As the costs of living rise, it becomes harder for many people to pay regular living expenses, such as utility bills.
It is often a struggle, even for those who work two different jobs or take it upon themselves to volunteer to work overtime hours.
If you are such a person the burdens of making mortgage, rent, or utility payments may weigh heavily on your mind.
You may even have concerns about paying for necessities like groceries.
You can ease those concerns by taking advantage of the many resources available to help you pay for those expenses. Several of those resources are government assistance programs.
Grocery Payment Assistance
You may often find yourself torn between paying utility bills and purchasing healthy foods for your family.
You do not have to make that choice if you qualify for assistance with your grocery purchases.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides that assistance to qualifying families.
The SNAP program was formerly called the food stamps program.
Today, many people still refer to it as food stamp assistance.
When you apply for food stamps for your household, you must meet certain qualification requirements, including income level requirements.
Upon qualifying, SNAP (food stamps) benefits are provided to you on a monthly basis.
They are loaded onto a food stamp card that resembles a credit or debit card. You must use the card to purchase qualifying groceries when you shop.
Each state has different application processes available for SNAP benefits. Your state may allow you to apply for food stamps online.
It may also provide one or more of the following SNAP application options for you:
- Apply by Phone
- Apply in Person
- Apply by Mail
Utility Bill Payment Assistance
Paying utility bills is often difficult because the amounts you owe often change from month to month.
Therefore, you cannot always budget accurately. Seasonal cooling and heating bill amounts are particularly prone to large fluctuations.
If you find yourself unable to pay those bills you may face the possibility of your service getting shut off.
You may also find yourself needing to pay a reactivation fee when you are able to finally pay the amount you owe.
There are several programs that can help you pay your utility bills on time and avoid those hassles.
Among the many available energy assistance programs is the Low-Income Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
The LIHEAP program is an energy assistance service. It can provide you with utility assistance in an emergency situation, if your state provides LIHEAP service and deems you eligible for it.
You can also fill out a LIHEAP application for assistance with home weatherization.
Weatherization is a process of making specific home improvements for the sake of improving energy efficiency.
Doing so reduces future utility bill costs. When costs are lowered, you can more easily keep up with your monthly utility payment obligations.
You can typically choose to fill out a LIHEAP application online, in person, or by mail. However, available assistance is limited in each state.
It is also distributed based on household income levels and other eligibility factors. Approval is not guaranteed.
An alternative to LIHEAP application is applying for assistance directly through your utility company.
However, you can only do that if your utility company offers one or more forms of assistance. Common forms of assistance available through some utility companies include:
- Setting Up Payment Plans
- Providing Energy Efficiency Rebates
- Budgeting Plans
- Providing Fixed Rates for a Certain Time Period
A third way to reduce your utility bill costs is to consider applying for assistance through a charitable organization.
Many nonprofit organizations like churches and charity organizations pay utility bills for low-income families in financial trouble.
The best way to find such organizations is to call 2-1-1, which is available throughout the United States.
An operator in your region can give you a list of organizations in your area to assist you.
To obtain any type of energy assistance, you must usually present proof of household income.
The household income level must typically be at or below the poverty level established federally.
You may also prequalify for energy assistance if you have already successfully signed up for certain other benefits.
Those include benefits offered through the TANF or SNAP programs.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Assistance
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) provides cash assistance to low-income households with children.
There are several ways in which your household can use TANF benefits. For example, you can potentially use TANF funds to cover child care or grocery costs.
You may also use the funds to pay rent.
The TANF program also provides more than cash aid. It provides assistance of various types to help families thrive.
For example, adults in households receiving TANF help can often sign up for job training programs.
Various educational programs are also available. Check the rules in your state to apply for TANF assistance.
Child Care Payment Assistance
One of the biggest financial problems families face today is the challenge of child care. Most families do not have easy access to free daycare.
Instead, child care is expensive. In some cases, it is so expensive one parent chooses to stay home with the children.
However, that creates a single-income household, which often leads to more financial problems.
If you struggle to pay for child care, you can check to see what state programs are available to help you.
Your state may offer totally free daycare programs that are partially federally funded for which you can apply.
However, your household must meet income requirements. Your state may also have other specific requirements for eligibility.
Another option your state may offer is a free or reduced cost childcare program for prekindergarten children or a Head Start program.
Often, such state programs exist to help prepare children to eventually start school. However, the availability of such programs varies by state.
The same is true of the eligibility requirements and the amounts of financial coverage provided.
You can also look into alternative forms of daycare assistance in your state based on specific circumstances within your household.
For example, if a person in your household is an active member of the military the children may qualify for discounted or free daycare.
Most military branches offer certain types of daycare assistance. However, there is no federally standardized format for that assistance across all military branches.
You must check the rules of the specific military branch in which your household member is serving.