Free government money
Inflation is present and fully accounted for — and looks to be for the foreseeable future. Stimulus checks issued during the COVID-19 pandemic, meanwhile, appear to be a thing of the past. But with paychecks stretched, budgets strained and interest rates on the rise, there is still government help available if you need a financial assist. Read on for information on programs that essentially amount to free money from the government for things like paying for college, child care, rent and more.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is a major public assistance program that’s federally funded and run by the states. Also known as welfare, TANF may have a negative connotation for some, but the cash assistance it provides could be a financial lifesaver for many people and their children.
How much you’ll receive depends on the state. In Oklahoma, according to Benefits.gov, the maximum amount an adult and two children can receive through TANF cash assistance is $292 per month. A family of three in Washington state, assuming they have no other income, would receive $654 a month.
You apply for TANF through your state’s administering agency, and to be eligible, you need to have a low income. States define that differently, but generally you must be really struggling financially.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a safety net for low-income households. If you’re eligible for SNAP benefits, previously known as food stamps, your state will issue you an electronic benefits transfer card, which works like a debit card. You can use the EBT card at authorized stores to buy certain foods for your household.
To be eligible for SNAP, your household must meet net and gross income limits based on a household’s size. According to the USDA, the average SNAP benefit per household in 2021 was $210.07 a month.
The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance (ERA)
If you’re unable to pay your rent or utilities and believe you’re in danger of eviction, the U.S. Treasury’s Emergency Rental Assistance program may be able to help. This program began early in the pandemic but is still operating in many states. (Florida just ran out of its funds.)
You may be able to get help with rent for multiple months rather than just receiving enough money for one month’s rent. To find emergency rental assistance options in your area, go to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s website or the U.S. Treasury website.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
If you’re struggling to pay your heating or cooling costs, this program could help — and it doesn’t matter whether you’re a homeowner or a renter. The Department of Health and Human Services oversees the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, although each state decides whether a household is eligible for a cash grant. But anyone who is already enrolled in a program like SNAP has a chance of being automatically eligible, according to Benefits.gov.
Grants, which tend to be based on income, how many people live in the home and the type of fuel used to heat or cool the home, generally range from $500 to $1,500 and are paid directly to the utility.
The Lifeline Program
This program provides a discount on phone or internet service for qualifying low-income consumers. The Lifeline program is available in every state, territory and commonwealth and on tribal lands, and it can cover home or mobile phone service or high-speed broadband. To qualify, consumers must have a gross household income at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines or participate in SNAP, Medicaid or other federal programs.
If eligible, you may receive $9.25 per month toward phone or internet services. This won’t likely cover your entire phone or internet bill, but it could help offset the high cost.
Child Care and Development Fund
The Child Care and Development Fund is designed for low-income families who need assistance paying for child care due to work, school or training related to work.
How low must your income be to qualify? It’s impossible to say, since every state makes that determination. If you consider yourself middle income, you may think you make too much money, but don’t make that assumption. See the eligibility checker on Benefits.gov to find out if you’re a candidate for this benefit.
According to the National Association of Counties, in 2018, the last year data was available, only 14% of eligible children participated in the CCDF.
Down Payment Assistance Programs
If homeownership seems almost financially in reach if only you had a helping hand, look into first-time homebuyer programs that offer down-payment assistance. (Programs also exist to help repeat homebuyers.) You may find a program that offers a grant for a down payment (free money) or a zero-interest forgivable loan (also free money) or a low-interest loan (cheap money). There are also programs that offer help with closing costs.
Check with your city or county’s government office to find out about programs offering down-payment assistance. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s website also has a lot of information on state and local government first-time home buying and down-payment assistance programs.
If you have a child going to college soon, have your child apply for the Pell Grant, which they can do by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or FAFSA, at Fafsa.gov. It can be a little overwhelming, but the financial aid virtual assistant can help. So can the Federal Student Aid Information Center, which is staffed with live people who can answer questions. If eligible for the federal Pell Grant, your child could get up to $6,495 for the 2022-23 school year — money that doesn’t have to be paid back.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
This federal program helps disabled adults and kids who have low income and few resources. The Social Security Administration runs the program, but the money beneficiaries receive isn’t funded with Social Security taxes. According to the SSA, the monthly maximum an eligible individual could receive in 2022 is $841. An eligible individual with an eligible spouse could receive $1,261. An essential person — someone who lives in the home and takes care of the eligible individual — could receive $421.
In this case, the government is helping you — for free — get your own money back.
Unclaimed.org is run by the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators, or NAUPA, which is a network within the National Association of State Treasurers. If you have lost or unclaimed money — whether it’s tens of thousands of dollars in unclaimed life insurance benefits or $11.50 that you didn’t realize was in an abandoned checking account — you may find it here. It may seem too good to be true, but this is a legitimate way to put some money back in your bank account.
MissingMoney.com, endorsed by NAUPA, is also worth checking out. According to NAUPA, states are holding onto unclaimed money and assets of 1 out of every 10 Americans and return over $3 billion a year.
10 ways to get free money from the government:
— Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.
— Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
— Emergency Rental Assistance.
— Low-Income Home Energy Assistance.
— The Lifeline Program.
— Child Care and Development Fund.
— Down Payment Assistance.
— Pell Grant.
— Supplemental Security Income.
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