There are numerous safety nets provided by the federal government and state governments to assist low-income households that are struggling to make ends meet.
Government programs like these are put in place to help families and individuals stay out of poverty and maintain access to the basic resources they need for a secure and healthy life.
In order to qualify for most government benefits, you must meet eligibility requirements relating to your age, income, disability status or other factors. While each program has its own specific criteria, your income will generally need to fall below a certain percent of the federal poverty level (FPL) in order to qualify.
Below, find more information on the government assistance programs that you should know about.
Discover Options for Free or Low-Cost Food
Having access to affordable, healthy food is one of the most crucial needs that must be met. Fortunately, there are several government assistance programs that make food more affordable or and accessible to all families.
Some programs are intended for specific groups of people, such as children in school or senior citizens who have a low income. Meanwhile, others help a wider range of individuals. Some of the most widely-used government programs that provide food assistance include:
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps. This is a program that helps low-income households afford basic foods. SNAP participants receive funds that can be used to purchase approved nutritional items at the store.
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC). This is a comprehensive program designed to help pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as children up to five years of age. WIC provides health care referrals, food assistance and nutritional education.
- The National School Lunch Program (NSLP). This is just one type of food assistance that low-income families can receive if they have children enrolled in K-12 school. This program provides free or reduced-cost lunches.
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). This program distributes supplemental food items to low-income families or to nonprofit organizations in communities.
- The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). This program provides nutritious foods to low-income people who are 60 years of age or older.
Learn About Programs That Help with Living Expenses
Home utilities such as heating and cooling your home or phone and internet services can be expensive. To help address these needs, there are several programs in place that may reduce the financial burden of utilities.
First, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a program that is funded by the federal government. It helps you pay the cost of your energy bills at home. This program is run at the state level, which means you’ll have to contact the local LIHEAP office to learn about the application process.
Second, a program called Lifeline can help you afford your phone and internet bills. Lifeline provides a monthly discount that you can receive through certain internet service providers and cable companies, so you’ll have to choose an approved service to receive this form of assistance.
Understanding Natural Disaster Assistance
In the wake of a natural disaster such as a fire, flood or hurricane, many households find themselves in need of immediate assistance with food, home repairs or job loss.
Fortunately, there are several government grants and programs available to help those impacted by disasters.
To qualify, households must live within a designated area that has been declared a disaster zone, and meet certain other requirements that vary by program. Examples of programs that provide disaster relief include the following:
- Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (D-SNAP), which is similar to SNAP except that it provides help for households affected by a natural disaster.
- The Individuals and Households Program (IHP), run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), provides financial assistance to help you afford housing-related expenses such as temporary lodging, rental assistance, home repairs and more.
- Home and Property Disaster Loans are provided by the U.S. Small Business Association to help you afford the cost to repair or replace your home after a disaster. You do not need to own a business to qualify.
Learn About Financial Assistance
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is one of the most widely-used welfare programs that provide financial assistance to eligible households.
This program is available for people with little to no income who are blind, elderly or have disabilities. SSI provides cash assistance to help these individuals afford basic needs such as clothing, food and housing.
Discover Government Programs in Rural Areas
If you live in a rural area, getting access to community and government programs can be difficult at times. Fortunately, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has several programs that specifically serve rural households. Examples of assistance offered through the USDA Rural Development office include some of the following:
- Direct home loans
- Loans and grants for home repairs
- The Single-Family Housing Guaranteed Loan Program