Illinois has one of the highest unemployment rate in the country — by far the highest in the Midwest, and one of the last states to recover.1
Statistically, single mothers are more than twice as likely to be unemployed as married women — thus twice more likely to experience financial stress.
And as a result, many are forced to rely heavily on families and friends or government assistance to survive.
To help them in times of hardships, the state of Illinois funds a variety of support programs for families struggling to “make ends meet”.
Illinois’s state EITC began at 5% of the federal credit when it was introduced in 2011 and was increased to 10% in 2013. As of July 2017, the state’s EITC was expanded to 14%.2
The Illinois EITC piggybacks on the federal credit in that the state uses federal eligibility rules to determine whether a family is eligible for the state EITC. In most cases, all Illinois taxpayers who qualify for the federal credit are automatically eligible.
Because it’s a refundable credit, families who qualify and claim the credit could pay less federal tax, pay no tax or even get a tax refund when the credit amount exceeds their tax liability.
The TANF program is one of Illinois cash benefits programs that provides temporary financial assistance to help pay for food, shelter, utilities, and expenses other than medical.
In Illinois, cash benefits are issued on a monthly basis through the Illinois Link Card that works like a debit card, allowing you to use the card at authorized retailers or to get cash from an ATM.
If you have questions or need help with the application, call the DHS Help Line at 1-800-843-6154 or apply online through ABE — Illinois’ new web-based portal for Medicaid, SNAP and cash assistance.
Illinois SNAP (formerly Illinois Food Stamps) helps low-income people and families in Illinios with cash assistance 3 to buy the food they need for a nutritionally adequate diet.
Benefits are also provided on the Illinois Link Card — an electronic card that is accepted at most grocery stores that have the “Illinois Link” sign. No SNAP benefits can be withdrawn from ATM.
Eligibility is determined by certain factors, mainly your income & household size. Single mothers & elderly SSI recipients are more likely to receive SNAP benefits than others.
Emergency SNAP are also available for those with less than $100 in cash and/or in their bank account. In most cases, emergency SNAP can be ready in 5 days or less from the date you apply.
As Illinois is expanding Medicaid coverage, most uninsured Illinoisans age between 19-64 with income up to 133% of the federal poverty level (FPL) are now eligible for Medicaid.
If you’re not already insured, visit GetCoveredIllinois.gov — the state’s new health insurance marketplace and answer a few questions at “Explore Your Health Coverage Options” to find out whether you could qualify.4
In Illinois, infants born to non-Medicaid covered mothers are covered up to 142% of poverty in Medicaid. Children under the age of 18 are covered up to 313% under All Kids (CHIP).5
Illinois’ All Kids offers health care coverage to Illinois children that includes doctors visits, hospital stays, prescription drugs, vision & dental care and eyeglasses.
All Kids are available at no cost or at low cost. Depending on your income level, you may have to pay an affordable monthly premium for coverage, with most in the $15 to $40 range.
You may have to pay part of the cost of prescription drugs. These costs are called co-payments. But no family ever has to pay a co-payment for their children’s regular check-ups and immunizations.
All Kids Hotline
FamilyCare offers healthcare coverage to parents living with their children 18 years old or younger as well as relatives who are caring for children in place of their parents.
Like All Kids, FamilyCare covers doctor visits, specialty medical services, hospital care, emergency services, prescription drugs and more.
For most families with income below 133%, FamilyCare will be free but there may be small co-pays, from $2 to $3.90, for doctor visits and prescriptions.
WIC provides supplemental foods, nutrition education and referrals to health care, at no cost, to low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, infants, and children up to age 5.
In order to qualify, you must be a resident of the state of Illinois who meet the WIC income eligibility guidelines and be individually determined by a health professional to be at nutrition risk.
For information on how to apply, contact
State WIC Office
The Illinois Head Start promotes school readiness for children in low-income families between the ages of 3 and 5. It does this by providing comprehensive educational, health, nutritional, and social services.
Children in foster care, homeless children, and children from families receiving public assistance (TANF or SSI) are automatically eligible for Head Start, regardless of income.
If you need help to find a Head Start program near your home, call
Monday–Friday, 8 a.m.–6 p.m. ET
Administered by Illinois Department of Human Services, the Child Care Assistance Program helps pay for child care expenses for income-eligible working families in Illinois.
Families are required to cost-share on a sliding scale based on family size, income, and number of children in care. You may use the Eligibility Calculator to see if you qualify and to determine your co-pay.
To apply for CCAP, you must complete and submit a Child Care Application (form 3455) to your local child care agency along with other documentation.6
The aim of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) is to serve nutritious meals to children in low-income areas during the months of June, July, and August when school is out.
There is no application necessary to receive a meal and you do not have to show proof of income. Kids and teens ages 18 and younger can just show up at a summer meal site for a free breakfast or lunch — no questions asked.
To find a Summer Meals Site near you, call (800) 359-2163, or text FOODIL to 877877. If you are in need of emergency or supplemental food, please visit Feeding Illinois.
The Illinois Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is designed to assist eligible households pay for their energy bills. Households may qualify if their income does not exceed 150% of federal poverty.
Under the new Percentage of Income Payment Plan (PIPP), Illinois households will have the option to pay a portion of their income and receive a monthly benefit towards their utility bill in lieu of the traditional plan of one-time benefit.
Contact your local Community Action Agency to make an appointment to apply for LIHEAP.7 Proof of income for the 30 days prior to application is required.
Unemployment Insurance is a state-operated insurance program designed to partially replace lost wages when you are out of work through no fault of your own.
If you meet the eligibility requirements of the law, you’re entitled to UI benefits while you are looking for a new job — up to a maximum of 26 full weeks in a one-year period.
The Illinois MAP Grant is available from the Illinois Student Assistance Commission (ISAC) to Illinois residents who attend approved Illinois colleges and demonstrate financial need, based on the information provided on the FAFSA.
Unlike the Federal Pell Grant, there is only a limited amount of MAP funds available so students are encouraged to complete the FAFSA as early as possible after October 1.
- Crain’s, Why is Illinois unemployment so high?
- Tax Credits for Workers and Their Families, Illinois EITC
- If you are planning to apply for SNAP, you may want to use the pre-screening tool to help you estimate what you may be eligible to receive.
- How do I apply for Medicaid in Illinois?
- What is the income limit for Medicaid in Illinois?
- Find your local CCR&R or call 1-877-202-4453 (toll-free)
- Click here to find a Community Action Agency (CAA) serving your area and apply for assistance.
- Use the IDES office locator to find an office nearest you.