If you struggle to pay ongoing monthly bills, you are not alone. Many American families are having the same problems.
When living costs increase, incomes do not always follow suit.
As a result, you can find yourself unable to afford to purchase healthy meals, housing, and other basic requirements your family needs.
Unexpected events like sudden job loss can also lead to financial struggles for your family. Government assistance programs are available to help qualifying families stay safe and secure during such periods of financial instability.
Here are some of the most popular government programs that may be able to assist you.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) operates in every state. Many people know it as food stamps.
The purpose of SNAP (food stamps) is to help your family pay for healthy foods. You can purchase those foods at any participating locations. Many grocery stores accept a SNAP food stamp card.
In some cases, a farmer’s market, drugstore, or other location may also allow SNAP purchases.
You may apply for food stamps using any method your state allows. Those methods may include the ability to apply for food stamps online, by phone, or in person.
However, you must meet all eligibility requirements to qualify. Some of those requirements include providing proof of:
- Household Income
- Household Size
- Certain Assets and Expenses
- Citizenship or Lawful Residency Status
- Employment Information
SNAP is federally operated but administered by each individual state. Therefore, you must apply directly to your state’s agency responsible for SNAP benefit distribution.
If you do qualify, your monthly benefit amount may change or stop, if your status changes.
You are required to report such changes to the state, including changes in household income or size.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Another popular government assistance program available to low-income individuals or families with children is Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
If you wish to receive TANF benefits, you must typically meet one of the following criteria:
- You are the parent of at least one child who is living in your house and is under 18 years of age.
- You are an expectant mother.
- You yourself are a minor.
The TANF programs can provide you or your family with cash assistance if you qualify.
However, it also includes several other forms of assistance. You can take advantage of its many programs to help your family become more financially stable.
Assistance varies by state but may include any or all of the following:
- Job Training
- Work Assistance
- Child Care Service Help
- Referrals to other programs offering additional cash aid or help.
You can get TANF assistance at your nearest office in person. Typically, you cannot apply by other means because you must undergo an interview process.
That process requires you to provide various types of documentation supporting your eligibility for benefits.
However, there are some states in which you are allowed to start the application process online or using other methods, such as phone or mail.
When your TANF application is processed, a caseworker must review it. Your assigned caseworker typically stays on your case throughout your time in the TANF program.
You must report any changes in your eligibility status to your caseworker as they happen, including such changes as obtaining a new job or receiving a raise.
The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program is a federal program designed to support expectant and new mothers.
It provides benefits to qualifying women with at least one child who is five years of age or younger, as well as women carrying unborn children.
WIC is administered through specific local WIC clinic locations in each state. Benefits offered through WIC may include:
- Vouchers to use for purchasing fresh fruits and vegetables at participating farmers’ market locations.
- Vouchers to purchase approved healthy foods from participating grocery stores and other WIC program participants.
- Resources for mothers to assist with obtaining social service assistance, health benefits, and welfare benefits.
There are some similarities between SNAP and the WIC program. However, WIC benefits are more specific in nature.
They are most often used to purchase staple items considered healthy for children, such as milk and baby formula.
Simply being a mother does not automatically allow you to qualify for the WIC special supplemental nutrition program. You must also meet other WIC program standards. For example, there is a specific income limit set by WIC .
You must meet that requirement, and meet the following criteria:
- Live in the State Where You Apply
- Be Nutritionally at Risk
- Submit to a Health Assessment from a WIC-Approved Doctor
Although all states have WIC offices where you can apply for benefits, some offer other options. Your state may allow you to fill out a WIC application at a hospital or clinic. Some schools and public housing locations in certain states also keep WIC applications on hand.
The Section 8 Housing Program
You may have previously heard of the Section 8 housing list. Section 8 is the common name for the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
It is a program that assists at-risk individuals and families by helping them pay for housing.
Those who can apply for Section 8 houses for rent include:
- Senior Citizens
- Disabled Citizens
- Families Who meet Low-Income Eligibility Standards
The income eligibility standards for Section 8 vary widely across the country. Often, the income limits in rural areas are lower than those in urban areas.
You must make sure your household meets the standard set for its size. You also cannot get on a Section 8 waiting list for housing unless you pass a rental history check and provide proof of legal U.S. residency or citizenship.
The Public Housing Authority (PHA) administers Section 8 in each area. You may fill out a Section 8 application at your local PHA office.
You can also opt to apply at multiple offices in the surrounding area, if you are open to living in neighboring towns or cities.
Since nearly every PHA has a waiting list, you may not receive housing accommodations immediately. Applying to multiple offices increases the chances of getting assistance when you need it.