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The federal government established several programs to help those in need. Low-income households and individuals financially struggling may apply for assistance from their state. Each state is responsible for running these social welfare programs, and eligibility requirements vary by area.
State assistance programs can help pay for living costs like rent, food, utility bills, and more. Residents will need to submit applications and prove they meet the qualifications for payments. Check out the top government programs that help households in need.
About Rental Assistance
Although most people refer to housing assistance as Section 8, the program’s official name is the Housing Choice Voucher Program since participants can choose their housing. The state government pays a portion of the rent on behalf of the household, also known as vouchers. The voucher award is the amount the program will pay, and the renter will pay the remaining amount.
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On the other hand, public housing does not give individuals a housing choice. If the state approves a family for public housing, they can live in the available rental for significantly less than market value. Instead of paying a landlord, the government owns public housing and offers more affordable monthly payments.
The eligibility requirements for the Housing Choice Voucher Program and public housing mainly depend on an applicant’s housing income. The local public housing agency (PHA) determines income qualifications based on the applicant’s family size and the area’s median earnings.
Other requirements include: being U.S. citizens or eligible non-citizens, having earnings less than 50 percent of the median income for the area and choosing a rental home that meets program safety and hygiene standards.
The federal government requires states to provide 75 percent of rental vouchers to residents with earnings less than 30 percent of the median income for the area. Likewise, PHAs may prioritize seniors, have disabilities, or are homeless. Many areas have a waiting list since the demand for housing assistance exceeds the supply of funding.
About Nutrition Assistance
The average monthly cost for groceries in 2023 is $655 for U.S. households of two people, but bigger families usually pay more. A thrifty family of four is likely to spend close to $1,000 each month, which is around 40 percent of a household’s income if they straddle the poverty line.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides low-income households with funds to buy healthy foods. Like other social welfare programs, applicants must meet income and resource requirements. Income limits vary based on the number of family members in the household and where the applicants live.
Households with elderly or disabled family members have more lenient requirements. Similarly, applicants in Alaska and Hawaii have higher income limits.
Qualified applicants will receive funds for food on an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card, which they can use at approved retailers. SNAP beneficiaries can receive food assistance for their entire certification period. Before this time ends, participants can recertify to continue to receive payments.
Monthly SNAP benefits depend on the household size and income. The state deducts 30 percent of the household’s earnings from the maximum allotment for their family size.
Approved grocery stores should have a sign in the window or on the door declaring if they accept EBT cards. SNAP beneficiaries can use funds to buy: bread and cereals, dairy products, fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, and fish, snack foods and non-alcoholic beverages, and food-producing seeds and plants.
Participants are not allowed to use funds for alcohol, tobacco products, vitamins, medicines, and non-food items. SNAP benefits cannot purchase hot “ready-to-eat” foods, even from an approved grocery store.
About Tax Refunds
An IRS refund can put quite a few additional dollars in your pocket. However, before you can get your refund, you will need to file forms with both the federal and state government, depending on the place you live and the income you earn.
Filing your 1040 form or other tax document is your opportunity to request owed funds from the government. On your IRS tax form, you can claim the proper Child Tax Credit amount if you did not receive your full payment. Tax credit discrepancies can occur when the IRS does not have the most up-to-date information. For example, if you recently had a child, the federal government may not know about your entitled payment until you file your tax return.
Likewise, you can claim any remaining Recovery Rebate Credit. The government might not have sent you a stimulus payment if you were someone’s dependent in 2022.
About Energy Bill Help
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps cover utility costs for households experiencing an energy emergency or crisis. LIHEAP can pay for energy costs for electricity, coal, gas, kerosene, oil, and more. In addition to energy bills, the program can pay for weatherization and minor home energy-related repairs.
About half of the states have energy assistance for heating and cooling, but some colder areas only provide funding during the winter. For instance, the following states only offer heating assistance; Alaska, Colorado, Connecticut, Idaho, Illinois, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
LIHEAP prioritizes applicants with household members who fall under the following categories: disabled (total and permanent disability or blind), elderly (60 years of age or older), energy burden (measured by income compared to utility bills), low income (those with earnings at or less than the poverty level), veterans (former servicemembers) and young children (younger than 6 years of age).
Applicants can apply for regular assistance or crisis assistance. Low-income residents can apply for regular LIHEAP assistance during open application periods. Applicants can request crisis assistance if their utilities are at risk of disconnection.
About Unemployment Benefits
Workers who have lost employment through no fault of their own may qualify for weekly payments while looking for another job. Unemployment Insurance (UI) or Unemployment Compensation (UC) pays former employees a portion of their previous earnings for a set period. Unlike other social welfare programs, participants will need to recertify for compensation weekly.
Businesses with a specific number of full-time employees must pay the Federal Unemployment Tax Act (FUTA) tax that funds states’ unemployment programs. The government can find these companies thousands of dollars for each qualifying worker if they fail to pay their FUTA requirement.
Typically, only employed by these tax-paying businesses could apply for UI benefits. However, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act expanded eligibility requirements to include: employees, independent contractors, sole proprietors and gig workers.
However, self-employed individuals may no longer qualify in states that ended the eligibility expansion on September 6, 2021 – Labor Day. Self-employed residents may still apply for benefits, but their state may deny their application if they do not meet certain employment requirements.
Qualified applicants may have lost employment entirely or had a reduction in hours through no fault of their own. Workers must have earned enough during the past 12 to 18 months and paid their taxes to receive benefits. For instance, an applicant may not be eligible if they only worked one day for an employer.