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Help for single moms in Tennessee: 29 assistance programs

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If you’re a single mom in Tennessee struggling to make ends meet, keep reading for resources that help with: 

Statistically, families benefit most with cash assistance (vs through benefits programs).1 Here is our guide to single mom grant programs, including our own.

Every month, I give out $500 cash to one single mom struggling with money, health, stress, child care, illness or loneliness — no strings attached. 

Qualifications are simple:

1. You're a single mom.

2. You need the money right now.

Fill out this form to apply:

(Note that the figures and information in this post are current as of publication date.)

Many of the programs on this list determine eligibility as a percentage of the federal poverty level (FPL). These are the 2024 federal poverty guidelines:

Number of people in family/householdAnnual income

* For families/households with more than 8 people, add $5,380 for each additional person.

You can also look up your area median income (AMI) here.

Emergency cash for low-income families in Tennessee

If you need cash to pay bills, buy gas, feed your family, or for any other reason, these resources can help:

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) in Tennessee

Families First, Tennessee’s version of the TANF program, provides a monthly cash allowance for qualifying low-income families with children under the age of 18 and children age 18 and older who attend school full-time. 

Families First helps participants with:

  • Temporary cash assistance
  • Transportation
  • Child care assistance
  • Educational support
  • Job training

The amount paid out varies depending on household income. For example, Families First pays a maximum of $387/month to a family of three. 


  • U.S. citizen or a qualified non-citizen
  • Have children under 18 or under 19 if a full-time student
  • Agree to follow a Personal Responsibility Plan (PRP) 
  • Child must be deprived due to:
    • Continued absence from the home from at least one parent
    • Physical/mental incapacity of at least one parent
    • Death of a parent
  • Apply for and accept other benefits such as:
    • Unemployment Compensation
    • Workman’s Compensation
    • Supplemental Security Insurance (SSI)
    • Child Support
  • Children and mother must have social security number
  • Children ages 6 to 17 who have not graduated high school or received equivalent certificate must attend school with satisfactory attendance
  • Preschool children must be immunized
  • Meet income requirements (linked above)
  • Paternity of child must be established at application and when a child is added
  • Adult recipients are required to participate in work activities for at least 30 hours/week
  • Must cooperate with Office of Child Support Services

Cash assistance is available for a lifetime total of 60 months for adults, though extensions may be granted in cases of domestic violence and physical/mental incapacity. 

How to get help:

More emergency cash help in Tennessee: 

Single moms in Tennessee can visit or dial 2-1-1 to ask for assistance.

Check out these posts for more ways to get emergency cash: 

These are some more tips for getting cash quickly: 

Housing help for single moms in Tennessee

If you need help finding a place to live or paying your rent/mortgage, this program can help: 

Public Housing and Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) offers affordable housing and vouchers to help low-income households in Tennessee pay their rent. 


  • Meet income limits specified on the HUD website
  • Citizen or eligible immigrant
  • 18 years of age or older
  • Tennessee resident

How to get help: 

Contact your local public housing agency and ask how to apply for assistance. 

Mortgage assistance in Tennessee

If you need help buying a home in Tennessee, these programs can help: 

Hope Credit Union Home Loans

Hope Credit Union Enterprise Corporation offers multiple loan options whether you are a first-time homebuyers, looking to refinance, or have been denied lending because of poor credit. Hope has specific loan products that cater to low- to moderate-income families:

  • FHA loan – Best for families with low to moderate income who cannot afford a large down payment
  • Hope loan – An affordable housing loan from Hope Credit Union you can apply for even if your credit score is as low as 580

Hope has loan options for any income level and credit standing.


  • Tennessee resident

How to get help:

Tennessee Housing Homebuyer Program

Tennessee Housing offers Great Choice Home Loan programs with 30-year fixed-rate mortgage loans for first-time homebuyers. These loans can be offered as FHA, VA, USDA, or conventional loans. 


