If you are a low-income U.S. citizen looking for financial help, the U.S. government has implemented a variety of programs to assist you. Based on your situation, you may be eligible to receive benefits. Some factors that affect your eligibility include your age, medical history, financial needs and family makeup. These programs can provide shelter, food, medical care and more.
The government offers a range of specialized programs for military veterans, women, children and people with disabilities. Many of these programs are federally funded but are managed at the state level. In addition, many extend their eligibility to certain non-citizens. Learn more below about government programs that can ease your financial burdens if you are struggling to financially support yourself and your family.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)
The WIC program operates through thousands of clinics and agencies across the nation by providing federal grants to states. WIC’s goal is to bring healthy food to new mothers and their children. Though the eligible population can vary by state, the WIC program typically serves:
- Pregnant women through pregnancy and up to six weeks after birth.
- Women in postpartum who are not breastfeeding, up to 6 months after infant birth or after pregnancy ends.
- Breastfeeding mothers up to the infant’s first birthday.
- Children up to their fifth birthday.
- Infants up to their first birthday.
Those who join this program receive supplemental nutritious foods, nutrition education and counseling, health screenings and referrals to other welfare programs. WIC services can be found in county health departments, hospitals, schools and more. This program operates in all 50 U.S. states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories (Northern Mariana, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.)
Food Stamps (SNAP Food Benefits)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), previously known as “food stamps,” is a nutritional assistance program targeted toward low-income individuals and families. This federal program is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), but it operates at the state level. SNAP provides plastic electronic benefits transfer (EBT) cards that recipients can use to make food purchases.
Every month, SNAP will transfer a designated amount of funds to cardholders. Beneficiaries can then purchase eligible food items at grocery stores and local farmers markets that accept EBT cards.
You can apply for the SNAP benefits program online and in-person. The application process varies greatly from one state to the next. If you are a retailer or farmer’s market operator, SNAP can also work with you to assist your community.
The U.S. Unemployment Insurance (UI) program was implemented in a joint endeavor between the federal government and state agencies. The UI program’s main goal is to assist workers who are unemployed by providing financial assistance while they search for new job opportunities.
If you lose your job through no fault of your own, you may qualify for weekly or monthly benefits. You can also get help with many aspects of the job application process, including:
- Creating resumes.
- Applying for jobs.
- Researching job openings.
- Connecting with employers.
Apart from monthly paychecks, the UI program allows job applicants to apply for educational scholarships and connect with potential employers. Qualifications vary by state, so check your state’s website for information. You may need to adhere to certain rules to continue receiving benefits, such as showing proof of job hunting.
Government Grants & Loans
A grant is one way the government funds public services that benefit citizens. Many grants go toward federal benefit programs designed to assist individuals and families in need.
However, there are several types of government loans that are available to individuals for specific purposes. Some examples include:
- Disaster relief.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
The Supplemental Security Income program provides financial assistance to low-income citizens, individuals with disabilities and the elderly. It is designed to help recipients meet basic food, clothing and shelter needs. It is important to note that there are limits to who can receive SSI benefits. For instance, if you are in prison or have an unsatisfied felony on your record, you will not be eligible to receive benefits during those periods.
During the application process for the program, you must provide proof of identity, income, legal status, resources and more. Once you are accepted, you will likely receive benefits on a monthly basis.
There are several government programs designed specifically for military service members and their families. The Department of Veteran Affairs (VA) covers everything from health care and housing to education and retirement. If you are a low-income service member or spouse, there are agencies that can help you manage your lifestyle.
If you are a military member or veteran, you can manage your benefits and records through MilConnect, a self-service portal. Here you can:
- View your healthcare coverage.
- Transfer your GI Bill education benefits to family members.
- Add your family members in the Defense Enrollment Eligibility Reporting System (DEERS).
- Find the latest information and resources to manage your benefits.
Military members and veterans also have access to the National Resource Directory for Service Members and Veterans (NRD). It is a service that connects armed forces with local support for jobs, health, homelessness, housing and caregiving. Through the organization’s compensation service and insurance service, members receive financial security for life insurance, disability compensation and tax-free monetary benefits.
Medicaid is a federal health care program for low-income citizens. There are several factors that affect an individual’s eligibility for the program, including age, medical history, family size and income. Medicaid beneficiaries gain access to the program’s services, such as:
- Pre- and post-hospital discharge services.
- Diagnostic and treatment services.
- Laboratory and radiology services.
Recipients also have the option to use the services of nursing facilities, rural area clinics, pediatric institutions and more. Some states offer extended benefits in their Medicaid program. This can include physical therapy, dental services and prosthetics.