Many people don’t realize that there are free assistance options available during times of need. Aid can help for all kinds of situations from times of financial struggle, to obtaining a higher education, to hefty medical costs, and more. However, there are common misconceptions when it comes to free government aid. A lot of people think that they automatically qualify for assistance, however that is not the case. Free assistance is provided to people who meet eligibility requirements for government benefits. That is why free assistance isn’t just cash for the general public, but instead is provided through programs to help those in need of it most.
Tools to Find Assistance Opportunities
There are numerous options available for government assistance programs. The government wants to help people in all aspects of life from infant care, health care, job training, education, to nutrition, etc.! Not all programs are the same, but they are all funded by the government and are only meant for eligible recipients.
In order to receive assistance for your situation, you must first fill out an application for the program you are interested in. This form will allow you to check eligibility for government grant options. Not all eligibility for government assistance is the same, so you should see if you qualify before filing your application.
Benefits.gov was designed to be used as a tool to assist you in finding eligible government assistance programs. These aid options can be crucial to a family’s ability to handle their situation. It can be overwhelming to deal with bills piling up while still having people to take care of. It can be hard admitting that you need help, but government assistance can help manage financial situations.
In order to use Benefits.gov, go to the website, and click on either of the two options:
Benefits Finder: This is a survey that is designed to assess the best help options available based on your current situation. You will need to answer all of the questions and the questionnaire will show you a list of eligible assistance options. The survey will look through all available government aid options and will make it easier to see what you are able to qualify for.
Browse Benefits: Once you know what assistance benefits you could qualify for; you can use the Browse Benefits tool on Benefits.gov. You can even arrange the list of assistance by state, federal agency, or a specific category!
Benefits.gov will not be able to help you attain government grants. The reason is because these awards are only provided to people directly or to organizations. They are not designed to be provided as personal assistance. If you are interested in government grants instead of government assistance, then visit http://www.grants.gov to see what government grants are available and what you need to do to apply.
How Will Benefits.gov Know What Assistance Options I Could Qualify For?
Benefits.gov utilizes computer software to cross-reference the answers you provide in the benefit survey to a list of available beneficial programs. There are hundreds of federally funded assistance options available for the software to check your eligibility for. You can either choose to fill out the bare minimum of the survey, but it would be best to fill it out completely for better results!
If You Fill Out a Questionnaire on Benefits.gov, Why Does it Say That You Only “May” Qualify?
Government assistance will never be guaranteed until it is provided by the government-sponsored programs. There is only one way to tell if you are truly eligible for assistance. That is through filling out an application for the program you are interested in. Benefit qualifications are also constantly changing so you may have been eligible at some point, but then lost that eligibility.
Federal Assistance Options to Consider
While there are tools that you can use to search through assistance programs and grants, there are some federal programs that you can specifically keep in mind and inquire about when looking for benefits. Some popular aid options include:
- Housing Choice Voucher Program
- Low Income Housing Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Child’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
- Child Nutrition Programs
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Housing Choice Voucher Program
You may know this program as “Section 8 Housing”; regardless of how you know this program, it is important that you know how it helps a lot of Americans! This is an affordable housing assistance program provided by the government. Qualified recipients of this program receive housing vouchers that go towards housing costs like rent. It is important to note that not every property accepts these vouchers to cover the costs of rent. This limits which properties are available for people to move into. As a way to combat this obstacle, the government also provides tax incentives to landlords that accept these vouchers!
This program is very helpful to people that receive vouchers, but unfortunately it will likely take a while to actually receive benefits. Your local public housing authority (PHA) is the place where you can submit your application and receive more information about available housing aid in your areas at a local, state, and, and federal level. If approved after submitting an application, you’ll probably get placed on a waiting list. Waiting lists are long and it may be months or even years before you actually receive assistance.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Many Americans struggle to handle the costs of their utility bills. That is why the federal government created a program that addresses that issue. Benefits are provided to eligible recipients through home energy bill assistance, home weatherization, and minor energy related home repairs. One major advantage to receiving this assistance is the fact that individuals reduce their risk of unexpected accidents that occur from improper heating or cooling. You can find more information by calling the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) at 1-866-674-6327.
