It’s not uncommon for low income households to need assistance. When bills start piling up and interest accumulates, it can be almost impossible to dig yourself out of debt.
There are several low income assistance programs available at the state and federal levels that families and older individuals can take advantage of. Accordingly, here’s a closer look at 10 programs that can help you stretch your income and find financial respite:
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally-funded initiative to help low income households with their heating and cooling costs. In other words, the program can assist with bill payments, energy crisis assistance, and energy-related home repairs.
Eligibility is based on the household size-to-income ratio. However, if you participate in other government assistance programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), or certain benefits for veterans, you may automatically qualify for the program. Learn more about LIHEAP here.
Similar to LIHEAP, the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) works with low income families to reduce their energy bills by making their homes more energy efficient. The state provides funding and local weatherization agencies handle all upgrades.
Like LIHEAP, there are certain household-to-income requirements to determine eligibility, and the income restrictions are a bit higher. However, if you’re receiving SSI, you may automatically qualify. However, priority goes to individuals age 60 or older, households where at least one member has a disability, or families with children.
Earned Income Tax Credit
Low and moderate income households may be able to reduce their tax liability with the earned income tax credit, and in some cases, may entitle you to a refund. However, the requirements for the EITC can be a bit confusing, so it’s best to work with a tax professional who can help you determine your eligibility. Find out more about how to qualify for the tax credit here.
Community Action Agencies
There are more than 1,100 community action agencies in the U.S., each offering various services to low or moderate income households. These programs can provide help with paying bills and work with households to get long term support. Find a list of community action agencies here.
Low Income Housing Assistance
Housing and Urban Development (HUD) helps millions of families and low income individuals pay for housing costs each year. The program is federally funded and provides financial assistance with rent, security deposits, and eviction prevention. The program also works directly with complex managers and owners to subsidize rent for low-income tenants.
USDA Rural Development Rental Assistance Program
Similar to HUD income-based housing, the USDA rental assistance program provides vouchers and subsidies to low income households living in qualifying housing. Specifically, the program helps ensure that no more than 30% of your household income goes toward housing costs. It operates mostly in rural communities and small towns with a goal of attracting developers to these areas.
Those who qualify for this program are usually elderly, low income working families, persons with disabilities, and households with no income. For example, one requirement is the inability to pay the standard rent with only 30% of your adjusted total income.
Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA)
Low income individuals can get free or low-cost healthcare through the federally-funded HRSA, even if you don’t have insurance. In short, the agency works with healthcare facilities to provide medical and dental care. As a result, patients only pay what they can afford.
Services typically include wellness checkups, dental care, prenatal and delivery, immunizations, medications, and sick visits. In addition, you can contact your local government agencies to find free clinics in your area, or visit freeclinics.com to see a list of providers in your state.
WhyHunger National Hunger Hotline
With rising medical costs and fixed incomes, many older individuals face tough decisions. For instance, either pay for medication and healthcare or be able to put food on the table. The WhyHunger National Hunger Hotline can direct you to local programs that provide groceries and meals. Also, it can connect you with other social services that can offer additional nutritional assistance. You can call the hotline toll-free at 1-866-348-6479.
Lifeline Cell Phone Service
Powered by Virgin Mobile, the Assurance Wireless Cell Phone Service provides free wireless services to low-income individuals. In addition, participants may be eligible if they receive other assistance benefits (e.g. SNAP, SSI, etc), or based on household income.
The program is limited to one account per household and is intended to provide a reliable means of communication. Visit their website to see whether your area participates, and to apply online. If you qualify, this can be a great way to save on phone costs.
Assurance Wireless is one of many cell phone assistance programs. You can check with local resources to learn about others that are available in your area.
Learn more about Assurance Wireless here.
Advantage Credit Counseling Service
It’s impossible to get ahead when you’re continually buckling under financial stress. To combat debt at the source, Advantage Credit Counseling Service is one of many non-profit agencies in the U.S. that helps people take control of their finances. Their debt management programs and bankruptcy counseling provide valuable information and advice to help individuals better manage their finances. Above all, most of their services are free of charge.
It’s important to note that these programs are just a few of the hundreds of low income assistance programs available. Explore local options in your community, along with other federal and state programs to fill in the financial gaps.
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