The government offers many federal programs, such as energy assistance, free daycare programs, housing and even medical insurance to help individuals and families struggling with common expenses.
Each of these government assistance programs has different eligibility requirements and methods of assistance.
For example, some government assistance programs provide direct financial support, while others offer discounted services.
There are typically stipulations on how the money is spent, so if you apply for help with your home, you couldn’t use those funds to pay any outstanding medical expenses.
Listed below is information on several of the most important assistance programs, ranging from energy assistance programs and Section 8 houses for rent to affordable medical insurance.
Utility Assistance and Energy Programs
Utility assistance programs are a way to address the growing prices of key home utilities, including heating, cooling and electrical costs.
Over the last few years, utility bills have been on a steady increase. How much you pay greatly varies by state, as well as location.
For example, winter naturally leads to large spikes of applicants looking for energy assistance because of heating increases.
Energy assistance programs are an important resource because failing to pay your energy bills may result in services being turned off.
Even when your bills are paid off, it may take several days before your utilities are restored.
Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to get assistance with your energy and utility needs.
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) has an easy to complete LIHEAP application to receive energy assistance.
When you are completing the LIHEAP application online, you must choose whether you want a one-time assistance package or require emergency assistance.
If you request a one-time assistance package, you can use the funding provided through LIHEAP to make changes to your home that make it more energy efficient, such as weatherproofing your home or getting new, weather resistant windows restored.
Emergency assistance offers funding to make a major repair that is negatively impacting your bills, such as requesting help if a recent storm caused severe roof damage.
- Energy assistance programs may be available through your provider. Utility providers recognize that if you are unable to pay your bills, they are not going to get any money.
It is also a waste of time and resources for them to turn off your utilities.
If you are unable to pay your bills, reach out to your provider and see what options are available.
Many energy assistance programs from utility companies offer temporary discounts or specialized payment plans.
You may also be able to get reduced rates or have previous missed payments forgiven.
Your utility provider may also work with local groups to provide additional discounts for lower-income individuals.
- Energy assistance may also be available through local resources. Contact your state department to see what local programs are available through your area.
This is a good way to get a list of nonprofits to help with your utility costs.
Options for Free Childcare Program Assistance
Free daycare is another important saving if you are financially struggling.
Many parents are surprised how much daycare services cost, spending anywhere from $200 to $250 each week.
With an increase in households where both parents work, daycare is often the only viable option.
If your family is struggling with the cost of childcare programs, there are several assistance options available.
- Discounted or free daycare may be available through the Financial Assistance and Free Daycare Program. Every state receives federal funding for this program. The requirements vary slightly depending on the state.
Typically, eligibility is determined by your income and the age of your child.
Additionally, you must either be actively employed or enrolled in an education or training program.
- Free daycare programs are offered through Head Start. This is a free childcare program funded by the federal government to help low-income households with either free or heavily discounted services based on your income level.
In addition to general daycare services, the program also helps prepare your children for early developmental learning and sets them up to succeed at school.
In addition to the income requirements, your child must be five years or younger to participate.
- Some free daycare programs are also available on a state level. Your best option is to look for pre-kindergarten programs.
The exact eligibility requirements will vary based on your state. Some states also partner with non-profit groups to run daycare programs.
Section 8 Houses for Rent
Section 8 houses for rent, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is the largest federal housing assistance program.
The program provides housing vouchers, which are used to pay for a portion of your rent.
Landlords typically charge significantly less for rent as well. In order to complete a section 8 application, you must meet the following requirements:
- Have at least one dependent child, senior citizen or disabled individual in your home.
- Meet the minimum income requirements, which are based off of the county you are applying in.
- You and anyone else part of the Section 8 application must be able to prove you are a citizen or qualifying immigrant.
Before you can select your home from a Section 8 housing list, you must wait for a slot to open.
How long you are on the Section 8 waiting list varies depending on your state as well as circumstances.
Certain applicants are given priority based on their housing situation, as well as the status of the applicants.
For example, homes with disabled applicants are typically considered higher priority.
Once your spot opens on the list, you will be connected by your Public Housing Authority (PHA) to choose a house from the available list.
Medicare and Medicaid Health Insurance Options
Medicaid supplemental insurance is a great way to get financial assistance with your medical costs.
Medicaid is available through the Affordable Care Act, with over 70 million Americans receiving discounted insurance rates through the program.
Eligibility for Medicaid insurance is primarily determined by your income, but some states place additional requirements.
You can apply for Medicaid insurance by going through the insurance marketplace or local Medicaid office in your state.
Some states allow you to submit the application online, while others only allow in-person or mail in applications. You may also be able to apply for Medicare coverage as well.
Medicare is for seniors who are 65 years of age or older, as well as permanently disabled applicants. Medicare is divided into four plans, Part A-D.
Each of the parts focus on a different area:
- Medicare Part A is for hospital and inpatient services.
- Medicare Part B covers outpatient and general medical coverage.
- Medicare Part C is offered through private insurance agencies and allows you to customize your plan, but it has a wider price range.
- Medicare Part D is a smaller insurance plan for prescription drug coverage.
A Medicare Medicaid plan is available if you are eligible for both insurance options. This is known as dual eligibility. Whether you benefit from both plans largely depends on your health needs and which Medicare plan you are interested in.