  • Credit score of at least 640
  • Work with an approved, participating lender 
  • Go through an education program 
  • House you want to buy is within purchase price limits for your county
  • Income below program’s county limits
  • Must meet IRS definition of a first-time homebuyer, which means you can not have owned any other principal residence for three years prior to the date of purchase of the new principal residence

How to get help: 

Tennessee Housing down payment assistance

Tennessee Housing also helps with down payment and closing costs in the form of a second mortgage loan:

  • Up to $6,000 on FHA, VA, USDA and conventional loans
  • 0%, non-amortizing, deferred second mortgage
  • 30-year-term
  • Forgivable after the end of the term 
  • Loan will be due in full if home is refinanced or sold prior to 30 years 


  • Credit score of at least 640
  • Work with an approved, participating lender 
  • Must complete a pre-purchase Homebuyer Education course from a THDA-approved instructor

How to get help: 

Check today's mortgage loan rates >>

Office on Homelessness in Tennessee

The main goal of the Office of Housing and Homeless Services is to prevent Tennessee residents from becoming homeless — or from having to return to homelessness. The office helps people find stable housing in: 

  • Emergency shelters
  • Transitional housing
  • Permanent housing
  • Counseling to acquire the necessary life skills to maintain permanent housing

THDA also offers HUD-Certified Housing Counselors who can help residents facing foreclosure. 


Requirements are set by individual Continuums of Care agencies. 

How to get help: 

More housing help: 

Electric bill assistance in Tennessee

If you are struggling to pay your utility bills in Tennessee, check out the following programs:

Low-Income Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP) in Tennessee 

LIHEAP helps qualifying households with home heating and cooling costs, paid directly to utility companies. The agency does not assist with water, sewer, or telephone services. Learn more here.


  • Meet income eligibility requirements 
  • Responsible for paying your home heating or cooling bills
  • Resident of Tennessee 
  • U.S. Citizen, qualified alien, or permanent resident of the U.S.

How to get help:

  • Contact your local LIHEAP office
  • Call Tennessee Housing at 615-815-2200

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

WAP helps low-income families lower their monthly energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. Types of assistance include:

  • Installing carbon monoxide detectors
  • Removing mold
  • Replacing inefficient or unsafe heating units 
  • Insulating a single family home for energy efficiency


  • U.S citizen or a qualified alien
  • Resident of state of Tennessee 
  • Meet annual household income guidelines based on the number of people in your household — $38,180/year for a family of three 
  • Automatically eligible if you are receiving SSI, TANF or Aid to Families with Dependent Children benefits

How to get help:

Contact your county’s Weatherization provider.

More electric bill help: 

Free money to help pay bills

Medical insurance and dental help for single moms in Tennessee

The following medical and dental services are available to qualifying individuals and families:        

Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) in Tennessee 

HRSA, an agency of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, funds health centers that provide free or subsidized health and dental care to low-income people and those otherwise unable to access quality health care, like people living in rural areas.

HRSA also offers a 24/7 free and confidential mental health hotline for pregnant and new moms. Dial 833-943-5746 (833-9-HELP4MOMS) if you are struggling.


Each health center sets its own eligibility criteria for free or reduced cost care. 

How to get help:

Find an HRSA health center in Tennessee by typing in your address on HRSA’s search tool.

Tennessee Medicaid

TennCare, Tennessee’s Medicaid program, provides medical coverage for low-income individuals and families. Benefits include:

  • Managed Medical Assistance (MMA) – Covers medical services like doctor visits, hospital care, prescription drugs, mental health care, and transportation for medical needs
  • Long-term Care (LTC) – Covers care in a nursing facility, assisted living, or at home (must be at least 18 years old and require nursing home-level care or hospital-level care if you have cystic fibrosis)
  • Dental – Covers all dental services for children and adults

You can use this website to find a dentist. This list shows dental and health clinics across the state. 


  • Resident of Tennessee
  • U.S. national citizen, permanent resident, or legal alien
  • Meet income requirements 

Plus, you must meet at least one of the following requirements:

  • Pregnant
  • Caretaker for a child 21 or younger
  • Member of the household has a disability, including blindness
  • 65 or older

How to get help:

  • Apply online at TennCare Connect
  • Call 855-259-0701 
  • Mail applications to: TennCare Connect P.O. Box 305240 Nashville, TN 37230-5240

Tennessee CoverKids

CoverKids — part of the national Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) — is for children whose families don’t qualify for Medicaid. 

Families who meet the income guidelines don’t pay a monthly premium for CoverKids, but they may have to pay copays for some services depending on their income level.

