One of the reasons government exists is to help enable the principle of individual freedom for its citizens. To this end, the United States Government has a variety of programs designed to help low-income citizens weather hard times so that they can contribute to society. If you’re looking for additional help to pay the bills at the end of the month, there are several government assistance programs you can apply for that will help.
One area the government offers assistance to low-income households is by helping pay for utilities. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps cover heating and cooling costs for low-income families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services funds grants for the states to issue, and the states then issue those grants depending on each state’s eligibility requirements. For landline or cell phone services, The Lifeline program offers discounted rates for those who earn under a certain income.
Each state may have additional programsfor offering discounted utilities. California, for example, offers the California Alternate Rates for Energy Program (CARE). They give a monthly discount of 20% of more on gas and electricity for participants who either qualify through income guidelines or are enrolled in certain public assistance programs. They also offer a Family Electric Rate Assistance Program (FERA) for households with three or more people. Applying and renewing online is easy and you can check your eligibility almost instantaneously on their website.
Day care is a massive expense for working families. The Child Care and Development Fund receives money from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to distribute to families to help pay for child care. Care is typically covered as late as the age of 13.
California offers many different child care and development programs for children from birth to age 12. Services include early learning and after-school services. They also offer programs that assist children with disabilities and children of migrant farm workers. These programs use state and federal tax money to provide care, education, and food for children. Go on the CCDF website and find your state’s contact to apply for assistance.
Down Payments For A Home
Buying a new home typically requires making a pretty hefty down payment, which can be a major financial roadblock for both low-income and median-income families alike. Each state has at least one payment assistance option for prospective homeowners, offering grants or loans to help cover the down payment for a new home.
One of California’s programs is the CalHome Program, which offers assistance funds to first-time homebuyers. They provide applicants up to 17% of the total property price for down payment assistance and 4% in closing costs assistance. The funds come in the form of a loan with 3% simple interest each year, accrued annually. You don’t have to make monthly payments as it is deferred until the home is refinanced, sold, paid off, or no longer serving as your primary residence. Find more information about your state’s options on FHA.com
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) exists to help low-income citizens pay for food during periods of financial difficulties. Their intention is to provide nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of needy families so they can buy healthier food while moving towards self-sufficiency. Moving away from the old days of paper food stamps, SNAP delivers funds via EBT, a debit card that you can use to purchase food at qualifying stores.
You can apply online for SNAP benefits to start quickly receiving assistance in putting food on the table. You must apply for SNAP in the state where you currently live as each state has a different application form and process. Once you submit your application, your state agency or local snap process will send you a notice telling you whether or not you’re eligible for benefits within 30 days.
Medicaid is a federal and state program that helps with medical costs for low-income citizens. It also offers benefits that Medicare does not normally cover, such as nursing home care and personal care services. Medicaid is jointly funded by the state and federal governments but is managed by the states, so each state determines eligibility for receiving assistance.
The Affordable Care Act expanded eligibility and federal funding for Medicaid. Not all states chose to accept additional funding, although most have expanded their Medicaid programs. All U.S. citizens with income up to 133% of the poverty line qualify for coverage in any state that participates in Medicaid. California’s Medicaid program is called Medi-Cal, and offers assistance to citizens meeting requirements such as pregnancy, blindness, old age, or disability.
Small business owners and entrepreneurs in particular are also rewarded for displaying initiative and trying to create businesses that help grow the economy. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) is an excellent resource for small business loans. Their 7(a) loan program was created to help people start new businesses, and they offer a variety of other micro loans and grants that you can apply for as well. The process for applying for a loan can take a long time, but it’s worth the effort to find assistance in growing your small business.
College Grants and Student Loans
College grants are an excellent way to help cover the staggering costs of attending college. Grants such as the Pell Grant offer money based on a variety of factors including financial need, cost of attendance, and enrollment status. Filling out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is required to qualify for this and many other federal grants and scholarships.
Federal student loans are by far the best loan option when looking for financial assistance for college. Direct subsidized loans are reserved for students with financial need, but direct unsubsidized loans are available to a wider variety of students. Their fixed interest rates and flexible repayment plans make federal student loans a much more attractive choice than private student loans.