Another huge expense that Americans face is the cost of healthcare. In fact, unpaid medical bills are the country’s biggest source of debt that has been sent to collections. Medicaid is a federal health insurance program that can help qualified low-income individuals and families get health benefits they need for a low cost or even for free.
Child’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Sometimes families can be stuck in a difficult situation. When a family cannot afford the costly insurance premiums of a private insurance plan but don’t qualify for Medicaid, then they benefit from CHIP. This is a program that gives affordable medical and dental care health coverage to children until they are 19 years old. This coverage includes medical tests, screenings, hospital care, preventative care, medical supplies, and more.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The costs of housing, utility bills, and health insurance are all hefty expenses that Americans deal with. However, another expense that many deal with is the cost of food and groceries. That is why the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides SNAP to eligible recipients. Those that receive this program will get an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card that receives funds every month. The funds can be used towards food and groceries at retailers that accept this form of government assistance.
Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
Some populations of people may need more specialized assistance. That is why there is WIC. This program was designed with women, pregnant women, infants, and children up to five years old in mind. Qualified recipients can get vouchers, food, referrals of assistance, and education! You can get more information and apply at your local WIC office.
Child Nutrition Programs
The government also focuses on providing children assistance through a variety of child nutrition programs. Some of these programs are:
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
- School Breakfast Program (SBP)
- Special Milk Program (SMP)
Qualified students may be able to benefit from these programs if they attend a participating school.
National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
Public schools and nonprofit private schools can benefit from this program! NSLP provides nutritious and affordable meals to qualified children during the school year at participating schools.
School Breakfast Program (SBP)
It is extremely important that children are able to have breakfast to start the day. SBP reimburses schools and residential childcare institutions that operate breakfast programs.
Special Milk Program (SMP)
Children that drink milk can benefit in a number of ways. That is why qualified schools, and schools that participate in either the National School Lunch Program or School Breakfast Program can benefit from SMP. This is a program that reimburses the schools for the milk that they serve!
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Qualified seniors and those with disabilities may be able to benefit from SSI by receiving cash every month (potentially $536 a month!). Recipients of this program can use the funds towards food, clothing, housing, etc.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
This is a popular assistance option that can help eligible families for a specified window of time. The goal of this program is to help families achieve self sufficiency through a variety of forms of assistance like child care, job preparation, cash assistance, and more.
Other Options for Assistance Besides Federal Help
While there are several forms of assistance from a federal level, there may be additional options that can help. There may be aid from a local or state level that is only meant for people who live in specific locations. If you are interested in seeing what benefits are available near you, make sure to check out Benefits.gov. You may also be surprised to find that from seeing there is unclaimed money available that rightfully belongs to you.
You May Have Unclaimed Money
Money or assets that have not been claimed by their original owners after a specified period of time are considered unclaimed property. There is no centralized way to review your unclaimed money (but there’s a way to review by multiple states). That is why you can check by state through an online portal provided by your state treasurer or through other online tools that look for you. There are other ways that you can look for unclaimed money too like with public data, or outreach events.
Commonly Asked Questions
There are plenty of commonly asked questions that individuals have when it comes to free money opportunities, grants, assistance options, etc.
Are There Government Grant Scams?
Yes! There are plenty of government grant scams out there. That’s why you need to be vigilant with your personal information.
How do Government Grant Scammers Try to Trick People?
There are a lot of different ways that scammers may try to obtain sensitive information from their potential victims. Some of these ways are:
- Multiple means of communication
- Fraudulent official status
Multiple Means of Communication
There are plenty of ways that scammers may try to contact you. They can try to call you (and use fake caller IDs that make them look legit), or they may have ads online. You could even receive texts or emails about free government funds from scammers! That is why you need to be aware of all means of communication of which scammers may try to get in touch with you.
Fraudulent Official Status
There are plenty of ways that a scammer will try to appear legit. While some may use fake IDs when calling their potential victims, other methods include creating fake agency names that sound legit (but don’t actually exist).
There are so many different forms of assistance that can help from a local, state, and federal level. That is why you should review your options on sites like Benefits.gov to easily review available options. There may also be other assistance options that can help. It is important to get the help you need when you are dealing with financial hardships. However, make sure not to be too trusting when you are in need of support. There may be scammers that are trying to get your personal information. Take your time, review available programs, and check out sites that can help you improve your situation!