CoverKids benefits include:

  • Vaccinations and well-child visits
  • Physician services
  • Hospitalizations
  • Mental health services
  • Physical, speech and occupational therapy
  • Vision and dental care


  • Tennessee residents
  • Under 19 years of age on the date of application
  • Not eligible for or enrolled in TennCare
  • Household income is at or below 250% of federal poverty level

How to get help: 


CoverRX is a prescription drug program for Tennesseeans who have no pharmacy coverage. Members pay no monthly premiums, but copays of $3 to $5 are required for most prescriptions. CoverRx provides the following benefits:

  • Access to more than 200 generic medications, insulin, diabetic supplies and select mental health drugs 
  • Up to five prescriptions per month (insulin, diabetic supplies, and vaccines — COVID-19 antivirals and at-home tests do not count against the monthly limit)
  • Discount for many non-covered drugs 
  • CoverRx is not insurance and will not cover doctor's visits or hospitalizations


  • Tennessee resident for at least six months 
  • U.S. citizen or qualified legal alien
  • Age 18-64 
  • Income at or below 138% of the federal poverty level
  • Cannot have any other pharmacy coverage 
  • Cannot have Medicare 

How to get help: 

Tennessee Healthy Start

Healthy Start provides home visits to educate parents and coordinate care for people who need it. 

Education services cover:

  • Prenatal care and parenting 
  • Conception 
  • Stress management
  • Local resources and assistance


Pregnant women and parents of children under three years old are eligible for Tennessee Healthy Start services. 

How to get help: 

Search for services by county on the Kid Central Tennessee website.

More medical/dental help: 

Food help for low-income families in Tennessee

A number of federal and state food and nutrition programs are available across the state:

Tennessee Food Assistance Program (SNAP)

USDA’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp program) provides food benefits and nutrition education to low-income households. 

SNAP recipients are issued an EBT card that can be used like an ATM card to purchase food in retail food stores, including:

  • Breads
  • Cereals
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meats
  • Fish
  • Poultry
  • Dairy
  • Plants and seeds to grow food 


  • Tennessee resident
  • Most people between 16 and 59 years old
    • Must register for work
    • Participate in the Employment & Training Program if offered
    • Accept offers of employment
    • Cannot quit a job
  • Asset limit under $2,750 or under $4,250 and share your household with one of the following:
    • Person or persons age 60 and over
    • Person with a disability (child, spouse, parent, yourself

You must also have an annual household income below these amounts

How to get help: 

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children is a nutrition program that provides free baby formula and nutritional food items to low-income mothers and their babies. 


  • Low-income, pregnant, breastfeeding, and postpartum women, for up to one year postpartum
  • Women up to six months postpartum who are not breastfeeding
  • Infants and children under 5 years old, including foster children
  • Low-income sole provider parents of children under age of 5 who are at nutritional risk and who are below 185% of FPL
  • If you are currently receiving Medicaid, Temporary Cash Assistance, or Food Assistance help, you are also eligible for WIC 

How to get help: 

Call your local WIC office or 800-342-5942 and say you want to apply for WIC. 

National School Lunch Program (NSLP) and School Breakfast Program

NSLP serves healthy, well-balanced, reduced-price or free meals to children in school. 

An extension of the NSLP, the School Breakfast Program provides free or low-cost breakfast to eligible students. Schools with at least 80% of the students eligible for free or reduced-price meals must provide breakfast at no cost to all students. 


Household income must fall at or below the limits of the federal income eligibility guidelines.

How to get help: 

Apply online or contact your child’s school to enroll. 

Tennessee’s Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)

The SFSP is a partnership between the USDA Food and Nutrition Service, the Tennessee Department of Human Services, and community organizations to provide free meals to children throughout the summer. Parents can find meal sites nearby using the location finder online here

Food is distributed at local schools, nonprofits, parks and libraries. 


  • Children 18 and younger 
  • People with disabilities over age 18 can also qualify 
  • Current income guidelines for the Summer Food Service Program

How to get help: 

Tennessee food banks

Food banks in Tennessee provide meals for individuals and families who are struggling to put food on the table. 


Each food bank sets its own eligibility and proof of need requirements. 

How to get help: 

To find a food bank near you and for additional information, check out this list. You can also visit the Feed America First website to find a location near you. 

More food help: 

Child care help for low-income families in Tennessee

There are multiple federally funded education programs and resources in Tennessee:

Tennessee Head Start and Early Head Start

Head Start is a free federal preschool program for children aged 3 to 5 from low-income families. Early Head Start serves pregnant women and children under age 3. The programs focus on cognitive, social, and emotional development and prepare children for school. 


