools like the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can stop the dominoes from totally tumbling.

LIHEAP provides assistance with home energy bills to low and moderate-income families. If approved, eligible households receive a credit of $350 to $650 on their energy bill, depending on the size, income, and composition of their household. A little extra help with home energy costs frees up case for school supplies, groceries, childcare, medical care, or other critical expenses.

For the family we mentioned above, a LIHEAP credit on their account eased their burden during a difficult time, letting them literally keep the lights while they managed the multiple challenges.

In another situation that we recently handled, a single mother of four who was working full-time, got a new job with higher pay and better benefits. When she started her new job there was a gap in paychecks that made it difficult for her to meet all of her financial obligations that month. This happened to occur at the beginning of the school year, so her kids needed school supplies, clothes, and shoes. LIHEAP assistance maintained electricity in her home and helped ease the transition to her new job. Too often, only a few hundred dollars makes all the difference in a family’s financial stability.

To qualify for LIHEAP, a family must meet the proper income requirements and they must submit a completed application and required documentation. Applications and a list of required documents are available at the Office of Family Empowerment or on our website and can be faxed, mailed, emailed, or dropped off at our office at 501 West 12th Street.

Administering LIHEAP perfectly fits the mission of YFD’s Office of Family Empowerment: to change the lives of low and moderate-income individuals and families in Hamilton County. We do this by collaborating with internal and external partners that provide them with the services and connections necessary to achieve self-sufficiency.

LIHEAP supports that mission by providing eligible families with the means to maintain the energy source in their home and by collaborating with partners like green|spaces who can educate them about conserving energy and reducing their home energy costs.

Providing an energy credit to a family that is working hard to get ahead will of course not alleviate all of their financial burdens, but knowing more about home energy usage and conservation is a key component of income management. LIHEAP can stop one set of dominoes from falling. This allows allows families that qualify to focus their mental, emotional, and financial resources on their health and wellbeing instead of their bills.

For more information, visit or call 423–643–6434.