How to Get Free Government Assistance (If You Fall on Hard Times)

When everyone was hoping 2020 was finally going to be their year, 2020 had different plans – like a toxic political climate, racial unrest, and a catastrophic in more ways than one Pandemic.

Over 60 million Americans lost work, whether permanent or temporarily thus far, and the data from previous years speaks for itself. Still, millions of Americans were already living too close to the poverty line (or below it already) when the 2020 Coronavirus Pandemic hit.

So while it’s not anyone’s goal in life to have to rely on or use government assistance for an extended period of time, there are resources out there for those who fall on hard times.

Today, we will share the government programs and a list of the possible services you can access to help you find available funds and free money provided to you during tough times.

Note: The Federal Government Benefits website has links to assistance programs and grants that you can access and read about here. 

How to Get Free Money From the Government

COVID Relief Funds

Update: 12/21/2020

As of Sunday, December 20th, senate leaders agreed to establish a  temporary $300 per week supplemental jobless benefits to those directly impacted by job loss due to the Pandemic.

Additionally, most Americans will see another $600 direct stimulus payments ($75,000 income threshold). This is 50% less than the March 2020 $1,200 stimulus payment provided by the CARES Act. Lastly, another round of subsidies will be provided for hard-hit businesses, money for schools, and benefits for health care providers and renters facing eviction will also be included in the latest bill.

For more information regarding COVID Relief Funds, visit the Department of Health and Human Services. 

Unemployment Benefits

One of the most commonly used programs for US Citizens in need of public assistance or support during difficult times is unemployment benefits. According to the US website, there are programs for:

  • Short term and long term disability
  • Workers compensation for illness or injury on the job
  • Wrongful discharge
  • Welfare or temporary assistance
  • Individual states orchestrate unemployment benefits.

For different unemployment benefits, eligibility is based on criteria and stipulations. For example, to remain unemployed, individuals must fill out applications to actively seek a job. If you are experiencing job loss related to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the best place to start is visiting the Department of Labor website here and proceeding to contact your state.

Related: Best Side Hustles for 2021

Housing Help

Both local governing agencies and federal level (HUD) offer housing assistance programs for those in need. These services can include:

HUD

The Housing Department, run locally by each state, provides affordable renting options for those in need by subsidizing property owners to offer lower rent options. The government pays landlords, and tenants pay affordable rent to the state. For more information on affordable rent programs, use this link. 

Foreclosure Prevention

In response to the 2020 CARES Act and programs created from the fallout of the 2008 economic collapse, you can apply for a six month grace period when you reach out to your lender and arrange payments. For more information on the foreclosure program, click here.

Affordable Dwelling Units

Check with your local governing body (city, county) for Affordable Dwelling Units (ADU) options. These programs are designed for those that work locally and want to live in their local area. These programs were created to help teachers, public service workers, etc., live and work in their area. That said, most of these are open for everyone.

The best way to find an ADU program, go to your local government’s website, and search for “ADU Programs.”

Food Assistance Programs

Federal food assistance programs exist and are typically carried out by local governing bodies in conjunction with the Federal Government.

WIC

WIC stands for Women, Infants, and Children, a food service program for low-income mothers with children or expecting children. This is not widely available like the SNAP program because, to qualify for WIC, applicants must meet all of the following eligibility requirements:

Free Reduced Lunch

Public schools across the country provided what is commonly referred to as free reduced lunch, a program designed to offer free or reduced lunch and breakfast prices to students/families in need. There are eligibility requirements that must be met to qualify, and each program is based on state by state programs.

Backpack Programs

Similar to the free reduced lunch programs at schools, many localities and school districts offer backpack programs for students in need of food. These are typically available within a child’s school or community centers.

Children can pick up a backpack full of food to last them the weekend or over long breaks. To learn more about these programs that don’t offer free government money but food services, reach out to schools and community liaisons. School teachers can also direct parents in the right direction.

Food Pantries

Oftentimes, there are both government-sponsored and non-government sponsored food pantries, which are places where those who are in need can go to pick up things for free like food, toiletries, and other essentials.

This isn’t free money from the government, but these programs are available for those in need. Unlike many on the list that requires you to meet eligibility requirements, most food pantries are sponsored by non-profit, church, and community outreach groups that don’t have eligibility requirements.

SNAP

You have heard of the common term, “Food Stamps,” the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program happens to be the largest government food program. While those who qualify for the SNAP program don’t actually get a stamp, they do get free government money for food pre-loaded on a debit card that can only be used for foods.

Typically, grocery stores and select retailers are places where SNAP benefits can be used. The best route to see if you qualify is by visiting your state’s website and learning about the SNAP program.

Medical Help

One of the largest budgeted items for federal spending is the subject of health care for US Citizens.

  • Medicaid: Medicaid is medical help for the needy under the age of 65. Not to be confused with Medicare, which is designed for the elderly, Medicaid is for those who qualify as low-income, disabled, and medically in need.
  • Medicare: Medicare is available once a citizen hits age 65.
  • CHIP: Children’s Healthcare Insurance Program is not a free government service, but a subsidized program that offers affordable healthcare for children paid for by their parents. Most standard services are covered without expensive copays.
  • Healthcare Market Place: If you don’t have health insurance, Healthcare Market Place provides a service to get insurance. See if you would qualify using this income tool. 

For more information regarding medical benefits, visit the Healthcare and Medical Assistance website here. 

Education Help

Pell Grants

Pell Grants are a great source of “Free Money” in that, unlike most student loans, a Pell Grant is awarded as a grant, not a loan. With the largest difference being that grants are not paid back, loans are.  These grants are based on income levels and first-time undergraduate baccalaureates.

You can learn more about Pell Grants here. 

PSLF

Public Service Loan Forgiveness is a government-sponsored education program that is highly scrutinized. The emphasis on PSLF is that student loan borrowers work first in a non-profit industry/company. Perhaps a social worker or teacher.

After ten years (120 payments) of consecutive monthly payments, borrowers can apply to forgive their remaining balance. The PSLF student loan relief program, is that many borrowers are often denied due to fine print red tape issues (late payment, missed payment, forgot to file form).

Other Programs

Childcare & Development Fund

Each state offers childcare programs for those in need of childcare but is challenged economically. These programs are designed to help parents work while still getting daycare and important child development.

Once such programs, many are familiar with the Headstart Program, promoting school readiness for infants and toddlers from low-income families.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

The LIHEAP, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program is a program designed to help those in critical need due to money woes subsidize some of their utility costs. To make sure people don’t go without necessary utilities or, say, the heat in the winter, this program is available if someone meets the eligibility requirements and is in need. This program does not assist with water.

Final Word on Free Government Money

“Free Government Money” is a contradicting statement because, let’s face it, nothing in life is free.

Sure, there might be programs and assistance out there, as we listed above, that offer forms of free money from the government; it’s important to recognize that these programs are designed for those in serious need.

Qualifying and even applying for these programs is difficult, and there are eligibility requirements to apply. The goal is that they provide temporary assistance during challenging times to help those get back on their feet.

Both federal and local tax funds support these programs, and at the end of the day, if you need to find out more, the best bet is to reach out to your local government to inquire more information!

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