If you need help putting food on the table or keeping the lights on, you’re not alone. According to the Federal Reserve’s report on the economic well-being of U.S. households in 2016, an estimated 30% of American families are struggling to make ends meet.
When you can’t pay all your bills, there’s only so much you can cut from your budget. Even if you’ve already slashed your grocery bill and stopped making nonessential purchases, you might still come up short.
That’s where free money from the government can help. It might sound like a scam or a fantasy, but assistance is available in a wide range of areas.
8 ways free money from the government can help you
There are federal and state programs that exist to help people at every stage of their lives, from childhood to retirement. Whether you need a little extra money to pay the mortgage or you need longer-term assistance for child care, here’s how to get free money from the government so you can get back on your feet.
1. Look for child care assistance
If you’re a parent, you know how expensive child care can be. Day care or even hiring a babysitter can eat up a significant portion of your income, leaving you with too little to pay the bills.
Each state has a Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF), which offers income-based financial assistance to pay for quality child care. Depending on where you live and your income, you could be eligible for a subsidized or low-cost program, freeing up more money for other essentials.
Contact your state’s CCDF office to learn about eligibility requirements and how to apply for child care assistance.
2. Check out housing resources
In 2017, more than 676,000 foreclosure filings were reported in the nation. To help people stay in their homes, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) issues grants to the Homeownership Preservation Foundation.
The organization connects people with HUD-certified counselors to help them create a plan to stay in their home. Counselors can also connect you with resources to help you through a tough time, such as a job loss, so that you can keep your house. To get personalized assistance, call 1-888-995-4673.
3. Find a cell phone or internet service program
If you need phone or internet access, you can get financial assistance through the Lifeline program. Depending on your income, you could qualify for subsidized phone or internet service.
To qualify for the Lifeline program, your household income must be less than 135% of the federal poverty guidelines. You’ll have to show proof of income, such as recent pay stubs, when you apply.
You can also qualify for Lifeline if you or someone in your household participate in one of the following assistance programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Supplemental Social Security
- Federal Public Housing Assistance
- Veterans Pension and Survivors Benefit
- Tribal programs
You can find more information and sign up through the Lifeline program website.
4. Obtain college tuition aid
The cost of college can be prohibitively expensive for many low-income individuals. However, there are some federal programs available that can make college more affordable. If you’re trying to figure out how to get free money for school from the government before applying for student loans, it’s important to know about the following four grants:
- Pell Grants: With Pell Grants, low-income undergraduate students can receive up to $5,920 per year for college, as of 2018.
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG): Undergraduate students with an exceptional financial need can qualify for FSEOG and receive up to $4,000 per year.
- Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) Grant: If you plan on becoming an elementary or secondary school teacher, you can get up to $3,736 per year for college expenses, as of 2018.
- Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant: If your parent or guardian was a member of the U.S. Armed Forces and died during their service after the events of 9/11, you could be eligible for up to $5,529 in financial assistance per year.
To apply for federal grants, you must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid.
5. Get help paying utility bills
You might be surprised to find out that you can get free money from the government to pay bills, but it’s true. The government operates several programs to help you cover the cost of essentials.
If you’re pregnant or responsible for a child under the age of 19 and have a small income, you could qualify for financial assistance through the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. You can get aid to help pay for utilities, child care, and even transportation. Visit your state’s TANF program website for application information.
6. Receive money for groceries
Feeding your family, especially if you have children, can be challenging when you’re short on cash. There are two main ways to get free money from the government for food:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): Low-income people can qualify for SNAP benefits, which you can use to buy food for your household. In most states, you can apply for SNAP online.
- Women, Infants and Children (WIC): Through WIC, pregnant women, those who are breastfeeding, and postpartum women can get financial assistance to buy supplemental foods. You can also qualify for WIC if you have children under the age of 5 if they’re found to be at nutritional risk. To apply, contact your local WIC agency.
7. Qualify for a health insurance credit
Health insurance is expensive, and many low-income families opt to go without it to save money. But doing so leads to fines and puts you at substantial risk. If you have a medical emergency, you could end up broke.
Depending on your income, you could qualify for a health insurance premium credit. That means you could receive a tax credit that covers the cost of your health insurance premiums. You can find out if you qualify for a premium credit through HealthCare.gov.
Another option to consider is the Children’s Health Insurance Program. Eligible families can get comprehensive health care for their children, including mental health and dental benefits.
8. Check out student loan repayment options
If you’re struggling to keep up with your education debt, you can get free money from the government to repay your student loans. In some cases, you could get some or all of your federal student loans forgiven through the following programs:
- Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF): If you work for a qualifying nonprofit or government agency, you could have all of your Direct Loans forgiven through PSLF after making 10 years of payments.
- Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program: If you teach full time for five years at a low-income school, the government might forgive up to $17,500 in student loans through the Teacher Loan Forgiveness Program.
Getting the help you need
When your income isn’t enough to pay the bills, finding free money from the government can help you pay for essentials. From financial assistance for health insurance to getting cell service, there are programs in place you can use to get back on track.
If you need help and either don’t qualify for federal programs or need additional financial assistance, you can use these charitable resources to cover the basics.
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