Learn About Assistance Programs

Researching each of the government assistance programs separately can be time consuming and may lead to confusion.

Fortunately, we have condensed information on available assistance programs so that you can find the topics that interest you in one place. We cover important programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Unemployment Insurance (UI) program and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women’s Infants and Children (WIC). We also provide information on debt consolidation, housing grants and more.

Government assistance programs are designed to help low-income families, seniors and certain people with disabilities improve their quality of life and eventually become financially independent. The main goal is for recipients to become less dependent on government benefits. Thus, benefits are a temporary solution and allow low-income families to pursue a better standard of living. Depending on the program, these benefits may be used for food, housing, health insurance and other living expenses.

Learn About SNAP

SNAP, which is commonly known as the food stamps programs, provides qualified recipients with money to purchase food from participating grocery stores and farmers markets. Beneficiaries may find a retailer by searching on the SNAP website and locating grocery stores in their area.

Most state SNAP programs now use electronic benefit transfer (EBT) cards to distribute funds. An EBT card works like a debit card but can only be used for approved items. Non-food items such as tobacco products, cigarettes, alcohol or pet foods are generally prohibited.

To apply for SNAP, you usually need to fill out your state’s application, which may be online or in person. You will be asked to list the number of family members in your household, the total income for the household and whether anyone in your family is pregnant, elderly or disabled. You may have to undergo a background check. Additionally, you will only be eligible if your income is lower than a certain percentage of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL), which varies depending on your household size.

Learn About Medicaid

Medicaid is a federal health insurance program that is run by each state and funded by the federal government. Qualified Medicaid customers receive full-coverage health insurance with low premiums, low deductibles and low co-payments. Coverage typically includes doctor’s visits, routine check-ups, dental care, hospital care and more. Customers who have extremely low incomes may not have to pay anything out-of-pocket for their medical expenses. To qualify, an applicant must meet certain income requirements, which vary depending on the size of his or her household.

What is CHIP?

The CHIP program covers the health insurance gap for parents who do not qualify for Medicaid but cannot afford private insurance for their children. Though CHIP only covers the children and not the parents, some pregnant women may qualify for benefits under the program. Recipients must be 18 years of age or younger in order to receive full coverage, which includes regular physicals, immunizations, prescriptions, hospital care and more. In some states, CHIP is considered an extension of Medicaid, while in other states CHIP is its own separate program.

Find Out About Section 8 Housing Vouchers

If you struggle to pay your rent every month, you may consider the Section 8 housing program. This program gives qualified renters rental assistance through a housing choice voucher, which is paid directly to the landlord. The housing choice voucher typically only pays a portion of the rent. In addition, it helps individuals to move out of their current housing unit and into a new one that meets health and safety standards.

Families that have a low income may sacrifice health and safety in their homes in order to save on rent. The Section 8 Housing program aims to help these families improve their quality of life and eventually become financially independent. However, many Public Housing Authorities (PHAs), which operate the program on a local level, have closed waitlists due to extremely high demand. Waitlists that are still open often have waiting periods that could last for years. Certain families in extreme situations may receive benefits more quickly.

Learn About TANF

The TANF program is meant to be a temporary solution for low-income families who need help becoming self-sufficient. It allows qualifying parents to raise their children in their homes while they work through financial instability. Parents or legal guardians may qualify for TANF assistance if one of them recently lost his or her job, one or both parents became disabled or one parent left the home and no longer raises the children. In addition, the children of the applicants must be 18 years of age or younger. However, teens who are 18 years of age and expecting to graduate high school at 19 years of age may qualify as well.

In order to qualify, a family must meet the income requirements in their state and have limited liquid assets. Liquid assets may include money in a bank account, savings account or car. In addition, families may only receive benefits for a maximum of five years. If a family receives benefits, the parents or legal guardians must typically agree to participate in work activities for a certain number of hours each week. The hourly requirement may be altered depending on the size of the household.

Find Out About Unemployment Insurance

If you were recently fired and are having difficulty making ends meet while you look for another job, you may apply for unemployment insurance in your state. Unemployment insurance provides qualifying individuals with monthly benefits until they are hired for a new job.

Depending on your state, you may receive payments with direct deposit or monthly checks. You must not have been at fault for losing your job. In addition, you must have worked in a salaried job for a certain amount of time, which varies across the country. If you qualify for benefits, you are usually required to actively search for a job in the meantime.

What is WIC?

The WIC program may offer you assistance if you are postpartum and have a low income. In general, your child(ren) must be 5 years of age or younger. You could receive preference if your child is a newborn. WIC benefits may help you pay for supplemental foods and health care for your baby. You may also receive help finding the right doctor and learning important nutrition information. Keep in mind that this assistance is temporary, and you will stop receiving benefits once your child reaches a certain age.