I remember some extra rough years growing up. My family qualified for public assistance, but my parents never took advantage of the government aid that was there. Partly because of pride and the other part because they weren’t aware of all the help that was available. There’s no shame in the times when you need help, especially if you are a single parent. Moms have it hard enough already. Everyone struggles in their own way. I wish my parents had sought out public assistance, it would have made things a little easier growing up.
Lots of families experience financial hardship here and there, even for families with two working parents on the line like mine. After becoming a first-time mom this year during COVID-19 and struggling through those brutal first months, I just can’t grasp how insanely difficult it must be for single moms who only have limited income sources. According to a report from the US Census Bureau, 30% of families with single mothers are under the poverty line.
With some diligent research for a newly single mommy pal of mine, I was able to compile a resource list of U.S. government (both state & federal) deployed programs to aid single parents on a continuous basis. Here are some of the most popular financial aids for single moms (and dads) with no or low income.
Note: This list is applicable to only U.S. residents.
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Financial Aid For Single Moms
1. Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families or TANF is one of the major financial aids by the government. With this program, qualified participants can receive cash, childcare, and work aid from their local government. Cash assistance is based on the parent’s household income and the number of dependencies under 18 years old.
- A child or children under 18 years old
- Monthly income meets the income guideline
Official Website: https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ofa/programs/tanf
2. The Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
The Women, Infants, and Children Program or WIC is a federally administered program aimed towards pregnant women, infants, and children under 5 years old. Participants who are at “nutritional risk” are prioritized. When eligible, the participant usually receives monthly food packages or vouchers they can use to purchase specific food items.
- Children up to 5 years old
- Pregnant or breastfeeding women
- People who are at “nutritional risk”
- Homeless people and migrants with “nutritional risk”
Official Website: https://www.fns.usda.gov/wic
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3. Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP)
The Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program or FMNP is a program that lets beneficiaries buy eligible fruits and vegetables from participating farmer’s markets at a discounted price. Coupons received via FMNPP can be used on these locations: local farmers, farmers’ markets, and roadside stands. Since FMNP is connected to WIC, WIC beneficiaries are automatically eligible to receive benefits.
- Same with WIC program
Official Website: https://www.fns.usda.gov/fmnp/wic-farmers-market-nutrition-program
4. Unemployment Insurance
Unemployment Insurance is a government program that gives help to unemployed individuals who are not the fault of their situation. Each state has its own different rules, so check out the link below benefits expectations and application process in your state. This benefit usually lasts up to 26 weeks to help you get a boost in job searching.
- Unemployed through no fault (it means that getting fired or quitting a job is not valid)
- Must meet wage requirement in the current state
Official Website (Find Your State): https://www.careeronestop.org/LocalHelp/UnemploymentBenefits/find-unemployment-benefits.aspx
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5. Additional Child Tax Credit
Known as Child Tax Credit or CTC, this program lets family breadwinners deduct tax credit to the income tax amount. Anyone with children under 17 can claim tax credits. The tax credit will depend on the number of children you have in your family. If your payable tax amount is reduced to zero after subtracting tax credit, the amount you owe is also reduced to zero. In addition, you can refund up to $1,400.
Number of Children
Maximum Tax Credit
No Qualifying Children
3 or more
- Must have children under 17 years old at the end of the tax year
- Adjust gross income of $200,000 or less
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Electronic Benefits Transfers (EBT):
6. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
This program is the biggest food assistance program of the US Government. SNAP is formerly known as Food Stamps, but are renamed last 2008. It is very similar to WIC in essence, but the eligibility and benefits are different. The WIC program is focused more on women and children who are having difficulties in getting food to remain healthy. On the other hand, SNAP has a larger scope and benefits but has more restrictive eligibility requirements. Beneficiaries of SNAP will also receive discounts when shopping in a SNAP Retailer store.
I tried to get myself on the SNAP challenge as an experiment and failed miserably.
- The beneficiary must have a household monthly income below 130 percent of the poverty line ($1,778 for a 3-person family as of 2020)
- State-level specific requirements
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7. National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
The National School Lunch Program or NSLP is a federal program that is available for both public and nonprofit private schools around the country. It provides free or low-cost lunch for children who are members of low-income families. Schools should provide meals that meet the standards set by the Food and Nutrition Service and the United States Department of Agriculture.
