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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1 Important Disclosures for Earnest.
To qualify, you must be a U.S. citizen or possess a 10-year (non-conditional) Permanent Resident Card, reside in a state Earnest lends in, and satisfy our minimum eligibility criteria. You may find more information on loan eligibility here: https://www.earnest.com/eligibility. Not all applicants will be approved for a loan, and not all applicants will qualify for the lowest rate. Approval and interest rate depend on the review of a complete application.
Earnest fixed rate loan rates range from 3.89% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). Variable rate loan rates range from 2.47% APR (with Auto Pay) to 5.87% APR (with Auto Pay). For variable rate loans, although the interest rate will vary after you are approved, the interest rate will never exceed 8.95% for loan terms 10 years or less. For loan terms of 10 years to 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 9.95%. For loan terms over 15 years, the interest rate will never exceed 11.95% (the maximum rates for these loans). Earnest variable interest rate loans are based on a publicly available index, the one month London Interbank Offered Rate (LIBOR). Your rate will be calculated each month by adding a margin between 1.82% and 5.50% to the one month LIBOR. The rate will not increase more than once per month. Earnest rate ranges are current as of Month/Day/Year, and are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility.
Auto Pay discount: If you make monthly principal and interest payments by an automatic, monthly deduction from a savings or checking account, your rate will be reduced by one quarter of one percent (0.25%) for so long as you continue to make automatic, electronic monthly payments. This benefit is suspended during periods of deferment and forbearance.
The information provided on this page is updated as of 08/21/18. Earnest reserves the right to change, pause, or terminate product offerings at any time without notice. Earnest loans are originated by Earnest Operations LLC. California Finance Lender License 6054788. NMLS # 1204917. Earnest Operations LLC is located at 302 2nd Street, Suite 401N, San Francisco, CA 94107. Terms and Conditions apply. Visit https://www.earnest.com/terms-of-service, email us at email@example.com, or call 888-601-2801 for more information on ourstudent loan refinance product.
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4 Important Disclosures for LendKey.
Refinancing via LendKey.com is only available for applicants with qualified private education loans from an eligible institution. Loans that were used for exam preparation classes, including, but not limited to, loans for LSAT, MCAT, GMAT, and GRE preparation, are not eligible for refinancing with a lender via LendKey.com. If you currently have any of these exam preparation loans, you should not include them in an application to refinance your student loans on this website. Applicants must be either U.S. citizens or Permanent Residents in an eligible state to qualify for a loan. Certain membership requirements (including the opening of a share account and any applicable association fees in connection with membership) may apply in the event that an applicant wishes to accept a loan offer from a credit union lender. Lenders participating on LendKey.com reserve the right to modify or discontinue the products, terms, and benefits offered on this website at any time without notice. LendKey Technologies, Inc. is not affiliated with, nor does it endorse, any educational institution.
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