Government financial assistance programs help safeguard you and other Americans in times of need. If you need help paying bills, you may qualify for benefits that can reduce your utilities or provide you with temporary cash.
Besides affording the basics, the government has other programs that help you gain independence, such as providing financial assistance for education. Education institutes charge thousands upfront for degrees, certificates, and training that can take years to complete. A student loan can finance your schooling and defer repayment until after you graduate.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
You can apply for cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The resource provides cash for a limited time to households with children who demonstrate financial need. The first qualification for the program is to be pregnant or have a household member younger than 18 years of age.
If you qualify, the state issues monthly payments to cover necessities. States set the maximum length of time to collect benefits, but the federal maximum is 60 months in a lifetime. You may collect TANF payments on and off for several years until you reach your state’s limit.
The program also has emergency cash assistance if you need a one-time payment for immediate expenses. Some states set a fixed amount for emergencies, while others set the lump sum based on what you would receive monthly.
In addition to payments, some states provide additional resources to help you become self-sufficient, such as:
· Child care assistance.
· Job preparation.
· Work assistance.
TANF’s financial assistance comes with conditions. Usually, you must work or engage in job-related activities for at least 30 hours a week. The state may require fewer hours or waive the requirement if you care for young children, have a disability, or are elderly.
The Unemployment Insurance (UI) program provides weekly payments if you involuntarily lose your job and meet other requirements. Specific criteria vary by state, but most local authorities require you to meet three requirements:
· You were an employee of an employer that pays the unemployment tax. You do not qualify for UI payments if you are self-employed or an independent contractor.
· It was not your fault you lost your job. The reason you separated from your job was due to layoffs or related and not due to misconduct.
· You earned at least the minimum amount and worked for a certain length. The state establishes your benefit amount based on your earnings.
UI payments are a fraction of your paycheck, but they can help cover the basics while you look for another opportunity. Compensation is not automatic, and you must recertify each week to receive a payment. The state can stop, reduce, or terminate your payments if you no longer meet the requirements.
Most states let you apply and recertify for UI online or by phone, and some areas still accept applications by mail and in person.
Household Bill Assistance
The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides cash assistance to help with utilities, weatherization, and other energy expenses. Energy assistance from LIHEAP can pay for certain bills that affect your heating and cooling needs.
The average electric bill in the country is about $120 a month. But you may have a higher monthly responsibility if you live in an area with more impactful weather conditions or higher electric rates, such as Alaska, Hawaii, and Connecticut.
Each state sets a maximum benefits amount, which varies from area to area. Most awards are for a few hundred dollars.
A loan is money you must pay back. A student loan has different terms than other types, and federal loans have better repayment terms than private loans.
The federal government can also excuse part of your student loans under certain situations. You may qualify for loan forgiveness – when you do not have to pay back all or some of your debt – if you fulfill certain work requirements, like being a teacher for five years in school serving a low-income population.
You may qualify for other government programs based on your situation. Almost all benefits are for households with a low income, but some have additional requirements. Find out if your disability, military service, or parental status could help you pay household bills, healthcare insurance, school, and more.