If you’re struggling to pay for common expenses like rent, utilities, childcare or medical expenses – you’re not alone. That’s why there are several state and federal programs designed to provide a safety net to those in need.
From Section 8 housing to free childcare programs, here are explanations of some of the most valuable resources you might qualify for.
Energy Assistance Programs for Utility Bill Assistance
Utility bills can be expensive and costs can shift dramatically during the year, catching some families off guard. Unfortunately, struggling families may experience temporary service interruptions or disconnections if they cannot afford their heating and cooling costs.
Fortunately, there are several ways you can get utility assistance, especially if you’re facing a potential disconnection. Here’s a look at some of the most popular energy assistance programs.
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): LIHEAP is the largest source of energy assistance in the United States. This state benefit program aids low-income households with utility assistance for heating and/or cooling bills, depending on the state you live in. You can complete a LIHEAP application for one-time assistance or for emergency assistance. Depending on your state program, you may be able to submit a LIHEAP application online, by mail, or in person. However, it’s important to request help as soon as possible, as utility assistance funds are limited.
- Energy Assistance Through Your Provider: Many utility providers provide help to low-income households struggling to pay their bills. Be sure to check with your provider to find out if they offer temporary discounts, payment plans, or about any local non-profits they work with.
- Get Help From Local Non-Profits: Local nonprofits and churches may be able to help you with your utility bills. Generally, assistance is on a one-time basis, but each program may vary.
You can apply for assistance directly with a local program, or you can call 2-1-1 to learn more about how to get energy assistance in your local area.
Save More With These Free Daycare Programs
Daycare expenses quickly add up, but they’re often necessary when parents are working or attending school. In fact, childcare is commonly one of the largest parts of a family’s budget, and can exceed the cost of housing or food.
Fortunately, low income families may qualify for a free childcare program or discounts on childcare services. Most of these programs have income-based eligibility, but may also include other requirements. Here’s a few great resources that can help you save.
- Financial Assistance and Free Daycare (Vouchers, Certificates, and Subsidies): States receive funding from the federal government to help low-income families get free daycare so they have the means to work or attend school. Generally, you’ll need to be a primary caregiver, and your child must be under the age of 13, or under 19 if they are incapable of self-care. Additionally, you must be enrolled in an education or training program or working.
- Head Start / Early Head Start Programs: These government programs are designed to provide low-income families with free daycare or discounted services. Additionally, the programs help prepare children for school as well as support a child’s early development and learning. To qualify, you’ll need to meet income-based requirements and have a child who is five years old or younger.
- State-Funded Pre-K Programs: State-funded pre kindergarten is another great free childcare program you could qualify for. These programs vary significantly by state, but are generally free or low-cost to low-income families with children between the ages of three and five.
In addition to these free daycare programs, you may qualify for assistance through local non-profit organizations. Depending on your employer or school, child care assistance may be available on-site. Lastly, if you use a private daycare and have more than one child, be sure to check if the daycare offers any sibling discounts.
Get Rental Assistance With Section 8 Housing
Section 8 housing, formally known as the Housing Choice Voucher Program, is a federal program designed to provide low-income families, seniors, and disabled persons with rental assistance. This program helps millions with their rental costs each year by paying a portion of a household’s rent directly to their landlord each month.
To be eligible for Section 8 housing, you must meet the following requirements:
- Be part of a household that has at least one dependent child, senior citizen, or disabled person
- Meet income guidelines based on the medium income in an area
- Be a U.S. citizen or have a qualifying immigration status
After you submit a Section 8 application, you will be placed on a waiting list until help becomes available. While Section 8 is an incredibly beneficial program, it’s not uncommon for households to remain on a waiting list for weeks, months, and even years if the need for assistance is high enough in the area.
Once help becomes available, you will be contacted by the Public Housing Authority (PHA) that you submitted an application with to re-confirm your eligibility. If you are still eligible, they will provide you with a Section 8 housing list of Section 8-approved rentals in the area. However, Section 8 apartments are any rental that accepts vouchers from the program and meets quality standards set by the PHA.
How to Get Help With Your Medical Expenses
There are several ways you can get help with your medical expenses, including affordable healthcare options for low-income households, seniors and disabled persons.
Medicaid is the largest health care program in the United States, providing coverage to more than 70 million annually. In fact, one in five Americans get help from the Medicaid program. Depending on your state program, you could receive health insurance at little to no cost.
Eligibility for Medicaid is primarily centered around income, but other qualifications can vary by state. For example, some state programs categorically limit who is eligible for Medicaid, and able bodied adults under 65 can only receive assistance if they are pregnant or have dependent children in the home. Additionally, the program is limited to U.S. citizens and those with qualifying immigration statuses.
While some covered medical services vary by state, federal guidelines require all state programs to provide coverage for “mandatory” services like physician care, laboratory services, x-rays, and preventative care. Some state programs extend coverage to include services like prescription drugs, vision care, and dental care.
You can apply for Medicaid by contacting your local Medicaid office. Some state offices allow you to submit an application online, by phone or by mail, while others require you to visit an office in person.
If you are disabled or 65 years of age or older, you may also qualify for Medicare. Medicare provides an affordable health insurance option to seniors and the disabled. Medicare lets participants choose the type of coverage they want based on the inclusion of different “parts” of Medicare. Those parts include:
- Medicare Part A: Hospital / inpatient services coverage
- Medicare Part B: Outpatient / general medical coverage
- Medicare Part C: Medicare alternatives that generally include Part A, B, and D, but may include additional coverage options. Plans and costs vary by location.
- Medicare Part D: Prescription drug coverage
You first become eligible for Medicare three months before turning 65 or if you become disabled. If you do not sign up for coverage during your initial eligibility period, you can apply for Medicare during an open enrollment period.
Additionally, low-income beneficiaries may also be eligible for Medicaid, known as dual eligibility. In these cases, you can receive additional coverage through Medicaid, and Medicaid can help with your Medicare costs.