Exploring the Federal Assistance Programs Available to You

Finding Federal Assistance The Easy Way — Quick Guide

(AscendHealthy.com) – Financial hardship can befall any of us. Federal assistance programs are government programs that provide aid to low-income households, alleviating short-term poverty and hardship. These programs are directly responsible for keeping tens of millions of people out of poverty.

There are many government assistance programs to turn to for help making ends meet. Benefits can be in the form of vouchers, health care, housing assistance, and cash payments to help with basic living expenses. Here are some of the programs you may want to consider.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Also known as welfare, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federal program designed to help families with children experiencing poverty. TANF was enacted in 1996, replacing the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) program, which had been running since 1935.

Each state runs its TANF program using funds from the federal government and determines eligibility criteria. The program even goes by different names in different states. Call your state TANF office for local contact information or apply at your local county social services agency to sign up for benefits.


Established in 1965, Medicaid is a public insurance program that provides health coverage to low-income families and individuals. Anyone, including children, parents, seniors, pregnant women, and persons with disability, can receive benefits. The primary source of funding for Medicaid comes from the federal government, with states pitching in with the rest.

Individual states get to operate their Medicaid programs with guidelines from the federal government. You may be eligible for free or low-cost care through Medicaid based on age, income level, and family size. Contact your state’s Medicaid office to check eligibility or apply for coverage.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is a federal assistance program helping low-wage working families, senior citizens, and individuals with disabilities living on fixed incomes put healthy food on the table. SNAP provides benefits through an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card, similar to a credit card or a debit card.

If you qualify, the program will set up an EBT account and deposit benefits into your bank account every month. SNAP beneficiaries can use the monthly benefits to purchase food at authorized retail food stores. Eligibility and benefit levels are based on income level, household size, and other factors.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

Commonly known as Fuel Assistance, Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federally funded program aimed at helping eligible low-income households meet their energy needs. LIHEAP targets households with the lowest incomes and highest home energy costs and prioritizes families with children, seniors, or persons with disability.

States apply for block grants from the federal government and allocate available funds to approved households based on household size and income. Eligible families can apply at the agency in their area. There’s no application fee, and free help is available to complete applications.

Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8)

The Housing Choice Voucher Program, or Section 8, is a federal assistance program for helping low-income families, senior citizens, and the disabled afford decent housing. Funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the program provides rent grants in the form of housing assistance payments (HAP) to private Landlords on behalf of the beneficiaries.

Families will typically pay no more than 40 per cent of their monthly income towards their share of the rent. Eligibility is based on income. Households who qualify for Section 8 benefits will receive a housing voucher to look for a suitable unit.

Tough times befall most of us. There’s no shame in turning to the government for help when going through a rough patch. These federal assistance programs can help you or your loved one stay afloat during a period of temporary difficulty.

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