NEED HELP PAYING BILLS?

Trying to make enough money to pay for everyday necessities is often a difficult task. Many employees feel as if they work long hours only to fall short financially. While the cost of living is continuing to increase, wages slowly trail behind. In many cases, employees are forced to choose between proper nutrition and paying for their mortgage or rent. If you are worried about how to pay your bills on a monthly basis, you are not alone. Recent reports have shown that four out of five U.S. workers live from paycheck to paycheck, and most are not capable of handling a financial emergency. Thankfully, there are helpful strategies to paying your bills that may improve your management of finances.

The sections outlined below include tips and tricks that can help you start paying off your bills and ease the financial burden on your shoulders. By reducing your other bills, you have more money to put toward your rent or mortgage. Combining federal assistance with some money-saving tips can have you back on track in no time.

Help Paying Utility Bills

Utilities are typically the most difficult bills to predict. Depending on the particular time of year, your bills can skyrocket or drop significantly. Continued late payments or failure to pay these bills altogether can result in temporary disruption or complete disconnection of these services.

Overall, it is important to avoid having your utilities turned off. That is because, once they are off, you must pay a reconnection fee to turn them back on. Moreover, try to use the following month after a missed payment to seek out financial assistance. If you are not able to obtain financial assistance quickly, emergency payment assistance may be an option.  If you are within the grace period to pay a bill after its due date, there are several programs to help you.

  • The Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can provide a grant to offset the costs of cooling and heating your home. The other assistance option LIHEAP offers is to increase the energy efficiency of your home. LIHEAP works alongside the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) to replace seals on doors and windows, fix broken air conditioners or heaters and install proper insulation.
  • Utility company programs are offered by electricity providers. These programs help customers create a payment plan that suits their income. While certain plans include paying a fixed utility bill rate for more efficient budgeting each month, you can also take your current balance and distribute a small portion to future bills for ease of payment. However, be mindful that each company offers its own programs, which have different requirements and terms. In many instances, speaking with a customer service representative is the best option.
  • Charity aid is a great resource for immediate utility bill assistance. When you are behind on your bills, you may dial 2-1-1 to connect to a regional operator. The operator will then put you into contact with local churches or charitable service agencies, which provide short-term funding for electric bills in an effort to keep your lights on.

In any case, in order to qualify for energy assistance programs, you must meet the federal poverty income threshold. Each household size has a specific income cut-off. If you already receive other forms of government assistance from programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), you may be eligible for additional aid. However, be mindful that certain assistance programs count these other programs as household income, so make sure to check the compatibility of each of these programs before applying for assistance.

Help Paying For Groceries

Paying your bills and providing a nutritious meal for your family is not always possible. To lower the burden of trying to pay for both, you may look into applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which is commonly referred to as “food stamps.” SNAP offers monthly benefits to approved beneficiaries to help purchase food items. You are provided a list of approved types of food on which to use your monthly funds. For example, fruits, vegetables, meats, poultry, fish, dairy products, bread and cereals are all approved. However, you are not able to use those funds to buy non-alcoholic beverages or hot pre-made foods. Freeing up money from your groceries each month can help you pay off some of your bills.

On the other hand, if you do not have children or qualify for a physical or mental disability, obtaining support through traditional SNAP can be difficult. If you are not disabled and do not have children, you may look into the Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) program. ABAWD is offered specifically to eligible participants between 18 and 49 years of age. Depending on the state where you apply in, be mindful that there are work requirements that you need to meet for continued support.

Help Paying for Child Care

According to a report in 2017, child care is one of the largest monthly expenditures in an average family budget. Because caring for a child is so expensive, it is important to explore the different strategies and programs that may assist you with such costs. For instance, consider the following:

  • Child care subsidies are provided by states that use federal funds. Through these subsidies, low-income families are provided vouchers or assistance with fees to send their children to child care facilities while the parents are working. The eligibility requirements for these program change depending on the state where you apply.
  • Head Start programs help young children prepare for school. Head Start services provide a safe space for children to grow up in alongside services for social, mental and emotional development. If you qualify as low-income, you may be able to enroll your child into a Head Start program.
  • State-funded prekindergarten programs are typically for children between three and five years of age. The focus is on early education and preparation for the educational years ahead. Depending on the state where you reside, these programs may be free or offered at low costs.
  • Military fee assistance programs provide funding to military families for child care. However, be mindful that each different branch of service has different eligibility requirements.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

TANF is a program offered to families with dependents struggling to cover their basic necessities. This money is distributed through an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card. Each month, funds are wired to the card. TANF money is designed to have a broad range of benefits. For example, TANF may be used for child care costs, income assistance or education and job training. The goal of TANF is to ensure that families stay together and work toward becoming independent of receiving any government benefits.