Considering everything going on with the economy and the pandemic, it’s understandable that money is tight with everyone right now. It’s important, however, to know that there are many forms of assistance available. These forms of assistance can help with a variety of financial situations. Some people struggle to finance their education, others their healthcare.
It’s important to understand that not just anyone qualifies for assistance from the government. Different assistance programs will ask for different eligibility terms. It’s also important to understand that not all assistance programs will give you money. That’s why you should do your research well.
How can I Find The Right Assistance Program For me?
To reduce the confusion and help citizens find the assistance they need, the federal government created Benefits.gov. The idea is to help citizens find programs that they’re eligible for. These programs help families and individuals with different financial needs.
How Does It Work?
Through Benefits.gov, citizens should be able to find assistance programs they’re eligible for. The website will give you the option to choose whatever category of government assistance you need. But, the most efficient way of finding what you want is using Benefit Finder.
When you open Benefits.gov, you’ll find a button with “Start Benefit Finder” written on it. This button will take you to a survey. That survey will ask first about your general information, including date of birth, citizenship status, and household size. Other questions you’ll need to answer focus on any disabilities you might have. After showing you a list of programs you may qualify for, you’ll get to choose which ones you want to apply for. Moving on, you’ll be asked about your employment status and background.
The survey will go on to ask you more questions regarding your current income and household situation. You’ll also come across questions regarding any disabilities or traumas that your family members may have gone through. You’ll notice that with every page of questions you answer, you’ll get the number of benefits that you are eligible for.
Why Should I Answer These Questions?
The idea behind Benefit Finder is to cross-reference your answers with different eligibility terms of different benefit programs. The more questions you answer, the more accurate your benefit suggestions will be. Be as honest as possible with your answers, to avoid benefit suggestions that might not suit you. However, if at any point you don’t want to answer any more questions, you can always press “skip to result.” if you click that button, it’ll show you different categories of assistance you’re eligible for. It will also show you the number of benefits you qualify for in each category.
Will I Find All Government Assistance Programs on Benefits.gov?
No. Since some programs focus on providing direct personal assistance, such as grants, benefits.gov may not show you these suggestions. For example, to apply for grants, you should head to Grants.gov.
Are All Suggested Benefits Guaranteed To Attain?
No. Benefits.gov only shows you programs that you “may” be eligible for. The only way to guarantee these benefits is by receiving confirmation from the people responsible for them. That’s why, if you want to make sure you’re eligible for a program, then fill out its application. But keep in mind that program eligibility changes all the time. This means you might’ve been eligible before, but perhaps not anymore.
What Kind Of Assistance Programs Should I Expect To Find?
As mentioned above, on Benefits.gov you’ll find a wide selection of categories of government assistance programs. After you fill in the Benefit Finder survey, you’ll discover which ones you might be eligible for. However, it’s important to understand the kind of benefits you can receive and how they work. So let’s break down some of the benefit categories here.
Housing Assistance Programs
In this day and age, many young and elderly people struggle with finding appropriate housing. The problem stems from a variety of reasons. These reasons can include financial issues, domestic abuse, or mental issues. That’s why the federal government created a series of housing assistance programs to help its people with tackling the issue. Every assistance program comes with its own list of perks and qualifications. It’s important for every applicant to research their options well to make sure they’re a good fit.
Among the many housing assistance programs, public housing is quite popular among low-income families. In simple words, public housing is a series of subsidized housing created by the government. The idea is to provide low-income families with affordable places to live. To qualify for public housing, a family or individual must be a US citizen or an eligible immigrant. Applicants must also meet their low-income standards. Also, to apply for public housing, a family or individual must do it in person. To start the application, applicants must visit their local Public Housing Authority (PHA).
Housing Choice Vouchers (HCV)
This program, also known as Section 8, aims to help Americans find their new homes and assist with their rental fees. However, it’s not the same as Public Housing. One of the main differences in benefits is that recipients of HCV will have the freedom to choose any home that participates and qualifies for the program. To qualify for this assistance option, applicants must be US citizens or eligible immigrants. Applicants also need to pass a criminal background check. Finally, the program requires applicants to qualify as low-income, according to their local income standards.
