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Top government programs for low-income families - Part 3 Of 3

Financial Assistance

6. Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI) provides cash to low-income seniors and adults and kids with disabilities. It helps the aged, blind, and disabled buy food, clothing, and shelter. On average, roughly 8.4 million people receive $536 per month. Of those, 7.3 million are blind or disabled.

Supplemental Security Income

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

7. Welfare or TANF

Administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), TANF programs provide cash for a limited time to low-income families working toward self-sufficiency. TANF may also offer non-cash benefits such as child care or job training.

In 2017, 2.5 million recipients received income from TANF. Of these, 1.9 million were children. On average, a three-person family received $447 a month. Despite this help, they still live below the poverty line. Families who receive TANF must get a job within two years and can only receive this benefit for five years or less in some states. In addition, if they have another child and do not own more than $2,000 in total assets, they may not be eligible for more income.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

8. No-cost internet through the Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

Eligible households can get high-speed internet at no cost. If youíre eligible, youíll get $30 per month off of their internet bill, and 20 internet carriers have agreed to provide ACP-eligible households a plan for no more than $30 per month, meaning that the overall cost is $0. You can also get a one-time $100 discount to purchase a computer or tablet. See if you qualify and apply below:

Affordable Connectivity Program

Additional Federal Programs For Low-income Families

9. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

Earned Income Tax Credit is a tax credit for families with at least one child. They must make less than $51,567 a year to qualify. In 2012, over 27 million received credits totaling $63 billion. Thatís a little more than $2,335 per taxpayer. EITC lifted 6.5 million people out of poverty, half of whom were children.

Earned Income Tax Credit

10. Head Start

Head Start is a free or reduced cost program that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health nutrition, and parent involvement services. This program is offered to low-income children, from birth to 5 years old, and their families. In 2016 the program serviced nearly 1 million children and 1.4 million child care programs. Head Start is also administered by the Department of Health and Human Services.

Head Start

11. Federal Pell Grant Program

The Department of Education runs the Federal Pell Grant Program to promote postsecondary education (college and trade school) for students from low-income households. Grants are similar to scholarships and donít need to be repaid. They are designed to go to undergraduate students based on factors such as the cost of attendance at the school and expected family and student contribution. In 2017, there were approximately 4,800 participating postsecondary institutions and grants were awarded for amounts between $592 and $5,920, with the average award totaling $4,050 per recipient.

Federal Pell Grant Program

What about unemployment benefits?

Each state operates its own unemployment benefits program. Depending on your state's program and requirements, you might be able to qualify for an unemployment insurance program in your state. These programs pay a cash amount if you lose your job through no fault of your own. Some states also provide extended unemployment benefits when there is high unemployment, meaning you can collect on your unemployment insurance for 13 weeks. You can apply for an extension once your regular unemployment benefits run out. Although the details for how to apply and qualify vary by state. And remember, you must report all unemployment benefits you received in a given calendar year as income when you file your taxes for that year.

In addition to unemployment benefits through your state, the federal and state government work together to provide all kinds of unemployment help and job training programs. If you've been laid off from a job, there are a number of employment and training programs run by the U.S. Department of Labor. These include retraining programs to apprenticeship programs to vocational skills programs to special programs for farm workers, refugees older Americans still in the workforce, and Native Americans. You can learn about all of these different programs and what you might be able to apply for at the U.S. Department of Labor's site.

The U.S. Department of Labor also provides self-employment assistance, designed to enable those who are currently unemployed to start their own businesses. In these programs, instead of collecting unemployment insurance benefits, those currently unemployed may instead receive a weekly allowance which they can use towards starting their new business. Self-employment assistance availability and eligibility varies by state, so check with your state's State Unemployment Insurance Agency for more details.

Don't forget that if you lose your job for any number of reasons, voluntary or involuntary, you are most likely eligible for COBRA. This allows you to keep the health insurance you had through your previous employer by paying 100% of the monthly premiums yourself.

Employment And Training programs

Self-Employment Assistance


Can I get help paying my utility bills?

There are a number of government programs available to help defer the costs of utility bills.

The Lifeline program run by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) helps low-income individuals and families get discounted landline and cell phone service. Lifeline provides a monthly discount of up to $9.25 on monthly telephone service, broadband Internet access service, or voice-broadband bundled service purchased from participating providers. Subscribers can receive a Lifeline discount on either a wireline or a wireless service, and you can get one Lifeline service per household.

Lifeline is available to eligible low-income consumers in every state, commonwealth, territory, and on Tribal lands. To be eligible, you must have an income at or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or participate in certain federal assistance programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Federal Public Housing Assistance (FPHA), Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit, or Tribal programs (and live on federally-recognized Tribal lands). You can check online to see what providers offer Lifeline services in your area and see if and what kind of benefits you might qualify for.

The Low-Income Home Energy Program (LIHEAP) is available to help defer your home energy utility bill costs. Although the program does not pay for sewage or water bills, it can help subsidize your energy bills and help get those bills down through weatherization improvements to make your home more energy efficient. Requirements for LIHEAP vary by state, and unfortunately only about 20% of households that are qualified for LIHEAP receive benefits. This is because when LIHEAP funds run out of the year, no more benefits can be administered until Congress makes more funds available. So, just because you qualify for LIHEAP does not guarantee that you will receive help due to a limited number of funds available for this kind of assistance. However, a person or family participating in certain other benefit programs (like SNAP, SSI, and TANF) may be automatically eligible. You can contact your local LIHEAP office to see if you qualify and if you're able to receive benefits for the year.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) contact information:

HHS, Administration For Children and Families
Office of Community Services, Division of Energy Assistance
Mary E. Switzer Building, 5th Floor West
330 C Street, SW
Washington, D.C. 20201
Phone Number: (202) 401-9351
Fax Number: (202) 401-5661
Staff Contacts

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