Assistant programs such as food stamps, unemployment insurance and Medicaid are offered by federal and state branches of government in order to provide invaluable benefits to applicants in difficult situations. Each program has its own qualifications that must be met in order to receive benefits as well as individual application processes. In some cases, you may be able to apply for more than one program with one application.
In the sections that have been provided below, you will learn more about the various assistant programs that you may qualify for. By reviewing each program, you may find that you are eligible for benefits through a program that you were not even aware of.
Cash Assistance Programs
Handled by the U.S. Department of Labor, Unemployment Insurance (UI) protects workers who have become unemployed through no fault of their own from financial burden as the program provides monetary benefits to qualifying applicants. UI Benefit amounts are determined by the amount of wages earned previously as well as state maximum benefit amounts and other state-related regulations. In order to be eligible for benefits, applicants must have worked for a set period of time, earned a minimum amount of wages and lost employment through no fault of their own.
Social Security Income (SSI) benefits provide monthly payments to low income individuals and couples that are either disabled or elderly that meet qualifications including asset limits, income limits, categorical definitions and other restrictions. Benefit amounts may vary based upon countable income, the current federal maximum benefit amount and whether or not an applicant’s state offers supplemental payments in addition to federal benefits.
The SSI program is governed and administered by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA). In cases where an applicant lives in a state that offers additional monetary benefits, those benefits will either also be handled by the SSA or the state department, depending on the state.
While similar, Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) offers monetary benefits to qualifying disabled adults who are younger than 65 years of age and whom have earned a set number of “work credits”. Additionally, a disabled person’s spouse and dependent children may also be eligible to receive partial benefits. However, only adults older than 18 years of age are able to receive full SSDI disability benefits.
Finally, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program offers assistance for very low-income families with children for a limited, set period of time. The program is designed to assist families in the following:
- Caring for children
- Ending dependency on government benefits
- Promoting job preparation
- Reducing out-of-wedlock pregnancies
Food Assistance Programs
Food stamps, now referred to as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), strive to ensure that low income households and families have access to nutritious and healthy foods while aiding beneficiaries in becoming more self-sufficient. SNAP food stamps provide monthly benefits to applicants that meet eligibility requirements such as income, citizenship and immigration status and work-related requirements.
After an applicant is approved for benefits, he or she will only receive benefits for a period of three months if he or she does not meet work requirements. Benefits must be renewed, typically every six months and can continue so long as an applicant remains eligible for assistance.
Formerly known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, WIC is designed to safeguard the health of low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women as well as infants and children up to the age of five who are considered to have a nutritional risk.
WIC eligibility is not only categorical, but it is only available to low income applicants. Additional eligibility requirements will vary by beneficiary category. For example, a woman who is eligible for WIC, but is not breastfeeding, will receive benefits for a shorter period of time in comparison to a woman that is breastfeeding. Through this program, beneficiaries are able to receive free nutritious foods that can be found on an approved food list.
Housing Assistance Programs
Section 8 Housing
Section 8 Housing offers monetary assistance towards the cost of housing for qualifying families, disabled individuals and senior citizens. Through subsidized housing, beneficiaries are able to afford decent, safe and sanitary housing, including apartments, single family homes and townhomes. A Housing Choice Voucher pays for a portion of a family or individual’s rental costs and the beneficiary is responsible for paying the remainder of these costs. Eligibility requirements are primarily based on income limits and individual circumstance.
If interested in purchasing a home, there are a number of assistance programs that you may qualify for. A Fannie Mae loan is a government backed loan that is available to applicants that meet income, debt-to income ratio, credit score, credit history and loan maximum requirements. Rather than provide a mortgage directly, this program guarantees the loan that a lender will provide, therefore enticing lenders to offer applicants better mortgage terms.
FHA Home Loans
Similarly, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) home loans work much the same way with guarantees placed upon a loan that is provided through private lenders. However, this program does not require as high of a credit score, down payment or credit history in comparison to Fannie Mae. While eligibility requirements are considerably lower, this type of program can cost more over the life of the loan.
VA Home Loans
A Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) home loan can offer numerous home-buying benefits to qualifying active duty military personnel, veterans and eligible family members. In some cases, mortgages are offered through the VA directly, but in most cases the VA will back a set amount of your loan in order to ensure that private lenders offer you better mortgage terms. In fact, federal law requires lenders to follow certain guidelines on these terms for qualifying participants. For example, 90 percent of beneficiaries are not required to pay a down payment when purchasing a home.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) offers energy assistance to both low income renter’s and homeowner’s who need assistance with heating costs. In some states, benefits are also extended to aid in cooling costs. Income limits for this program do vary based upon categorical requirements. For example, elderly individuals may have a higher income limit than an adult. In most cases, funds are limited and offered to qualifying applicants on either a first come first serve basis or at a preference for the elderly, households with children or households with a disabled individual.
You may qualify for Medicaid health insurance if you are of low income and you meet additional state determined requirements. In some states, eligibility requirements may also be categorical with benefits only offered to individuals who have children living within the home, the elderly or disabled persons. Medicaid coverage may also vary between states as the federal government mandates some, but not all covered services. For example, services such as preventative care, visits with a physician and lab work are included. Each individual state determines “optional coverage” services, such as dental care, vision care and prescription drug coverage.
Child Health Insurance Program (CHIP) healthcare offers health insurance to children who are under the age of 19 who meet eligibility requirements, including income guidelines. The program is designed to offer health insurance to children whose families make too much to qualify for Medicaid, but still do not make enough to purchase private health insurance. Coverage can vary between states, but CHIP generally offers health insurance that is comparable to that of the state’s Medicaid program.
The TRICARE Program is a health insurance program offered to active and retired military personnel and their qualifying family members. There are a number of different plans available to beneficiaries, based upon categorical qualifications and the location that an individual lives within. Additionally, TRICARE for life was introduced in recent years in order to aid in coverage after a beneficiary has become eligible for Medicare.
Medicare is a Federal health insurance program that offers benefits to senior citizens who are 65 years of age or older as well as certain younger people with disabilities. This program offers comprehensive coverage benefits with the ability for participants to essentially “build their own health plan” by selecting various parts of Medicare to enroll in.
- Medicare Part A offers primarily hospital insurance but is free to most participants of the program.
- Medicare Part B provides coverage for medical services such as lab work, x-rays, visits with a physician and more. Part B also includes premium, coinsurance and copayment fees.
- Medicare Part D can be added onto a plan, offering prescription drug coverage.
- An enrollee can also choose a Medicare Part C plan that is available within their area in order to obtain a variety of services. However, the services covered will very between different Part C plans.
Beneficiaries who are also low income may be eligible to obtain Medicaid on top of their Medicare coverage.
Education Assistance Programs
You will need to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if you intend to apply for student loans or federal grants. Completing one of these forms grants students access to a variety of sources for financial assistance. Additionally, a number of states, colleges and universities require students to complete a form as information from the form is used to determine eligibility for state and school aid that may be available.
Sallie Mae Student Loans
Sallie Mae student loans are private loans that are offered through banks and other financial institutions and can be used towards the cost of furthering education. These loans differ from federal loans and will require students to meet certain eligibility requirements, including credit score and credit history related qualifications. Limits on the amount that you can borrow often vary between lenders and, generally, you are not able to change your repayment plan after taking out the loan, regardless of your financial need.
Established in 1944, the GI bill has aided millions of veterans in paying for college, training programs and graduate schools. This program allows qualifying veterans and their family members obtain funds to cover some or all costs of their education. There are many different programs beneath the GI bill, each with its own eligibility requirements and maximum assistance allotment.