LEVEL UP: Money to help with utility bills

WATCH: LEVEL UP: Money to help with utility bills

SHELBY COUNTY, Tenn. — The state of Tennessee is once again offering utility bill grant money of up to $650 dollars per household for families who qualify.

Last year as time was running out, FOX13 joined Shelby County on a live phone bank to help give more than $12 million in assistance.

Because of unexpected emergencies, two families found themselves needing help.

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The FOX13 phone bank happened at the right time to point them in the right direction.

Pamela Valentine was watching FOX13's live phone bank offering help with utility bills on a day she needed good news.

“I was hysterical a little bit about finding out about my pancreatic cancer,” she said.

While going through chemotherapy, Valentine got behind on her utility bill but had not gotten a cut off notice.

Valentine lost her husband three years earlier, to the same disease.

His pancreatic cancer was detected at stage 4. Valentine's doctors found the disease much sooner.

“My situation is a little bit different,” Michael Armstrong told FOX13.

Armstrong had a great job earning nearly $75,000 a year.

“I’ve had savings,” he told FOX13, “Never had to worry about paying my bills. I don't live an extravagant lifestyle,”

But Armstrong still qualified.

He never anticipated being out of work and searching for a job for more than 2 years.

He ended up spending his savings because he hurt his back in an accident and was at rock bottom until he heard about the CSA Utility assistance grant.

“I don't know anything about these programs. I haven't ever had to be in this situation,” Armstrong said.

Two people in Shelby county, different in most ways, ended up in the same boat -- needing help after unexpected, uncontrollable hardships.

“First of all, I was talking to MLGW trying to work something out,” Armstrong said.

That didn't work. He was sent to MIFA, who sent him to the County Community Services Association.

Armstrong qualified for the utility assistance. He told FOX13 through it all he never gave up hope.

“Because I have been touched by the holy spirit,” he said.

Valentine was watching the news and hoped a prayer was answered.

“I ended up calling and getting on hotline. And I got through the line,” she said. “They approved me. I think it was for $450.”

Her news these days is good news.

“I’m 3 months recovering of pancreatic cancer. Cancer-free as of right now. I thank God for giving me another chance on life. And I appreciate FOX13 and CSA being assistance to me when I needed it,” Valentine said.

To qualify you must be a resident of Shelby County and meet the federal poverty guidelines.

Remember if you have no income coming in, no matter what your earning history, you may qualify.

Call for information only to find out if you qualify: 901-222-4270

This is the link to apply: www.shelbycountycsa.org

To make an appointment, call: 901-222-4299 on Mondays only from 8 a.m.-2 p.m.