Living on a low income can be challenging and stressful, especially if you have a family to support. You may struggle to afford basic needs such as food, housing, health care, education and transportation. You may also face barriers to finding or keeping a job, saving money or improving your skills. Fortunately, there are many government grants and assistance programs available for low-income families that can help you overcome these challenges and improve your quality of life.
One of the most essential and urgent needs for low-income families is food assistance, as it can help them avoid hunger and malnutrition. Several food assistance programs for low-income families can allow them access to healthy and affordable food options. Some of these programs are:
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a federal program that helps eligible low-income individuals and families buy food at authorized retailers, such as grocery stores, farmers markets and co-ops. SNAP benefits are issued on an electronic benefit transfer (EBT) card, which works like a debit card. To apply for SNAP, visit https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/361 or call 1-800-221-5689.
Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program
The WIC program is a federal program that provides nutrition education, breastfeeding support and supplemental foods to pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, infants and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. WIC foods include milk, cheese, eggs, cereal, juice, fruits, vegetables and more. For more information, visit https://www.nutrition.gov or call 1-800-342-3009.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
This is a federal program that offers USDA commodities to food banks and food pantries that distribute them to low-income individuals and families in need of emergency food assistance. TEFAP foods include canned fruits and vegetables, meat, poultry, fish, cheese, pasta, rice, beans and more. To find a TEFAP site near you, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/tefap/emergency-food-assistance-program or call 1-866-348-6479.
Housing and Rent Assistance
Housing and rent assistance is another essential and expensive need for low-income families, as it can help them secure a suitable and affordable place to live. Several housing and rent assistance programs for low-income families can help them pay for rent, mortgage, utilities, repairs or other housing-related expenses.
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV)
The Housing Choice Voucher Program is a federal program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) that helps eligible low-income people and families pay for rent in privately owned housing units. The program pays a portion of the rent directly to the landlord on behalf of the tenant based on their income and family size. The tenant pays the difference between the actual rent and the subsidy amount. To apply for HCVs, contact your local public housing agency (PHA) or visit https://www.hud.gov/topics/housing_choice_voucher_program_section_8.
Public Housing Program (PH)
This is another federal program administered by HUD that provides rental housing units owned and operated by PHAs that offer low-cost housing to eligible low-income individuals and families. The PHAs determine the eligibility and rent amount for each tenant based on their income and family size. To apply for PHs, contact your local PHA or visit https://www.hud.gov/program_offices/.
Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) Program
The LIHTC program offers tax credits to developers who build or rehabilitate affordable rental housing for low-income households. The tax credits are sold to investors, who provide equity financing for the projects. The developers then offer reduced rents to qualified tenants who meet certain income and rent limits. To find a LIHTC property near you, visit https://www.huduser.gov/portal/datasets/lihtc.html.
Health Care and Insurance Assistance
Health care and insurance assistance are another important and costly need for low-income families, as they can help them afford medical expenses and receive the care they need. Several health care and insurance assistance programs for low-income families can help them access quality health coverage and services.
Medicaid is a federal-state program that provides health coverage for low-income people and families, including children, pregnant women, parents, seniors and people with disabilities. Medicaid covers services such as
- Doctor visits,
- Hospital stays,
- Prescription drugs,
- Dental care,
- Mental health care,
- Home health care,
- Nursing home care and more.
To apply for Medicaid, visit https://www.medicaid.gov/ or call 1-877-267-2323.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides health coverage for children under 19 years old who do not qualify for Medicaid or have other insurance. CHIP covers services such as
- preventive care,
- Hospital care,
- Dental care,
- Vision care,
- Mental health care,
- Substance abuse treatment and more.
Find out more information at, visit https://www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/childrens-health-insurance-program/ or call 1-877-543-7669.
Medicare Savings Program (MSP)
This is a federal-state program that helps eligible Medicare beneficiaries pay for some or all of their Medicare premiums, deductibles, copayments and coinsurance. There are four types of MSPs: Qualified Medicare Beneficiary (QMB), Specified Low-Income Medicare Beneficiary (SLMB), Qualifying Individual (QI) and Qualified Disabled and Working Individuals (QDWI). For more information, visit https://www.medicare.gov/medicare-savings-programs or call 1-800-633-4227.
Child Care and Education Assistance
Child care and education assistance is another important and beneficial need for low-income families, as it can help them provide quality care and learning opportunities for their children. Several childcare and education assistance programs for low-income families can help them pay for child care, preschool, school, college or other educational expenses.
Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)
The CCDF provides subsidies to eligible low-income families to help them pay for childcare services that meet their needs and preferences. CCDF also supports the quality and availability of childcare services for all families. To learn more, visit https://www.acf.hhs.gov/archive/.
