34 Government Assistance Programs for Families and Workers

Government Assistance

The U.S. government offers over 70 different assistance programs! That’s right—from helping families put food on the table to providing college students financial aid—there’s likely something that could work for you.

In this article, we’ll explain these options step by step so you can understand what’s available and how they might give you the boost you need.

Our guide aims to simplify all those complex details into easy-to-grasp knowledge that empowers your next steps.

Ready for some clarity? Keep reading, and let’s uncover possibilities together!

Table of Contents [Hide]

  1. Overview of Government Assistance Programs
  2. Financial Assistance Programs
  3. Food Assistance Programs
  4. Healthcare Programs
  5. Housing and Utility Assistance Programs
  6. Retirement Programs
  7. Tax Filing Assistance Programs
  8. Financial Assistance Programs for Small Businesses
  9. Additional Federal Programs For Low-income Families
  10. Do I qualify for any government assistance?

Overview of Government Assistance Programs

The federal and state governments have established a spectrum of assistance programs to help people struggling to meet their basic needs or improve their quality of life.

These range from ensuring adequate nourishment through food stamps, known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to helping with healthcare costs via Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).

Welfare benefits such as unemployment insurance provide a financial safety net for unemployed individuals until they secure new employment.

Meanwhile, families experiencing poverty may be eligible for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program.

Transitioning into specific offerings, let’s delve into how various financial assistance programs can play a critical role in providing stability during challenging times.

Financial Assistance Programs

1. Unemployment Insurance

Unemployment Insurance helps you if you lose your job through no fault of your own. Each state runs its program, but they all give money to help while you look for a new job. This support lasts a set amount of time and aims to ease financial stress.

The American Rescue Plan made these benefits better. It added more weeks of aid and stopped federal taxes on the money you get from Unemployment Insurance. If work has suddenly stopped, check out this program to see if it can help keep you afloat until the next opportunity.

To receive unemployment insurance benefits, you must file a claim with the unemployment insurance program in the state where you worked.

How do I apply for Unemployment Insurance?

Visit the U.S. Department of Labor page for your State Unemployment Insurance Office contact information. Claims may filed by telephone, online, or in person, depending on the state.


2. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a lifeline for families in tough times. This program gives money and support to those who need it most. It helps parents find jobs, get training, and provide stability for their children.

States run TANF with federal funds, so the help you get can vary depending on where you live.

To receive TANF benefits, your family must meet specific rules. These may include income limits and work requirements. The goal is to get families back on their feet quickly. With TANF’s aid, many have found new hope and a path toward financial independence.

How do I apply for TANF?

To apply for the TANF Program, you can visit the Office of Family Assistance contact information page and apply either by telephone or online.


3. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI)

Individuals with disabilities may qualify for Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits. If you can’t work because of a medical condition that is expected to last at least one year or result in death, SSDI is there to help.

This program gives monthly money to those who have worked and paid into Social Security but cannot earn an income due to disability.

You must have worked long enough and recently enough under Social Security to get these benefits. The amount you receive is based on your earnings record. Usually, family members can also get money if they qualify for SSDI assistance.

How do I apply for SSDI?

Applying for SSDI can be done online or at your local Social Security office. To determine your eligibility, visit the SSDI page and submit your application online.


4. Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental Security Income, or SSI, provides money to those who most need it. If you are 65 or older, blind, or disabled with little income and few assets, this program might be for you.

It helps pay for basic needs like food, clothes, and a living place. To get SSI benefits, you must meet specific rules about how much money you make and what you own.

Qualifying as a U.S. citizen or in a specific legal resident category. The government checks everything from your bank account balance to the property you own when deciding if you can receive SSI payments.

These checks ensure that the help goes only to people who need it. If eligible for SSI benefits, they can offer a steady income that ensures their well-being amidst financial challenges.

How do I apply for SSI?

Visit the Apply for Social Security Benefits page to apply online.


5. Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP)

The Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is here to help you stay connected. If your household qualifies, it provides financial support for internet service and digital devices. You could save money on your monthly internet bill or get a discount on a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer.

ACP aims to make the Internet more accessible for everyone, focusing on those in underserved communities.

If you’re worried about the cost of staying online during these challenging times, check out the ACP. The U.S. Department of the Treasury backs this program as part of its push to support American families and workers through challenges like COVID-19.

How do I apply for ACP?

Go to Get Internet Gov to submit an application or print out a mail-in application.


6. Federal Student Aid (FAFSA)

Paying for college can be challenging, but you’re not alone. The government offers student financial aid to help cover your school costs. You might get this support in the form of grants or loans.

Fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) and see if you qualify based on your financial need. If eligible, a Federal Pell Grant could give you money that doesn’t have to be paid back.

Student loans are there, too, with options like income-driven repayment plans to make paying them off easier after graduation.

Remember, applying early increases your chances of receiving more aid!

How do I apply for this program?

The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the first step in the financial aid process. Complete the form online. You can use it to apply for federal student financial aid, which includes grants, loans, and work-study.


Food Assistance Programs

7. National Hunger Hotline

If you need food immediately, call the National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-3-HUNGRY. They connect people to emergency food providers and other helpful services.

You don’t have to wait; help is just a phone call away.

How do I apply for this program?

Call the hotline 1-866-3-HUNGRY to guide you to local programs that provide meals or groceries.


8. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps families buy food for good health. If you’re low on money, SNAP could be a big help. States decide who gets SNAP benefits and distribute them using EBT cards.

Your EBT card acts like a debit card at stores that accept it.

Millions of Americans depend on SNAP when times are tough. This program is essential for those facing food insecurity. With it, many get the support they need to feed their families healthy meals.

How do I apply?

To apply for SNAP, you must contact your local SNAP office or go to an online application. Each state has its own application form.


9. Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)

WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children and helps low-income families by providing nutritious food choices to pregnant women, new mothers, and children under five. It’s a vital program that improves health outcomes through diet enhancements tailored to specific needs.

Nutrition education is part of the package, too – teaching good eating habits and ways to stay healthy.

Through WIC, you also get healthcare referrals. This means it connects participants with other essential services they might need but don’t know about or can’t access.

It dramatically reduces food insecurity among vulnerable groups by ensuring little ones have what they need during critical growth periods.

How do I apply for WIC?

To apply for a WIC, you must contact your state or local agency to schedule an appointment. You can check out your state’s contact information and call the toll-free number.


10. Food Programs for School-Age Children

Thanks to the Child Nutrition Program, kids can get free or cheap lunches at school. Every day, 30 million children eat healthier because of this help. Schools give out these lunches so kids have the energy to learn and grow.

Summer comes, and school ends, but kids still need to eat. The Summer Food Service Program ensures they do not go hungry when school is closed. This program offers free meals and snacks for all children who need them in the summer.

How do you apply for the Child Nutrition Program?

Go to the Child Nutrition Program page to determine if your school participates.


11. Food Programs for Older Adults

Older adults can get help from programs like the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP). This program gives low-income seniors money to buy fresh fruits and vegetables at farmers’ markets.

Another program is the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP). It offers free, healthy foods to people over 60 who don’t have much money. To join, you must meet specific rules based on your income.

These food programs aim to ensure older adults eat well and stay healthy.

How do I apply for these programs?

Applicant should contact the State agency where you reside. State agency contacts are on the SFMNP and CSFP contacts page.


Healthcare Programs

12. Medicare

Medicare helps cover hospital stays, doctor’s visits, and prescription drugs. If you sign up for coverage, you pay for it through Medicare taxes taken from your paycheck and monthly premiums.

It is split into parts: Part A covers hospitals, Part B covers doctor services, and Part D covers prescriptions. Some choose Medicare Advantage (Part C), which private insurance companies offer to combine all these benefits.

Remember, this program makes sure older adults and people with disabilities can get the medical care they need without high costs holding them back.

How do I apply for Medicare?

To get Medicare benefits, you need to sign up when you turn 65 or if you have specific disabilities. You can talk with someone at your local Social Security office or sign up online.


13. ACA Health Insurance Marketplace

The ACA Health Insurance Marketplace helps you get coverage that fits your budget. If you earn less than a certain amount, you may get help paying for health insurance. This place is unique because it doesn’t turn away people with sicknesses they already have.

All plans must cover things like check-ups and shots without extra cost.

In the Marketplace, you can choose from different health plans to find one that suits your needs. You sign up once a year during an open enrollment period, but if significant changes happen in your life, like losing a job or having a baby, you might be able to sign up at other times, too.

Remember, this is where uninsured folks can start getting health coverage with financial help if needed.

How do I apply for ACA?

Visit the HealthCare.gov page and apply online.


14. Medicaid and CHIP

Medicaid and CHIP are like safety nets for health. They give medical and dental care to low-income people, especially children up to 19 years old. Medicaid helps over 76 million Americans pay for hospital visits, doctor appointments, and even some long-term medical care.

Kids without insurance can count on CHIP for their health needs.

With these programs, families don’t have to worry as much about high medical bills.

How do I apply?

