Top government programs for low-income families - Part 2 Of 3
1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP or Food Stamps provides eligible people with a benefits card, used like a debit card, to buy food at designated grocery stores and farmers markets. The SNAP program gives food vouchers to 47.6 million people or 23 million households. They receive $133 a month on average.
In addition to SNAP, there's a food stamp program for nursing mothers and young children called The Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). WIC provides food or vouchers, education, and referrals to help feed pregnant women and children up to age six. In 2017, 7.7 million people received WIC each month.
For school-aged children, there is the Child Nutrition Program, which provides free or reduced-cost lunches to 30 million children. SNAP, WIC, and the Child Nutrition Program are all administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
2. Health Insurance Marketplace
Through the Affordable Care Act (ACA), millions of people have gained access to health coverage through Medicaid and the Health Insurance Marketplace. Before the ACA, most states did not give health coverage to adults without children, no matter how low their incomes were. The ACA also allows children to stay on their parents plan up to 26, which provides access to more young adults who may not have been able to afford coverage on their own.
To make health coverage more affordable, the ACA includes two different subsidies for individuals and families. It also requires that most health plans cover preventive care-like vaccines, birth control, blood pressure tests, cancer screenings, and more-at no additional cost. One essential part of the ACA is that it protects people with pre-existing conditions from being denied health insurance. Before the ACA health insurance companies could deny anyone insurance based on pre-existing health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, or cancer.
About the Affordable Care Act
Medicaid is the nation's public health insurance program for low-income individuals and families. It is administered by the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services (CMS), a division of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The program provides free or low-cost health benefits to adults, kids, pregnant women, seniors, and people with disabilities. The Medicaid program covers 1 in 5 Americans, with a broad array of health services and limits enrollees out-of-pocket costs.
Medicaid finances nearly a fifth of all personal healthcare spending in the U.S. In 2016, Medicaid covered over 76 million low-income Americans. Children account for 43%, or more than four in ten, of all Medicaid enrollees, and the elderly and people with disabilities account for about one in four enrollees. About half of all U.S. births are paid by Medicare.
The Affordable Care Act increased Medicaid coverage by 28 percent. It raised the income level and allowed single adults to qualify.
4. Child's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
CHIP offers free or low-cost medical and dental care to uninsured kids up to age 19 whose family income is above Medicaid's limit but below their state's CHIP limit. In addition to Medicaid, six million children received additional benefits from CHIP. It covers hospital care, medical supplies, and tests. It also provides preventive care, such as eye exams, dental care, and regular check-ups. CHIP is also administered through CMS in the Department of Health and Human Services.
Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
5. Subsidized Housing, Housing Vouchers, and Public Housing Programs
Housing Assistance helps low-income families, seniors, and people with disabilities get into affordable private or government-owned rental housing. The Housing Choice Voucher Program gives certificates to rent approved units. The subsidy allows recipients to pay no more than 30 percent of their income. It provides 1.2 million units of public housing and local agencies administer it to 2.2 million renters. This is the old Section 8 program. The Public Housing Agency also allows some families to use the voucher to purchase a modest home.
There is also the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), providing energy assistance and weatherization programs. It provides $3.4 billion in block grants to the states.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)