- If the child’s family participates in SNAP
- If the child is enrolled in any Head Start Program
- Family size and income
- Children who live with families living below the poverty line
- Check the income guideline here
8. The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
TEFAP is another food assistance program from the US Department of Agriculture. USDA foods are distributed to people who qualify for these benefits. Each state has its own guidelines for food distribution (food that beneficiaries receive can change depending on the market and agricultural conditions). Instead of directly giving vouchers or food packets, TEFAP partners with local agencies to distribute the food (e.g. food banks, soup kitchens, etc). You can check out the list of food usually distributed by TEFAP in this webpage.
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Free Health Care And Education Programs
9. Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The Children Health Insurance Program provides healthcare for children under low-income families. Healthcare services like routine check-ups, prescriptions, dental and vision care, immunizations, and inpatient/outpatient care are covered with this program. Although each state covers CHIP, the requirement varies from one state to another. You can apply for benefits by calling 1-800-318-2596 or via the Health Insurance Marketplace online.
Check with your state for more specific requirements and information about CHIP.
10. Pell Grant
Single moms who want o go back to school can take advantage of the Pell Grant, a federal program that gives assistance for low-income students. Unlike student debt, you don’t really have to pay the government to give you cash assistance. The help you will receive is usually the gap between your expected family contribution and your cost of attendance. For example, if your cost of attendance is about $15,000, but you can only pay for $10,000, the remaining $5,000 will be shouldered by the program.
- FAFSA form
- Citizen of the United States
- Enrolled in a certificate or degree program at a participating college
- Undergraduate or vocational students only
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Housing And Utility Bills Help
11. Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) Housing Assistance
The Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD provides subsidies for low-income families. HUD will work directly with property owners to lessen up the rent expense of families in the program. Because of this, the family beneficiaries will only pay for a discounted monthly rent expense.
- Applicants must past the income limit requirement (check out the income limit requirement here)
12. Low Income Energy Beal Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Low Income Home Emergency Assistance Program is another financial assistance that aims to help low-income families by reducing their utility bills. Like HUD, the government works directly with energy providers for the LIHEAP aid. Eligible families can choose between one-time winter assistance that can range from $45 to $450 or a crisis intervention program where the utilities are about to be shut off due to payment difficulties. The second option can net $300 worth of benefits during the summer and $800 during the winter.
- LIHEAP income eligibility (check your local LIHEAP office)
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State-Specific Aid Programs
Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP)
The Minnesota Family Investment Program or MFIP can be described as “teaching a family how to fish, and sharing your catch at the same time.” In conjunction with the Diversionary Work Program or DWP (where parents receive employment help), MFIP gives cash assistance until the family’s finances are better. This program is aimed at children and pregnant women and usually runs for up to 60 months.
- Pass the income test
- Owns assets not more than $10,000
New Hampshire Employment Program (NHEP)
The New Hampshire Employment Program is very similar to MFIP. The only big difference is that NHEP is aimed to give help to able-bodied people. As a level-up to MFIP, NHEP has programs that give GED-Equivalency Diploma, on-the-job training, and job search assistance.
- Able-bodied and is between 16 to 60 years of age
Kansas Successful Families Program
The Kansan Successful Families Program is similar in benefits to both MFIP and NHEP. It is designed to help families who want to improve their financial situation while getting basic necessities at the same time.
- Able-bodied and under 60 years old
- At least one child under 19
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Where To Get Help During COVID-19 Lockdown?
There are millions of families and individuals who are currently affected by the COVID-19 lockdown. The situation is now affecting the economy, businesses, and families who rely on monthly income to get their basic needs and will likely have no emergency savings. To help people in low-income families, the US government created the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES. Here are the information and programs relating to this act.
Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) – FPUC is an unemployment aid that provides a weekly allowance of $600 on top of the regular Unemployment Insurance benefits.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assitance (PUA) – PUA temporarily expands Unemployment Insurance to people who are self-employed, freelancers, and independent contractors.
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) – PUA provides benefit coverage extensions for people who already exhausted their Unemployment Insurance benefits. This extension lasts for 13 weeks.
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