You can apply for Medicaid and CHIP on the Medicaid & CHIP page.


15. Veterans Administration Healthcare

Veterans Administration Healthcare offers medical benefits to military personnel. These include hospital care, doctor visits, and prescription drugs. The plan works with Medicare, so veterans have good coverage.

During tough times like the COVID-19 crisis, the department supports veterans and their families extra.

They also help vets learn about Affordable Care Act (ACA) health plans. Veterans get many health services, from preventive care to help with injuries from service. For housing needs, they offer programs that keep veterans and their families stable and safe at home.

This program is there for you if you’re a veteran seeking health or housing help.

How do I apply?

You can apply online or by phone at the toll-free hotline at 877-222-8387.


16. COBRA

COBRA can help if you lose your job or get fewer work hours. It lets you keep your health coverage for a while longer. You pay the total insurance cost, but it’s the same plan you had with your job.

This means you stay protected just like before.

Now, let’s talk about programs that support people with their state health department needs.

How do I apply?

Find out if you qualify: Call 1-866-444-3272 or ask your question online.


17. State Health Department Programs

Local state health departments also step in to support your healthcare needs. They run programs for low-income folks, helping them get medical coverage.

If you earn less than a set amount, these programs can help pay for doctor visits and treatments through the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace.

Medicaid and CHIP are big deals, too. Each state tailors Medicaid to its rules while following the government’s mandates. This means that even if you’re on a tight budget, you might be able to get insurance for your family thanks to these programs.

And don’t forget about seniors and retiring workers – states offer them Social Security benefits and FERS as well!

How do I apply?

To apply, contact your state health department for health information.


Housing and Utility Assistance Programs

18. Low-Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

The Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, helps families pay their energy bills. If you find it hard to cover heating and cooling costs, this program might be for you.

LIHEAP offers financial help to low-income households to keep their homes warm during winter and cool in the summer. It’s not just for homeowners; renters can also get aid.

LIHEAP funding comes from the federal government, but states and territories run it. They consider your household size, income, and how much you spend on energy when deciding how much money you’ll receive.

This assistance is a significant relief for many families because it lowers the high cost of energy bills. By helping with these expenses, LIHEAP allows people to use their money on other essential needs like food and medicine.

How do I apply?

How do I apply for this program? Contact your state or tribal LIHEAP office. You may also call this toll-free number: 1-866-674-6327.


19. Subsidized Rental Housing

Subsidized rental housing helps low-income families, older adults, and those with disabilities find affordable homes. When you qualify for these welfare programs, you get a voucher or access to public housing.

Your income must be below a certain level, based on the federal poverty line, to get this help.

Housing vouchers let you choose where to live while the government pays part of your rent. Public housing is provided by authorities who manage apartment buildings for cheaper living.

These options are not guaranteed; they depend on how much money you make and your family’s needs.

How do I apply?

To apply for subsidized housing, search for a participating housing community using the HUD map.


20. Housing Assistance Programs for Home Buyers

Home buyers can contact the Federal Housing Administration (FHA) for help. FHA loans offer low down payments and are easier to qualify for than conventional loans. They are a good fit if you have a lower credit score.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury also contributes, providing funds through programs like Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA), which benefits buyers.

If you’re a first-time buyer with a low income, consider homeownership vouchers. These vouchers make buying a home more affordable. Another option is state housing programs that offer special mortgage deals or help with closing costs.

If you’ve served in the military, V.A. loans can get you into a home with no money down and favorable terms.

How do I apply?

To apply, visit the Federal Housing Administration or Emergency Rental Assistance.


21. FHA Loans

FHA loans make buying a home more accessible for those struggling to get a traditional mortgage. They require less money down and are more forgiving of lower credit scores. These loans come from private lenders but are insured by the Federal Housing Administration.

If you can’t pay your loan, the FHA helps cover the loss.

You can use an FHA-insured loan to buy or refinance a house that needs repairs. They often work well with other programs that assist with utility costs or down payments.

To qualify, you must meet specific guidelines, including income limits and proof of steady employment. But once approved, an FHA loan might be just what you need to move into a new place you can call home.

How do I apply?

To apply, visit the FHA loan page and contact an approved lender.

22. Homeownership Vouchers

Homeownership Vouchers help people buy their own homes. If you qualify, these vouchers can lower your monthly mortgage payments. The HUD details how to contact a local Public Housing Authority for help.

This program is part of the more extensive housing choice voucher system. It makes owning a home more affordable for low-income families. Both federal and state governments provide these vouchers to assist with housing needs.

They are accommodating if you dream of owning a home but find it challenging due to finances.

