Making enough money to pay for everyday expenses can be challenging as the cost of living continues to rise. Many employees feel that they’re falling short financially, even when working long hours, and some struggle even with a second job.
Do you worry about having to choose between proper nutrition, paying rent or mortgage, or keeping the lights on? You’re not alone. In fact, four out of five workers in the U.S. live paycheck to paycheck, and do not have the savings necessary to handle a financial emergency.
Fortunately, there are several resources you can turn to for help paying your bills. We’ll be providing you with more information about these resources to help ease the financial burden on your shoulders. Once you’re able to reduce your bills, you’ll have more money to put toward your rent or mortgage or savings.
How to Get Help Paying for Groceries
Choosing between nutritious meals for your family and keeping the bills paid should never have to be a choice. Fortunately, there are ways you can lower your financial burden of paying for nutritious foods so you’ll have more money to put towards other household expenses.
The most common way to get help with the cost of groceries is by applying for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). This program, more commonly referred to as food stamps, provides beneficiaries with monthly benefits that can be used towards the cost of food.
With SNAP (food stamps), you’ll be given a food stamp card that is loaded each month with your benefits. The day you receive benefits is based on your state program. The amount you’ll receive is based on your income and household size. Additionally, all Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWD) must meet work requirements to continue to receive benefits.
Check with your state program to learn how to apply for food stamps. In some states, you can apply for food stamps online, by mail, by phone, or in person. In others, you may be limited to one or two of these options.
How to Get Help Paying Utility Bills
Utility bills fluctuate, so it can be difficult to predict how much your next bill will be. Heating and cooling bills can be the most unpredictable, as they can drop or rise significantly depending on the season. Unfortunately, failing to pay your utility bill can quickly result in temporary disruption or disconnection of services. Additionally, many providers charge a reconnection fee to restore services.
Fortunately, there are many energy assistance programs you may qualify for that provide emergency or one-time payment assistance. Those programs include:
- The Low-Income Assistance Program (LIHEAP): LIHEAP provides utility assistance on a one-time or emergency basis. However, whether you can receive heating assistance, cooling assistance, or both depends on the state you live in.
Additionally, LIHEAP offers weatherization assistance to help improve the energy efficiency of your home. For help, you’ll need to complete a LIHEAP application for your state-program. Depending on your state program, you may be able to complete a LIHEAP application online, by mail, or in person. The program is income-based, but help is limited, so you should apply for benefits as soon as you need energy assistance.
- Programs Provided by Your Utility: Many utility companies provide energy assistance to those that need it. These assistant programs may include customized payment plans, fixed utility bill rates, budgeting plans, and energy efficiency rebates. Each utility company has its own programs, and not all provide them, so be sure to check with your utility company to learn more.
- Charities and Nonprofits: Charitable aid is a great resource for low-income families who need emergency utility assistance to avoid disconnection. If you’re facing an emergency or falling behind on your bills, call 2-1-1 to connect with a regional operator who can put you in touch with charities, churches, and other non-profit organizations that may be able to help.
Generally, in order to receive energy assistance, you’ll need to meet federal poverty income limits based on your household size. Additionally, you’ll likely be eligible to receive assistance if you’re already receiving help from another government program, such as SNAP or TANF.
Learn More About Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
If you’re part of a low-income family with dependents that’s struggling to cover basic necessities, you may qualify for cash assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. TANF benefits can be used towards many different household expenses, including child care costs, rental assistance, groceries, and more.
Additionally, cash aid isn’t the only benefit these programs usually provide. The goal of TANF is to help families stay together and work towards becoming more independent. To that end, it’s common for TANF to help families find meaningful employment through education or job training.
While TANF programs follow federal guidelines, each state program is a little different. Be sure to check with your state program to learn more about eligibility requirements, benefits, and how to apply for aid.
How to Get Help Paying for Child Care
Child care is one of the largest monthly expenses for families, making it difficult to keep both parents working when caring for a younger child. Fortunately, there are several resources you may qualify for to help you pay for the cost of child care, including:
- Child Care Subsidies: Your state may provide a free childcare program to low-income families. These state-programs are backed by federal funding and help parents cover the cost of child care facilities. Eligibility requirements can vary heavily by state, so be sure to check with your state program for more details.
- Head Start Programs: Head Start services are free daycare programs designed to help low-income families with young children. Additionally, these programs help kids prepare for school and provide social, mental, and emotional developmental services.
- State-Funded Prekindergarten Programs: If you’re searching for a free daycare, be sure to check your state-funded prekindergarten programs. These programs focus on early education and school preparation. In some states, low-income families can receive discounts towards child care costs, while other states provide free daycare.
- Military Fee Assistance Programs: If you or your spouse is serving in the military, you may qualify for assistance towards day care costs. However, each branch of service has different programs available and different eligibility requirements.