Head Start and Early Head Start
Head Start and Early Head Start programs are federal programs that offer comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition and family support services to low-income children from birth to age five and their families. Head Start and Early Head Start also promote school readiness and parent involvement. To see more information, visit https://childcare.gov/consumer-education/head-start-and-early-head-start or call 1-866-763-6481.
Energy and Utility Bill Assistance
Energy and utility bill assistance is another common and costly need for low-income families, as it can help them reduce or pay for their electricity, gas, water, heating and phone bills. There are several energy and utility bill assistance programs for low-income families that can help them save money and energy.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP is a federal program that helps eligible low-income households pay for heating and cooling costs. LIHEAP provides grants to state and local agencies, which then distribute the funds to qualified applicants based on their income, household size and energy needs. For further information, visit https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/liheap or call 1-866-674-6327.
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
The program helps eligible low-income households improve their energy efficiency and reduce their energy consumption. WAP provides grants to state and local agencies, which then provide free home energy audits and weatherization services to qualified applicants, such as insulation, air sealing, heating system repair or replacement and more. Find out more information at https://www.energy.gov/scep/wap/weatherization-assistance-program or call 1-866-674-6327.
Lifeline provides discounts on monthly phone bills for eligible low-income households. Lifeline can help pay for landline or wireless phone service, depending on the availability and preference of the applicant. To apply for Lifeline, contact your phone service provider or visit https://www.lifelinesupport.org/.
Employment and Training Assistance
Employment and training assistance is another important and beneficial need for low-income families, as it can help them find or keep a job, increase their income and improve their skills. There are several employment and training assistance programs for low-income families that can help them access various opportunities and services related to work and education.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families provides cash assistance and support services to low-income families with children under 18 years old. TANF can help pay for basic needs such as food, clothing, shelter, utilities, transportation, child care and more. TANF also requires most adult recipients to participate in work-related activities, such as job search, education, training or community service. To apply for TANF, visit https://www.benefits.gov/benefit/613 or call 1-800-221-5689.
Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA)
The Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act is a federal program that provides funding and guidance to state and local workforce development systems that offer various services and programs to job seekers, workers and employers. WIOA can help with services such as career counseling, job placement, training, apprenticeships, adult education, literacy and more. To access WIOA services or programs, visit https://www.dol.gov/agencies/eta/wioa or call 1-877-872-5627.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program Employment and Training (SNAP E&T)
This program offers work-related services and support to eligible SNAP recipients who are not working or are working less than 30 hours per week. SNAP E&T can help with services such as job search, job readiness, education, training, work experience or workfare. For more information, visit https://www.fns.usda.gov/snap-et or call 1-800-221-5689.
Tax Credits and Deductions
Tax credits and deductions are another type of financial assistance for low-income families, as they can help them reduce their tax liability and increase their tax refund. There are several tax credits and deductions for low-income families that can help them save money on their federal and state income taxes. Some of these credits and deductions are:
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a federal refundable tax credit that benefits low- to moderate-income working individuals and families, especially those with children. The amount of the credit depends on the income, filing status and number of qualifying children of the taxpayer. The maximum credit for 2023 is $6,880 for families with three or more children. For further information, visit https://www.eitc.irs.gov.
Child Tax Credit (CTC)
The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a partially refundable federal tax credit that is available to families with children under the age of 17. The amount of the credit is $3,600 per child for 2023 and up to $1,800 of it is refundable. The credit phases out for higher-income taxpayers. To learn more, visit https://www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/child-tax-credit.
Child and Dependent Care Credit (CDCC)
The child and dependent care credit is a federal nonrefundable tax credit that benefits working individuals and families who pay for child care or dependent care expenses for a qualifying child or dependent. The amount of the credit depends on the taxpayer’s income, filing status and amount of care expenses. The maximum credit for 2023 is $4,000 for one child or dependent or $8,000 for two or more children or dependents. For more information, visit https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/child-and-dependent-care-credit-faqs.
Emergency and Disaster Relief Assistance
Emergency and disaster relief assistance is another type of assistance for low-income families, as it can help them cope with unexpected crises or hardships caused by natural or human-made disasters, such as floods, fires, storms, earthquakes, accidents, violence or terrorism. There are several emergency and disaster relief assistance programs for low-income families that can help them access various resources and services to meet their urgent needs.
Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
FEMA is a federal agency that coordinates the response to disasters that overwhelm the resources of state and local governments. FEMA provides assistance such as:
- Individual Assistance (IA) provides grants to eligible individuals and households who have suffered losses due to a presidentially declared disaster. IA can help pay for temporary housing, home repairs, personal property replacement, medical expenses, funeral expenses and more.
- Public Assistance (PA), which provides grants to eligible state, local, tribal and nonprofit entities that have incurred costs due to a presidentially declared disaster. PA can help pay for debris removal, emergency protective measures, infrastructure repair or restoration, hazard mitigation and more.
To apply for FEMA assistance, visit https://www.fema.gov/ or call 1-800-621-3362.