Last updated: May 5, 2013 by Susan
Imagine what it must be like to live on a mere $21 per week worth of food. Budgeting just $3 each day is a virtually impossible task that sadly is a bitter reality for the poor, disproportionately single mothers & their children.
In today’s tough economy, it wouldn’t be so hard to imagine the plight of single women raising children alone.
Not to mention the many stigmas attached to them as “welfare queens”.
And yet the rate of single motherhood has been steadily increasing over the past years. The recent statistics show that in 2012, out of approximately 12 million single-parent households in the U.S, more than 84% were headed by a female – sadly, the majority (40%) still live in poverty.
There is, however, a plethora of financial aid aimed at helping single-mother families cope with the challenges of single parenting; giving them a chance at self-sufficiency.
Though it isn’t a guaranteed entitlement, they are freely awarded on the basis of economic hardship — meaning priority is given to those with “the absolute highest levels of need”.
If you’re a single mom in need of “a helping hand”, given below are commonly-known grants for single mothers that are made available to tide you over through the difficult times – much of which are administered at the state level.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
TANF extends temporary financial assistance to families that are living on income below the poverty threshold. Its primary aim to help families achieve self-sufficiency.
It provides a small cash amount on a monthly basis for food, clothing, shelter and other essentials ― for up to a period of 60 months.
A single mom, with children under the age of 19, is eligible for assistance under TANF. However, the recipient must participate in work activities for a certain number of hours per month to receive the TANF benefit.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
CHIP provides health insurance to uninsured children up to age 19 who is ineligible for the state’s Medicaid program. For most families, it’s free.1 Others will pay low monthly premiums and co-pay for some services.
This program is administered independently by each state, with rules of its own. To apply, make a free call to 1-877 KIDS NOW (1-877-543-7669)
Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
WIC is a federal-funded initiative that provides free vouchers to single, pregnant mothers and children under 5 years of age who are considered to be “at nutritional risk“.
It is designed as a short-term program, with eligible recipients usually receiving benefits for six (6) to twelve (12) months.
Eligibility is based on household size, income and Federal Poverty Limits (FPL) but priority is given to TANF recipients.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The aim of SNAP is to provide affordable and healthy meals to the low- to no income families. Qualified applicants include single mothers, elderly or disabled, homeless and the unemployed.
The assistance comes in the form of a debit card (EBT) which the recipient can use to purchase grocery items in any participating store within their locality.
To apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you must fill out an application and return it to a local SNAP office. [ Learn more ]
Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
CCAP is a state-administered program that helps eligible families pay for child care while working or attending school or training. The program pays for part of the child care costs, and you co-pay for a portion based on the size of the family and the amount of your income.
Each State has its own eligibility guidelines but in most cases, your income must not be greater than the income limit set by your State in which you reside.
Section 8 Housing Program
Section 8 is a federal housing program assisting the neediest families to afford safe & decent rental housing. The program provides vouchers to very low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to cover a portion of their rent.
If you’re eligible, you will receive a voucher that funds 70% of your rent and utilities, but as the renter it becomes your responsibility to pay for the remaining 30%.2
To apply, you contact either the local PHA serving your community or the Office of Public Housing within your local HUD office.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
LIHEAP offers one-time financial assistance to qualifying low-income households who can’t afford to pay their home heating or cooling bills.
It is intended for those who are truly vulnerable: the disabled, elderly, and families with preschool-age children. Other assistance includes energy-related home repairs, weatherization, and energy crisis assistance.
For additional info, call the toll-free phone number at 1-866-674-6327 or contact your State’s LIHEAP office.
Medicaid (Health Insurance for the Poor)
For those with no medical insurance, Medicaid provides medical benefits to single mothers whose financial situation would be characterized as low income or very low income.
If you are a single mother who meet specific income criteria, Medicaid may be the option you need to get the much needed medical care.
The eligibility rules for Medicaid are different for each state so you will need to check with your local Medicaid office for more information.
Update: Beginning in January 2014, Americans who earn less than 133% of the poverty level (approximately $14,000 for an individual and $29,000 for a family of four) will be eligible to enroll in Medicaid. 3 This essentially means that millions of single mothers who were previously uninsured will gain coverage, thanks to Obamacare.
National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
NSLP provides free lunches or discounted meals to eligible students whose family income falls below certain “poverty guidelines“.
If you’re already receiving food stamps, your child automatically qualifies for the free lunch program. Even if you do not, your child may qualify for free or reduced price lunches.
The easiest way to apply is to contact the school to fill out an application. Proof of income may be required.
Local Food Bank
For starters, food bank is a place where food is contributed and made available to those in need. It exists to help families who may not qualify for other welfare programs.
If you find yourself struggling to put food on the table, you can dial 2-1-1 on your telephone to locate a local food pantry or food bank in your area.
The Department of Labor provides weekly compensation to the unemployed who lost their jobs through no fault of their own (due to a layoff), for up to 26 weeks. These benefits vary from state to state but average 36 percent of the average weekly wage.4
For out-of-work single mothers who struggle to make ends meet, this option helps make the pain of unemployment less of a burden.
To begin a claim, you must apply through the state unemployment agency. In many states, you are able to file a claim online or over the phone.
Earned Income Tax Credit
EITC, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a tax benefit designed primarily to help low- to moderate-income individuals and families whose earned income falls below a certain limit — particularly those who owe little or no income tax.
The EITC is “refundable,” which means claiming it lowers the total amount of taxes owed and can result in a refund if the amount of the credit exceeds the tax liability — up to nearly $6,000.
For example, if your tax liability is only $736 and the credit you are allowed is $5,236, you may receive a refund check for $4,500.
The Federal Pell Grant
The Pell Grant program is the America’s largest student aid program. It provides grants of up to $5,550 to the neediest students to attend college.
This need-based grant offers one way for single mothers of limited means to “go back to school” and re-enter the workforce. And it does not need to be repaid.
To be considered for a Pell Grant, you must complete complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid form. The deadline for submission is June 30 each year. [ Learn more ]
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
Similar to the Pell Grant, FSEOG is a type of federal grant that is awarded to those with “the utmost need” for educational financial assistance.
Priority is given to those with “the absolute highest levels of need” – those with the lowest Expected Family Contribution (EFC) and those who are also Pell Grant recipients.
Eligible students may be awarded anywhere between $100 and $4,000 a year based on their needs and fund availability.
Bear in mind that though these assistance are meant for helping you tide over difficult times, you should not rely solely on them, you should rather ensure that you strive to become self-sufficient so that you can provide for your family on your own.
- CHIP Income Limit [↩]
- The Section 8 program has historically been oversubscribed and waiting lists can run into the years. To find out about wait times in your area call your local public housing authority. [↩]
- HealthCare.gov — Key Features of the Affordable Care Act, By Year [↩]
- Source: The Washington Post – The Price of Unemployment [↩]