Debt Consolidation

How to Get Financial Assistance From the Government

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Whether they qualify as low-income families or have managed to fall on hard times despite earning a decent living, many Americans have experienced financial challenges that were caused by debt, or have contributed to it.

Personal loans can sometimes offer a solution to high-interest debt, but they sometimes aren’t enough, or they may be difficult to qualify for. For this reason, there are several government-funded programs put in place to provide relief.

While these programs aren’t necessarily straight-up “free money,” they could help families free up room in their budget, which could allow them to get out of debt.

Ways to get financial assistance from the government

Housing

HFA mortgage assistance programs: Since 2010, state housing finance agencies (HFAs) have received funding from the federal government via the Innovation Fund for the Hardest Hit Housing Markets to help homeowners in states that were affected the most during the housing crisis and economic downturn. Assistance is available through:

  • Unemployment mortgage relief programs that help with monthly mortgage payments
  • Mortgage reinstatement programs that correct delinquent mortgages with a one-time payment
  • Modification assistance programs that help with payment plan modifications
  • Transition assistance programs that provide funds to help struggling homeowners move to more affordable housing.

The U.S. Department of the Treasury website provides a list of program options available in every state.

USA Cares Housing Assistance program: This program was created to prevent post-9/11 veterans and their families from experiencing foreclosures or evictions through grant assistance. Applicants must first attend free budget counseling before any financial assistance is provided.

Community Services Block Grant: The Office of Community Services (which is a part of the Office of the Administration for Children and Families in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) provides grant funds to families and communities experiencing poverty. Low-income applicants include migrants, the homeless and the elderly, and extends to people in the states, District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and U.S. territories.

Funds go toward providing services to improve employment, education, housing, nutrition and emergency and health services.

Utilities

American Water Resources: This program helps individuals who need home repairs related to pipes and electrical lines that are not covered by homeowners insurance. Claims are covered up to $5,000 for water; $8,000 for sewer; $3,000 for internal plumbing; and $2,500 for interior electric.

Lifeline: As part of the FCC’s Universal Service Fund, Lifeline has served to provide discounts on phone services for qualifying low-income consumers since 1985. Its purpose is to ensure that all Americans have access to the opportunities and security benefits phone service provides, such as communicating with employers, family members and emergency services.

The program is open to eligible consumers in all states, U.S. territories, commonwealths and tribal lands.

Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP): This program, available through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Administration for Children and Families, exists to assist families in need with energy costs like home energy bills and weather- and energy-related home repairs.  

Debt

National Foundation for Credit Counseling: NFCC is the largest nonprofit financial counseling organization in the U.S. Aiming to promote financially responsible behavior through financial education, it offers counseling services in the areas of credit/debt, bankruptcy, housing and mortgages, reverse mortgages, foreclosure prevention, first-time homebuying, student loan debt and debt management.

American Consumer Credit Counseling: This nonprofit credit counseling agency serves to help consumers in need of credit and debt relief through credit counseling, debt management plans, debt consolidation, foreclosure counseling, student loan debt relief and other financial education services. After speaking with a certified credit counselor, individuals can receive a complimentary budget and debt consultation to begin the path to taking control of their financial lives.

Food

USDA Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program: SNAP serves to provide nutrition assistance and benefits to eligible low-income families and individuals. Working with state agencies, nutrition educators and local organizations, the USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service, SNAP is the largest U.S. program related to domestic hunger safety.

Benefits can be used to buy certain food items in supermarkets, and in some areas, restaurants will accept SNAP benefits in exchange for low-cost meals for qualified homeless, elderly or disabled people.

USDA Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children: The USDA’s WIC program serves to provide federal grants to states for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, as well as infants and children ages five and under who are considered to be at nutritional risk. These benefits are available for use on supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education.

In order to qualify, applicants must first be seen by a health professional to determine whether or not they are at nutrition risk; this can often be done in a WIC clinic at no cost to applicants.

Health care

Medicaid: This federal government-funded program is administered by states to provide health coverage to eligible low-income adults, children, pregnant women, elderly adults and people with disabilities. Benefits covered include inpatient and outpatient hospital services, physician services, laboratory and X-ray services and home health services, and optional benefits can include prescription drugs, case management, physical therapy and occupational therapy services.

Children’s Health Insurance Program: Also funded by both states and the federal government, CHIP provides health coverage to eligible children through Medicaid and other separate programs. Covered benefits vary by states and their individual programs.

Financial aid

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Administration’s TANF program provides state block grants to design programs to help needy families become self-sufficient. These programs are particularly focused on the formation and maintenance of families, encouraging marriage, two-parent families and the prevention of out-of-wedlock pregnancies.

Supplemental Security Income Benefits: The Social Security Administration’s SSI program provides benefits to disabled adults and children with limited incomes and resources. These benefits are also available to adults ages 65 and older who do not have disabilities but meet the program’s financial limit requirements.

Adults who qualify must be between the ages of 18 and 65, have never been married and are not blind. They must also be U.S. citizens living in one of the 50 states, the District of Columbia or the Northern Mariana Islands; have not applied for or received SSI benefits in the past and must be currently applying for Social Security Disability Insurance at the same time as their current SSI claim.

Adults with disabilities can complete the application online; adults without disabilities or children with disabilities applications must be completed in person or over the phone.

The bottom line

No matter your financial situation, if you find that a recurring bill in one of the aforementioned categories is largely contributing to your debt, these programs are certainly worth looking into. Take the time to contact these organizations to determine if you qualify and if one of these programs could be the solution to release you from the financial strains that can come with working to pay off debt.

 

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