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Understanding Government Assistance

Government assistance programs like Medicaid help millions of low-income citizens afford their basic needs every year, from healthcare to rent. With the help of food stamps, families can purchase nutritional food items each month, while other programs provide more general cash assistance. Some even include additional benefits, such as job search support and career workshops to help beneficiaries find a long-term solution for their financial trouble.

Eligibility requirements and income restrictions for each government program varies widely by state. For example, eligibility for Social Security benefits may be based on age and disability or medical status as well. Other government programs are more widely available, such as home loan assistance and grants for college. Read on learn more about these government assistance programs and the benefits they provide.

Learn About Cash Assistance Programs

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, is a federal program that provides needy families with cash benefits on a temporary basis. Through this program, low-income families may qualify for assistance in paying for food, housing and energy expenses, as well as other costs like child care. Since this is a temporary assistance program, low-income families can typically only collect benefits for a lifetime maximum of 60 months. However, specific restrictions vary by state.

Two types of Social Security benefits are also available to supplement the incomes of qualifying beneficiaries. For instance, SSI benefits help to supplement the incomes of financially-needy beneficiaries who are blind, disabled or of a certain age. Through this program, supplemental income payments can be used to cover basic shelter, food and clothing expenses.

In addition, Social Security Disability benefits are also available to qualifying workers who can no longer earn a living due to a sudden life-threatening medical condition or severe disability. However, this program does not assist low-income households like many other types of Social Security assistance.

Instead, SSDI benefits are only available to those who have worked and paid Social Security taxes for a sufficient amount of time. In some cases, a qualified applicant’s family members may also be able to claim disability benefits.

Unemployment insurance is another type of assistance program for applicants facing a sudden loss of income. If workers lose their jobs through no fault of their own, they may qualify to receive unemployment payments until they find a new job, or their benefits run out.

Find out About Food Assistance Programs

Food stamps are available to qualifying low-income households under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Through the SNAP food stamps program, low-income households can use their benefits to purchase fruits and vegetables, breads and cereals and other acceptable food items.

Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, is another food assistance program that benefits low-income recipients. However, only pregnant or breastfeeding women, non-breastfeeding postpartum women and children younger than five years of age can qualify. If women or children are eligible for assistance under one of the previously mentioned programs, they may automatically qualify for benefits under this program as well.

About Housing Assistance Programs

Federal Housing Administration loans, or FHA loans, are one of several government assistance options that are available to qualifying homebuyers. To qualify for this type of loan when purchasing a home, borrowers typically need to meet credit requirements and be able to make a down payment of at least 3.5 percent.

As another option, the Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers VA home loans to assist veterans, service members and their family members who wish to purchase a home. With these affordable loan options, qualifying borrowers receive lower interest rates on their mortgage financing, and they typically do not need to make a down payment or pay for mortgage insurance.

Section 8 housing is another federal program that helps low-income beneficiaries afford safe and comfortable private housing. Typically, qualifying recipients of this program include families and those who are elderly or disabled.

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, is another type of housing benefit. This program helps low-income families to pay for their home’s heating and cooling costs. While program beneficiaries typically need to meet income restrictions for the specific size of their household, others can automatically qualify for these benefits if they participate in other assistance programs.

Learn About Health Benefits

Medicare is a federal health insurance program for beneficiaries who are 65 or older or hold a disability. This federal program also insures those with permanent kidney failure. Different types of insurance coverage under this program include hospital insurance (Part A), medical insurance (Part B) and prescription drug coverage (Part D).

While Medicaid coverage is another type of federal health insurance program, it is only available to low-income beneficiaries who meet income standards or fall into a mandatory eligibility group. Several mandatory eligibility groups include SSI beneficiaries and low-income pregnant women or children.

If lower-income households with children do not qualify for Medicaid, they may be able to receive low-cost medical coverage through the Children’s Health Insurance Program. CHIP is an affordable healthcare option that provides uninsured children with access to comprehensive medical care for various health-related services. In some states, the program also benefits pregnant women.

Moreover, the TRICARE program insures qualifying service members and their families, including former spouses and surviving family members. Other beneficiaries include Medal of Honor recipients and members of the National Guard or Army Reserve.

What are the Education Assistance Programs?

Students may complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid if they wish to apply for college grants, work-study opportunities and other types of government financial aid. By completing the FAFSA, students can receive funds for their education goals. Different types of grants include:

  • Federal Pell Grants.
  • Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grants.
  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG).
  • Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grants.

Additionally, students can use this same FAFSA application to apply for work-study jobs and federal student loans. Different types of federal student loans include Direct Subsidized or Unsubsidized Loans, Direct PLUS Loans and Direct Consolidation Loans.

In addition, the GI Bill helps to fund the college or professional training goals of qualifying servicemembers and their families. In order to qualify for these education benefits, applicants must have served on active duty or been a member of the Selected Reserve. If veterans or their dependents qualify for these benefits, they will receive funding for all or part of their schooling, depending on their specific situation.