The federal and state governments have social welfare programs to help individuals and families in need. Many of these assistance programs help with everyday expenses, like utility bills, food, and housing. Certain people can even qualify for monthly payments to supplement their income.

Each program has eligibility requirements that applicants must meet to qualify for benefits. Requirements can vary, but they are often similar. Also, individuals who qualify for one program may automatically be eligible for another. Check out the benefits and qualifications for the following government programs.

About Energy Assistance

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program – locally managed – that helps families cover energy costs. The financial assistance can help pay for monthly energy bills, energy crises, energy-related repairs, and weatherization.

To meet the local LIHEAP eligibility requirements, applicants must have a household income less than the program’s limit. The maximum income depends on how many family members are part of the household. Bigger families can earn more and still qualify.

Households may automatically be eligible for LIHEAP benefits if they participate in other government programs, such as individuals participating in SNAP or SSI. Residents not currently enrolled in a welfare program can check with their state government for specific eligibility requirements based on income, available resources, and energy needs.

About Food Assistance

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) gives qualifying households an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card so they can use it to buy food. The state adds funds to EBT cards, and participants use them like debit cards to purchase healthy food products.

SNAP benefits can pay for fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, dairy goods, and other approved products. However, participants cannot use benefits for nonfood items, alcohol, tobacco, or supplements. Similarly, SNAP benefits will not pay for some food, like meals hot at the time of purchase.

SNAP is one part of the federal food assistance programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has the following food assistance programs: SNAP, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the School Breakfast Program, the National School Lunch Program and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).

Each food assistance program. targets a specific at-risk population, including children, seniors, and expecting or post-pregnancy mothers. Like SNAP, these programs have limits on what participants can purchase. For instance, parents and children receive WIC benefits in “packages” that dictate which food items they can buy.

Eligibility for SNAP and other food assistance programs depends on the applicants’ household income and size. Some applicants, like those older than 60 years of age, may have higher income or resource limits. And, residents in Alaska and Hawaii have higher income limits due to the higher cost of living in those areas.

About Tax Refunds

IRS tax refunds need to be filed by almost every income-earning adult unless their yearly earnings are below a certain amount. You can file taxes online free of charge if you are legally required to submit your earnings.

The IRS free tax filing tool is available to everyone, and you could receive filing guidance if you earn less than $73,000. The filing requirement depends on your filing status, age, and gross income. You may still need to file a federal refund even if you make less than the income minimum.

When you are ready to file your taxes, you can mail your tax forms or submit your information online. Electronic filings and direct deposit refunds are the fastest methods to get your money. Snail mail and paper checks can add days to your waiting time.

The IRS refund schedule is no more than three weeks after the agency receives your filing. The IRS will process your return and send your refund as soon as possible. However, incomplete filings, errors, amendments, and late filings will delay your tax refund.

About Housing Assistance

Many people call the Housing Choice Voucher Program Section 8, as it is the eighth section of the United States Housing Act of 1937. The housing program makes monthly rent more affordable for qualifying households by paying for a part of it. The local public housing agencies (PHAs) send money to the landlord on the renter’s behalf, and they pay the remaining amount.

Unlike public housing, participants can choose where they want to rent. However, the choice must meet the following conditions: the landlord accepts Section 8 vouchers, the renters’ monthly contribution is not more than 30 percent of their earnings and it has a fair market rental price.

Like other welfare programs, eligibility requirements depend on the applicants’ income and household size. PHAs may prioritize some applicants, such as those with disabilities or experiencing homelessness. Some applicants may be ineligible for the program if they have an eviction history or were convicted of a crime.

Participants’ financial assistance amount depends on eligibility factors, fair market rent, and utility allowances. Fair market rates are set in the 40th to 50th percentile for the area.

Unfortunately, participants can lose their eligibility if they break program or tenant rules. Households can lose their vouchers if they lie on their applications, do not report an income change, or are convicted of criminal activity.

About Income Assistance

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides payments to certain applicants with limited income and resources and a qualifying condition, such as a disability or blindness. Applicants 65 years of age with low incomes may also meet the eligibility requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).

In addition to having a low income and few financial resources, applicants must meet the SSA’s definition of “insured.” The SSA looks at applicants’ work history to determine if they have worked long enough and earned enough to pay Social Security taxes.

The SSI application process can depend on the individual’s age. For children younger than 18 years of age, parents and guardians can submit a child disability report and wait for a representative to contact them. Individuals between 18 to 64 years of age can apply for SSI and disability benefits online, by phone, or in person. People 65 years of age or older can only apply for SSI by phone and in person.

In addition to federal SSI benefits, participants may receive state-administered supplement payments. However, this additional payment is not available in Arizona, Arkansas, Mississippi, North Dakota, the Northern Mariana Islands, Tennessee, and West Virginia. 

Many SSI recipients also qualify for government health insurance coverage through the Medicaid program. Applicants 65 years of age and older may receive health insurance from the Medicare program.

While Medicaid eligibility is based on income and Medicare eligibility is based on age, both can pay for doctor bills, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. In certain circumstances, low-income elderly applicants can receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits plus SSI.

Likewise, SSI recipients may automatically qualify for food assistance through SNAP. The application for SSI and SNAP are the same in some states, and individuals can apply for both at the same time.