Whether you need financial assistance to help cover the costs of food, housing, education or health care services, there is a variety of public and private programs available to relieve stress. In any case, you must meet certain income guidelines to qualify for these programs and receive the maximize amount of benefits. These income guidelines and other eligibility requirements may vary by state. For example, you must meet your state agency’s requirements to qualify for the food stamps program and Medicaid.
In most cases, if you meet the eligibility requirements of one assistance program, you automatically qualify for another. For example, most food stamp recipients also qualify for the WIC program, also known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. If you are struggling financially, you do not have to struggle any longer. Information on all of the programs that are at your disposal is available right below.
Food Assistance Programs
If you are unable to provide nutritious, wholesome meals for you and/or your family, consider applying for food stamps. Also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you may be eligible to receive nutrition assistance to alleviate the high costs of groceries. Eligibility for SNAP benefits is primarily based on your income and household size. These two factors also determine how much you will receive in benefits each month. The process of applying is fairly simple and can be completed online, by mail or in person, depending on your state. You will then be required to complete an interview in person or by phone to verify pertinent information regarding your application. Once you have been accepted into the program, you will receive benefits on your plastic EBT card, which functions much like an ordinary debit card. Benefits are disbursed monthly on a designated day.
In addition to SNAP, there is the WIC program which provides food assistance to qualifying women, infants and children. Eligible candidates for benefits include:
- Pregnant women
- Breastfeeding women
- Non-breastfeeding post-partum women
<liInfants and toddlers
All applicants must be at nutritional risk. Through the program, mothers can receive access to nutritious foods, infant formula, breastfeeding support and nutrition education and counseling. Additionally, women and children can receive referrals for medical and community services. Much like food stamps, beneficiaries receive a WIC EBT card that can be used at local grocery stores and farmer’s markets.
Those who meet SNAP requirements generally meet WIC qualifications as well and vice versa. However, the program is short-term, and a recipient can receive benefits from six months to a year. Furthermore, benefits are distributed based on a priority system. This is to ensure that those determined to be at the highest nutritional risk or those suffering from critical health conditions receive the assistance they need. Women can apply for this program through their local WIC office.
If you are an underprivileged adult, child, pregnant woman or senior or a disabled person, you may be eligible to receive health insurance through Medicaid. As a joint federal and state program, Medicaid provides low-income individuals and families access to an array of health care services that they would not have received otherwise. These services include preventive care, hospital services, laboratory and X-ray services, health clinic services and much more. In addition to these mandatory benefits, states are given the opportunity to provide optional benefits, such as physical therapy, dental services and chiropractic services.
Alongside Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) specifically focuses on providing health care coverage to qualifying children. All states administering the CHIP program are required to cover Early and Periodic Screening, Diagnostic and Treatment services, including dental and mental health services. Additionally, they must cover all age-appropriate vaccinations. If you would like to apply for Medicaid and/or CHIP, you may do so through your state agency.
Often confused with Medicaid benefits, there is also a federal health insurance program that provides coverage to elderly individuals and certain younger disabled persons. Medicare provides three different types of coverage: hospital insurance, medical insurance and prescription drug care. Beneficiaries can choose to reap the benefits of one plan or bundle multiple plans together. These plans are offered through private insurance companies approved by Medicare.
By completing Medicare enrollment, seniors may receive all of the following and more:
- Inpatient hospital care
- Skilled nursing facility care
- Hospice care
- Home health care
In addition to health insurance coverage for seniors, there is also the TRICARE program, which is available for military servicemen, veterans and their families. This program is formerly known as the Civilian Health and Medical Program of the Uniformed Services. Qualifying individuals can confirm their eligibility and compare comprehensive plans online.
Housing Assistance Programs
Section 8 housing, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is the largest subsidized housing program available for low-income individuals and families. Eligible households can receive rental assistance for a variety of living spaces, including single-family homes, apartments and assisted living facilities. How does the program work? Recipients receive vouchers to help pay for homes available in the private market. These vouchers cover a substantial amount of rent, while recipients are only required to pay a small percentage.
For those in need of energy assistance, the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides funding for those struggling to pay home energy bills. Additionally the program provides financial assistance to those experiencing an energy crisis and those in need of weatherization and minor energy-related repairs. Depending on their state, low-income households can receive cooling and heating assistance. To be eligible, households must meet income guidelines and be residents in the state they are applying in.
In addition to these housing assistance programs, there are also programs that provide home loans to first-time homebuyers and veterans. Under the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), qualifying borrowers can receive an FHA loan or residential mortgage with low down payments. For those with lower credit scores, FHA requires a higher down payment. For military servicemen, veterans and surviving spouses, the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs offers VA home loans for the purpose of purchasing, constructing or remodeling a home. With a higher credit score and clean financial background, individuals can also receive a private Fannie Mae residential mortgage through an approved lender.
Education Assistance Programs
If you recently got accepted into college or grad school, it is time to start looking into federal student aid. Also known as financial aid, you can receive financial assistance to help pay for the high costs of educational expenses. These expenses include tuition and fees, room and board, transportation and books needed for your classes. The Free Application for Student Aid (FASFA) can be completed online and should be completed as soon as possible, considering funds are allocated to you on a first-come, first-serve basis.
Upon submitting your application, schools will generate a package that may include state and school financial aid, grants for college, work-study and federal student loans. You can also take out a private Sallie Mae loan to help cover your expenses. Keep in mind that some schools will offer better packages than others. In fact, these packages may be the determining factor when deciding where to attend college. If you are a member or veteran of the military, you may qualify for GI Bill benefits, which can help pay for your college, graduate school or training program. Not to be confused with federal student aid, this program provides financial assistance directly to you and not the school.
Cash Assistance Programs
In need of cash assistance due to circumstances out of your control? Fortunately, there are multiple programs that will provide you with financial assistance during times of hardship. If you have recently been unemployed through no fault of your own, you may qualify for unemployment benefits. The U.S. Department of Labor’s Unemployment Insurance can provide you with compensation if you are an unemployed worker who is actively seeking employment. Because each state has its own eligibility requirements, you must apply through your local UI agency.
If you and your family are in need of financial assistance to cover the costs of basic necessities, such as food, shelter and utilities, consider applying for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. Generally, to be eligible, you must be a pregnant woman or have dependent children who live with you. Additionally, you must meet income eligibility requirements and be a resident of the state in which you are applying. Because this program aims to provide the temporary assistance needed for your family to reach self-sufficiency, there may be additional work requirements that you must fulfill as well. In addition to TANF, you can also apply for cash assistance through the Supplemental Security Income and Social Security Disability Insurance program.