How do I apply?

To apply for Homeownership Vouchers, visit the HUD state page and contact your local public housing agency.


23. Housing Choice Voucher Program

The Housing Choice Voucher Program helps low-income families afford a safe and decent living place. This program lets you find your single-family homes, townhouses, and apartments.

You’re not stuck in one spot; you can choose a home that suits your family’s needs. The government pays a part of the rent directly to landlords through Section 8 vouchers.

This robust support lets families avoid homelessness and stay secure in their communities. Finding a suitable home becomes more accessible because the voucher covers some rent costs. If you’re eligible for this program, it gives you more control over where you live and helps ensure that where you call home is financially within reach.

How do I apply?

If you want to apply for a voucher, contact your local public housing agency.


24. HUD State Housing Program & ERAP

HUD State housing program helps people who need a place to live. Each state has its program, which often works with federal money. These programs can aid you if you’re struggling to find affordable housing.

They give options like subsidized housing, where the rent is less based on your income.

You might find particular loans or grants that make buying a house easier. Some states also assist with repairs and making homes more energy efficient. If the COVID-19 crisis has struck you, these programs could be beneficial.

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), backed by billions in federal funds, helps families pay their rent and utilities so they don’t lose their homes.

How do I apply?

Visit the HUD or ERAP page to apply online.


25. Programs for Active-Duty Service Members and Veterans

Military members and veterans have access to dedicated support programs—the Emergency Housing Voucher Program swiftly offers housing aid to those who have served.

The Emergency Home Energy Assistance Program (EHEAP) is available for active-duty and veteran households to help with high utility bills.

For internet and tech needs, the Affordable Connectivity Program provides discounts on broadband services and devices. This program looks at your household income; it must be at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Level.

How do I apply?

Check out Veterans Administration Healthcare, specially designed for you as someone who has given much for their country. These are just a few ways the government thanks its service members with assistance tailored to your unique experiences serving our nation.


Retirement Programs

26. Social Security Retirement Benefits

You can get Social Security retirement benefits if you’ve paid into the system for at least 10 years. Your age and how long you worked influence when you can start getting money. If you wait to claim until after your full retirement age, your monthly check grows bigger.

Some people get benefits as early as 62, which means they’ll get smaller payments.

Your work history and earnings record determine how much money you’ll receive monthly from Social Security. The program uses a formula to calculate your benefit amount based on your 35 highest-earning years.

It’s essential to check your Social Security statement regularly to ensure all your income is being recorded correctly. This ensures that when it’s time to retire, you’ll get the correct amount owed to you.

How do I apply?

Visit the Social Security page to check if you qualify.


27. Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)

The Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) provides more than just a regular pension. As a federal employee, you also get contributions to your Thrift Savings Plan and Social Security benefits.

Think of it as a three-layered cake, each layer sweetening your retirement.

You must have worked for the government for several years and meet age requirements to get these benefits. If something happens to you, don’t worry; FERS takes care of your family with survivor benefits.

The Office of Personnel Management runs this program and helps guide employees through their options. To learn more or get help with FERS, look up resources provided by OPM and other agencies.

How do I apply for FERS?

To apply for Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS) benefits, you must submit a Retirement Application Standard Form 3107.


Tax Filing Assistance Programs

28. Free File

You can file your taxes online for free if you earned $73,000 or less last year. The Free File program lets you do this without paying a cent. Just use the IRS-approved software on their website to prepare and e-file your federal return.

For many people, state returns can also be filed at no extra charge.

Make sure to check out the Free File options early in tax season. This gives you plenty of time to complete your taxes before the deadline. Choose from several tax prep companies that partner with the IRS and immediately start filing.

You’ll keep more money in your pocket and avoid late fees by being on top of things.

How do I apply?

Go to the Free File page to sign up.


29. VITA and TCE Tax Filing Assistance Programs

VITA and TCE programs offer free tax help to people with low or moderate incomes, older people, or disabilities. Qualified volunteers are trained to prepare basic income tax returns for free.

They focus on ensuring you get all the credits and deductions, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, to boost your refund.

These programs are great for seniors since they tackle tax issues unique to older adults at no cost. Locations such as community centers and libraries host these services, so finding help near your home is easy.

With electronic filing options available, getting faster refunds through direct deposit becomes simpler with VITA and TCE assistance.

How do I apply?

How do I apply for the VITA or TCE program? No application is needed to use this service. Visit the site locator near you or call 800-906-9887.