Single Room Occupancy (SRO)
This is a branch of the Section 8 program. It works mostly the same way. But, this program provides individuals of very low-income status with single rooms in a shared house. Those shared include houses, bathrooms, kitchens, living spaces, laundry rooms, and occasionally meeting rooms.
Continuum of Care (CoC) Homeless Assistance Program
Also known as transitional housing, this program focuses on eliminating homelessness by working towards finding permanent homes. Although the program does not provide permanent housing directly, it aims to eliminate factors that lead individuals and families towards homelessness.
Under this program comes a variety of solutions including:
- Homeless shelters
- Transitional Shelters
- Emergency Shelters
- Rapid Re-housing
- Permanent Supportive Housing
Medical Assistance Programs
Benefits.gov will also provide you with information on several medical assistance programs. As many Americans will struggle with paying their medical bills, seeking federal assistance will be key to overcome the challenge.
This is a nationwide program that provides free or low-cost medical coverage to many Americans. The program focuses on helping those who need it the most. That list includes low-income families, disabled people, families, and the elderly. The program is run on both federal and state level. That’s why the program may run differently from one state to another, also might be known with different names, such as “Medi-cal” and “Medical Assistance.”
To qualify for Medicaid, an applicant must be:
- A US citizen or eligible immigrant
- A person whose financial situation can be seen as low-income or very low-income
Child’s Healthcare Insurance Program (CHIP)
This program aims to help support families. As families sometimes struggle with affording hospital bills and insurance premiums, the federal government created this program. CHIP focuses on providing medical care to children until the age of 19. The program will help families pay for hospital care, medication, preventative care and even dental care.
Educational Assistance Programs
School fees are another reason many Americans go into debt. It is estimated that over 40 million Americans are currently in debt due to education fees. That’s why the federal government created several educational grant options. These grant programs help students and their families afford higher education without going through as much financial distress. The best aspect of the grants is that, unlike loans, they do not have to be paid back, except in specific scenarios.
It’s important to remember that each grant comes with certain qualifying criteria. Besides checking the grant terms online, a student should check with their guidance counselors at school.
This is perhaps the most popular educational grant. It mainly focuses on students who are going through exceptionally difficult financial situations and are aiming to pursue higher education. The Pell grant can offer up to $6,895 per academic year to students. The Pell grant will support students up to 12 semesters. However, you should keep the following in mind:
- The federal Pell grant will not finance the education in more than one school at a time
- Students must prove that their financial status can be seen as low-income, compared to their local average
- The cost of attendance in a school will determine whether or not a student can receive the grant, and how much in dollars they can acquire from the grant.
- This grant is strictly focused on financing education, and they funds cannot be allocated to different needs
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
This is another grant that focuses on helping financially-needy students to pay for higher education. It awards students anywhere between $100 to $4,000 per academic year. But, just like we mentioned, every grant comes with its own terms. For FSEOG, a student must apply for a school that participates in the FSEOG program. Also, a certain limited amount of funds is allocated to each participating school, which means if the funds run out, no more students can get this grant in the same academic year.
While there are many benefits offered by the federal government, there are also many benefits that will be limited to certain states. Different state governments will focus on developing different parts of the economy, including education, healthcare, housing..etc.
When going through the Benefits Finder survey, you’ll answer questions regarding the state and city you live in. By doing that, you’ll help the system match you up with different state-specific benefits. So, make sure you provide as much information on that survey as possible, to learn about all the benefits you may be eligible for.
What Should I Know When Looking For Federal And State Benefits
Be careful with your personal information
Unfortunately, there are many scammers out there that might take advantage of someone’s life challenges. These scammers can take your personal information and use it for illegal activities. So, make sure you don’t provide any sensitive information to unofficial entities. A good rule of thumb is that any link that ends with “.gov” can be identified as a government-owned website.
How Can I Identify A Potential Scam?
It’s very unlikely for any government official to ask you for sensitive information over the phone or email. For any communications, such as letters, emails or messages, you should confirm with your local official office that the message is valid and can be trusted.
There are tons of government-supported assistance programs out there. It’s difficult to know which ones you may be eligible for. That’s why the government created Benefits.gov and its Benefits Finder survey to help you find out which programs you may be eligible for. So, take your time to answer all questions, and remember to give only truthful answers, to get the best results.