  • Children from birth to 5 
  • Meet federal poverty guidelines 
  • Children in foster care, homeless children, and children from families receiving public assistance (TANF, SSI, etc.) are eligible regardless of income
  • Some programs accept kids with incomes above the poverty guidelines
  • Pregnant women can also receive prenatal and postpartum information, education, and services through Early Head Start

How to apply: 

Tennessee Child Care Payment Assistance 

Tennessee’s Child Care Payment Assistance Program provides aid covering the cost of child care so a parent can work or attend a training or education program.


  • Parents must meet income guidelines  
  • Parents who have children six weeks to 5 years old and who work or go to school, or both, for 30 hours or more a week 
  • High school or middle school mothers who stay in school who participate in the Teen Parent program 
  • Parents in the Families First program who need child care to complete work activities in their personal responsibility plan 
  • Non-parental guardians in the Families First program who need child care for a related child IF the guardian does 30 or more hours of work, training, or education a week.

How to get help: 

More child care help

Education help for single moms in Tennessee

If you’re a single mom who wants to further her education, here are some helpful resources: 

If you are at least 18 years old in Tennessee**, you can take the HiSET test (which replaced the GED in the state). If you are a resident, you might be eligible for a voucher that allows you to take the HiSET exam for free if you meet the requirements established through your local Adult Education program

**If you are 17 years old, you must have an age waiver signed by your local director of schools and present it at the time of your test. 

The test is broken into five subjects:

  • Language arts- Reading
  • Language Arts- Writing
  • Mathematics
  • Science
  • Social Studies

Check with your local Adult Education Center, call 800-531-1515 or email [email protected] for more information. 

Grants and scholarships in Tennessee

The College Pays TN connects students and prospective students with grants and scholarships available in Florida. To find out which scholarships and grants you may be eligible for, check out the College Pays website

Tennessee Student Assistance Award

The program provides non-repayable financial assistance to low-income undergraduate students who are residents of Tennessee. Applicants must be enrolled or accepted at an eligible postsecondary institution in Tennessee. The TSAA is a state-funded grant program.

The amount of the award is based on the institution indicated on the student’s FAFSA. Award amounts for an academic year are:

  • Four-year/two-year private $4,000
  • Four-year public $2,000
  • Two-year public $2,000
  • Career Schools $2,000
  • TN College of Applied Technology $2,000


How to get help: 

Individual schools also offer need-based and academic scholarships for their students. If you’ve been accepted to a higher education institution, contact their office of financial aid to learn how to apply. 

More education help: 

Employment help for single moms in Tennessee

Workforce programs in Tennessee provide training and assist with employment:

Tennessee Reemployment Assistance (Insurance) Program

Tennessee’s Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessment program (RESEA) provides unemployment compensation to eligible Tennessee workers who are out of work through no fault of their own. RESEA services are provided in 52 American Job Centers across the state of Tennessee.

RESEA services include: 

  • One-on-one assistance on unemployment benefit eligibility 
  • Development of an individual reemployment plan
  • Career and labor market information 
  • Enrollment in the Wagner-Peyser Employment Service 


  • Tennessee resident 
  • Unemployed
  • Previously employed for the past 12 months
  • Earned a certain amount of wages
  • Actively looking for another job

How to get help: 

American Job Centers

The American Job Centers offer employment and training services, career counseling, and job search assistance. 

How to get help: 

More employment help: 

Charity organizations in Tennessee

There are a number of charitable organizations throughout Tennessee that offer support to single moms:

The Salvation Army of Tennessee 

The Salvation Army wears many hats. Chapters assist with:

  • Food, shelter and clothing
  • Medication costs
  • Education and job training
  • Christmas presents
  • Rent and utility bills
  • Substance abuse rehabilitation
  • Youth services
  • Emergency disaster response


Each Salvation Army branch determines its own eligibility criteria for different programs. 

How to get help: 

Visit the Salvation Army website to find your local chapter. 

Catholic Charities of Tennessee 

Catholic Charities assists with:

  • Housing
  • Utility assistance
  • Food assistance
  • Health care assistance

There are multiple chapters across Tennessee.


Each Catholic Charities branch determines its own eligibility criteria for different programs. 

How to get help: 

United Way of Tennessee 

The United Way of Tennessee connects people in need with local resources like: 

  • Food
  • Shelter
  • Child care services
  • Housing
  • Health care
  • Support groups

How to get help: 


  1. “The Long-Term Impacts of Cash Assistance to Families,” by Kevin Werner, The Urban Institute, Jan. 31, 2024

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