Financial Assistance Programs for Small Businesses

30. U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)

The USDA supports small businesses in the farming world. It offers farm loans, helps with housing, and provides funds for new farmers. These programs promote economic growth in rural areas and ensure that small farms can grow and last.

Want to improve your farm business? The USDA has options for you. Check their website or call them to learn more about loans and grants. This could be your chance to invest in your agricultural dreams!

How do I apply?

Check the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for more information.


31. Small Business Lending Fund

You might get help from the Small Business Lending Fund if you own a small business. This fund is part of the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s offering. It helps companies like yours grow and create jobs.

If your business needs money, this fund could be an option.

You can use this money to run your business, such as payroll taxes or expanding your products. The goal is to support you so your business strengthens and serves your community better.

How do I apply?

Check if you qualify and see how these funds can improve your operations!


Additional Federal Programs For Low-income Families

32. Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a powerful tool for putting money back in your pocket. It’s designed for working people with low to moderate incomes. When you qualify, the EITC reduces the tax owed and may refund you.

Many states have their own EITC to help even more.

Because of this credit, you might get a larger refund than expected. To claim it, file a federal tax return with the proper forms. Don’t miss this chance to boost your income and ease financial stress.

How do I apply?

Go to the EITC page to check if you qualify.


33. Head Start Program

Head Start allows your young kids to learn and grow for free or at a low cost if you’re short on money. It’s not just about learning numbers and letters. Your children get healthy food, play safely, and see doctors—all while you get support as their parent.

And it connects with other helpful programs, like Medicaid and housing help, so your whole family can benefit. If your child is from birth to age 5, think of Head Start as a boost in the race toward a bright future.

It works with things like health insurance from the Affordable Care Act, so you have less to worry about while your child learns and plays.

How do I apply?

Visit the Head Start page for more information.


34. Federal Pell Grant Program

The Federal Pell Grant Program helps students with little money go to college. It’s not a loan, so you don’t have to repay it. If you need money for school and don’t have much, this grant is meant for you.

To get a Pell Grant, the government looks at your family’s income, how much school costs, and whether you’re full-time or part-time.

A big plus is that these grants can cover many expenses like tuition, books, and living costs while studying. They make college possible for many who thought they couldn’t afford it.

How do I apply?

You must apply using the FAFSA form every year to see if you qualify.


Do I qualify for any government assistance?

Let’s dive into what it takes to get started!

Eligibility Criteria

To get government help, you must meet specific rules. Each program has different guidelines. For jobless benefits, you must have lost your job without it being your fault. Also, it would be best if you fit into the state’s income and work rules.

Low-income families can apply for TANF, but each state decides who gets it. If you cannot work for a year because of health issues, SSDI might be an option.

SSI helps the elderly, blind, and disabled who have little money and resources. To get student aid through the FAFSA, you must show that you need financial help and check off other requirements, like citizenship and education levels.

Online Portals and Applications

You can apply for many government assistance programs online. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has portals like the Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA) program to help you quickly find support from your computer or phone.

You can go to their websites, fill out the application forms, and submit them with a click. Make sure you have all your info ready.

For some programs, apps are available to apply right from your smartphone. This makes it quick to get things done while on the go. Use keywords like “health insurance coverage” or “housing finance” in these apps to find what you need fast.

In-person Application Processes

Some government programs need you to apply face-to-face. This is true for specific healthcare and student aid applications. If you must talk directly with someone, local offices are there to help.

They will walk you through the forms and answer your questions.

For in-person help, bring important papers like I.D., income proof, and any other documents they ask for. Offices might be at schools like FAFSA or health departments for medical coverage.

Staff at these sites have the knowledge to guide you through each step of the process.

Documentation Required

You’ll need proof of income, such as pay stubs or tax returns. Also, bring identification, such as a driver’s license or state I.D.

Also, show where you live with bills or lease papers. For SNAP and TANF, take along bills and bank statements that show your expenses and what you own.

Healthcare programs might ask for a birth certificate or immigration papers. Remember to bring proof of any medical costs you have had. To get help with housing, bring your rental contract or home loan statements.

If facing eviction, an eviction letter is necessary, too. Students seeking loan forgiveness should be ready to present their loan details and how much they make at work.

To prove your claim, keep the proper documents handy for the ACP discount on computers. Always check exactly what each program needs before applying—this will ensure you’re all set when submitting requests for aid.

Additional Reading:
Feeling Unmotivated at Work? Here are 16 Tips to Get Motivated
How to Budget Money on a Low Income (6 Easy Steps)
Frugal Living Tips: 13 Ways to Save Money that Work (2024)
10 Ways to Save Money on a Tight Budget

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