KINGSPORT, Tenn. (WJHL) – Families who get monthly payments through Tennessee’s Families First Program are getting an extra $500 starting Thursday.

Single mom and Kingsport resident Jessica Glauer told News Channel 11 that the money would make a big impact on her family’s holiday season.

“Everything helps,” Glauer said. “It really is a blessing. The extra that’s coming can help out a lot.”

Though the one-time payment is the third of its kind distributed since last year, a spokesperson from the Tennessee Department of Human Services (DHS) said, “prior to the pandemic, one-time additional payments for Families First households were rare, and determined by the needs of individual families.”

Families receiving cash assistance from the state typically receive payments of $382.82.

But over the last 12 months, some have received as much as $1,400 in extra payments from the state, as part of a ‘back to school payment’ and payment for families in which only the child receives benefits from Families First.

State Rep David Hawk (R-Greeneville) said DHS saw an opportunity to fulfill seasonal needs with their funding surplus.

“We’ve accumulated several million dollars in a reserve fund. So we’ve got the monies available to go out,” said Hawk. “And number two, it is a time of year where families can be completely stressed out.”

Glauer, whose children are ages 5 and 6, said the money won’t just help out with Christmas presents for them, but also with Christmas dinner. That’s critical, Glauer said, as grocery costs increase.

“What I do get with assistance for the groceries (through Families First), it’s not enough,” she said.

Glauer said she’s sometimes been forced to choose between getting her kids what they want and what they need.

“I don’t want to let the kids down when they want the vampire cereal,” Glauer said. “But they don’t necessarily need chocolate cereal.”

Hawk says the no-strings-attached payments will help families identify their unique needs. Individuals receiving Families First funds are usually employed and often receive career development training through the program.

“These are folks that should be able to recognize where their family’s greatest needs are, whether it be through childcare, whether it be through some type of a gift, whether it be the car just had some problems, and we need to make some repairs there,” Hawk said. “This will give families that latitude to be able to take care of life.”

The state says the payment will be available on existing Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) starting Dec. 1.