Grants for Single Mothers

Updated June 13, 2019

Grant is a broad term that refer to the various ways the U.S. government redistributes resources to eligible recipients. This article delves into various types of grants for single moms in the United States.

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There is a plethora of grants for single mothers — the likes of TANF cash assistance, food stamps, WIC, CCAP, etc that have all played an important role in supporting single mother families in times of economic challenge.1

Grants such as the Pell Grant is a unique need-based grant that helps neediest students pay for college. In particular, low-income students and students of color — groups that disproportionately include single parents.

Eligibility for this grant is based on one’s demonstrated financial need and the applicant is required to complete a FAFSA form each year to qualify — and it’s FREE.

In addition, there are grants in the form of tax credits for low-income families and the Medicaid, which subsidizes health insurance. For many low-income single mothers, this may be the only option for coverage.

Whether you’re a single mother “going back to school” or need help paying for bills, listed below are some, if not all, “grants for single moms” — most of which are administered at the state level.

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”.

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LIST OF GRANTS FOR SINGLE MOTHERS

  • Federal Pell Grant

    The Pell Grant program is the America’s largest student aid program. It provides grants of up to $6,200 to the neediest students to attend college. In 2017 alone, over $28.2 billion in Pell Grants were awarded to nearly 7 million students nationwide.

    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’s free money that does not need to be repaid.

    The first step in applying for a Pell Grant is to complete a Free Application for Federal Student Aid.2 The deadline for submission is June 30 each year or as early as October 1 preceding the year for which you need aid.

  • Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

    Similar to the Pell Grant, FSEOG is a type of supplemental grant that is awarded to students with “the utmost need” for financial assistance as determined by the FAFSA.

    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.3

    Eligible students may be awarded supplemental grants anywhere between $100 and $4,000 a year based on the gravity of their needs and fund availability.

  • Federal Work-Study Program

    Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a federally subsidized financial aid program4 that gives single-parent students a way to earn money by doing part-time work on or off campus, often in their chosen field of study.

    Students may work up to twenty (20) hours a week and receive a monthly paycheck based on an hourly wage, which they can use for educational expenses.

    However, this “earn-while-you-study” option will work only if you have minimal living expenses and have family support to meet your child care needs.

  • Federal Student Loan

    For single mothers “going back to school” who need more assistance beyond Pell grant, student loans — either subsidized or unsubsidized — are often offered as part of a total financial aid package.

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    Although the least desirable form of financial aid, federal student loans allow you to borrow money for college at interest rates that are lower than most private loans. And you may be able to defer interest payments until after you graduate.

    As with most federal student aid, you will first have to complete and submit a FAFSA. To be considered, you need to check “yes” in the section of your FAFSA that asks about your interest in student loans.

  • Small Business Grants

    While grants to pay for college are readily available, government grants for single mothers starting a small business remain very limited and are often extremely competitive.

    If you are up for the challenge, you may start looking at Grants.gov. To view grants specifically for small businesses, filter the results on the left side of the page under “eligibility.”

    If you can’t find any grants that fit your profile, the Women’s Business Center also has branches around the country that might connect you with local resources.

    Some private organizations and businesses offer national grant programs for small-business owners. FedEx, for example, awards over $200,000 in cash and prizes to 10 small business owners every year.

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

    TANF is the essential part of the safety net for very low-income families. Its primary aim is to help these families achieve self-sufficiency through a combination of short-term financial assistance and work opportunities.

    The two types of TANF grants are known as “child-only” and “family” grants. Child-only grants, designed to consider only the needs of the child, are usually smaller than family grants, about $8 per day for one child.

    The second type of TANF grant you may be eligible for is a “family grant.” 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, although many states adopt shorter time limits.

    These cash grants is often referred to as “welfare” and the conditions under which you can receive it largely depend on where you live. States with larger African American populations, all else equal, have less generous and more restrictive TANF policies.5

    An unemployed single mom, with children under the age of 19, is eligible for assistance under TANF. However, the recipient is required participate in work activities for a certain number of hours each month.6

  • Diversion Cash Assistance (DCA)

    Diversion Cash Assistance (DCA), often known as Emergency Cash Assistance, provides alternative assistance for single mothers in times of emergency. It is generally offered as a one-time payment in lieu of extended cash benefits.

    Families who qualify may receive a one-time grant of up to $1,000 to deal with an emergency or minor crisis, but may vary depending on the severity of the financial crisis.

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

    The aim of SNAP — formerly the Food Stamp program, is to provide affordable and healthy meals to the neediest families, many of whom are low- to no income.

    It is one of the most important components of the U.S. safety net. For many of the poorest Americans, SNAP has become the only form of income assistance they receive.7

    SNAP, the nation’s largest anti-hunger program, helped over 40 million low-income Americans to afford a nutritionally adequate diet, with children under the age of 18 being the largest recipient.

    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, either in person, by mail, or by fax.

  • Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)

    WIC is a federal-funded nutrition program that provides free healthy foods to pregnant women, new 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) months to a year, at which time they must reapply.

    The monthly WIC benefit package can provide a child between the ages of 1 and 5 with a dozen eggs, 16 quarts of milk, and $6 in vouchers for fruits and vegetables, among other foods.

    Eligibility is determined by nutritional risk and incomes that fall below 185% of the poverty level8 but in most states, priority will be given to TANF recipients.

  • Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)

    Funded by the Child Care and Development Block Grant, CCAP is a state-administered program that helps low-income families pay for child care while working, searching for a job or attending school or training.

    Most states require families receiving child care assistance to contribute toward their child care costs based on a sliding fee scale that is designed to charge higher co-payments to families with higher income.

    Eligibility guidelines vary state to state but in most cases, your income must not be greater than the income limit set by your State in which you reside.

    Click here to see what program is available in your state

  • Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS)

    The Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program, known as CCAMPIS, is the only federal grant program dedicated to providing campus-based child care for low-income parents in postsecondary education. In 2017, the program is said to have served approximately 5,000 student parents across 86 institutions.9

    CCAMPIS is intended to support lower-income student parents who need child care assistance in order to remain in school and graduate with a college degree but most will have to get on a waitlist.

  • Head Start / Early Head Start

    Both Head Start and Early Head Start are federal programs designed to promote “school readiness” of children from birth to age five. Early Head Start serves children from birth to 2 years old, and Head Start serves children 3 to 5 years old.

    Eligibility is based on family income at or below the poverty level. Other factors that affect eligibility include homelessness, children in foster care, or receiving certain types of public assistance. Pregnant women may also be eligible for Early Head Start.

    It provides a wide range of services — from free medical and dental care, child education to health and nutrition to even parental involvement in the family.

    You must apply for a Head Start or Early Head Start program in your community, closest to where you live. Use a Head Start locator to find a Head Start program nearest you or call 1-866-763-6481.

  • Section 8 Rental Subsidy

    Section 8 is a federal housing program assisting the neediest families to afford safe and 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%.

    For example, a single mother of two renting an apartment for $700 and working 30 hours a week at the minimum wage may receive a voucher worth about $440 a month.10

    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 contact your local PHA serving your community.

  • Public Housing Program

    Public Housing is one of the nation’s three main rental assistance programs, along with “Section 8” vouchers and project-based rental assistance.

    Unlike Section 8, public housing allows eligible low-income families, the elderly, and the disabled to live in public housing units, at a rent they could afford. Most tenants pay no more than 30% of their income for rent and utilities.

    The program generally serves families with incomes up to 80% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area in which they choose to live but may vary area to area.

    To apply for public housing, you must submit an application to the local housing authority (HA) in the city or town where you wish to reside. If the HA determines that you are eligible, your name will be put on a waiting list.

  • 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 utility bills.11 In almost all cases, LIHEAP pays only a portion of the monthly bill, and the family pays the rest.

    It is intended for those who are truly vulnerable: the disabled, elderly, and families with preschool-age children. Grants are paid directly to the utility company. No grant shall be made payable to the recipient.

    To be eligible for a LIHEAP grant, the household income must not exceed the greater of 60% of the median income in the state or 150% of the poverty level AND no less than 110% of the poverty level.

    If you need help paying bills or are in danger of being without heat, you can contact the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) via telephone at 1-866-674-6327 to find out where and how to apply for LIHEAP.

  • Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

    The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) enables low-income families to reduce their energy bills. In most states, priority is given to the elderly and families with children.

    One of the primary factors affecting eligibility is income. Depending on what state you live in, you are eligible for weatherization if your income falls below the 200% poverty level.

    To apply for weatherization assistance, find your state on the map on the Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center (click here) and contact the agency listed.

  • Medicaid: Health Insurance for the Poor

    For those with no medical insurance, Medicaid provides medical benefits to eligible families whose financial situation would be characterized as low income or very low income.

    Medicaid isn’t the same thing as Medicare. While Medicaid is for the poor, Medicare pays for medical services for people aged 65 and older, and the disabled.

    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 — even if you’re unemployed.


    Federal poverty levels are used to determine eligibility for Medicaid as well as the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). If your state is expanding Medicaid, you’ll probably qualify if you make less than 133% of the poverty level — about $28,000 for a single mother of two.


    Each state operates its own Medicaid program within federal guidelines — each with a different income level required to qualify for the same, higher in some and lower in others.

  • Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

    CHIP provides health insurance to uninsured children (up to age 19) in families with incomes too high to qualify for the state’s Medicaid, but can’t afford private coverage on their own.

    In 2017, over 36.8 million children were enrolled in Medicaid — the primary source of coverage for low-income children and another 9.4 million were enrolled in CHIP.

    It covers children for everything they need — doctor visits, vaccination, dental, and vision. For most families, it’s free. Others will pay low monthly premiums, enrollment fees and co-pay for some services.

    Like Medicaid, CHIP is administered independently by each state, with rules of its own and is operated either as a Medicaid expansion, a separate program, or a combination of the two.

  • Supplemental Security Income

    The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash assistance to people who are disabled, blind, or elderly. Since its launch in 1974, SSI has guaranteed a minimum level of income to those who qualify.

    The current basic monthly SSI benefit is $771 for an individual and $1,157 for a couple.12 SSI recipients may also get non-cash forms of assistance. In most states, anyone who receives SSI benefits is automatically eligible for Medicaid.

    While the SSI is designed for a wide range of people like the blind or the elderly, the benefits also apply to children with disabilities whose parents have very little income or resources.

    For many single parents with disabled child, SSI often represents their only source of income. But eligibility criteria are complicated and the application process time-consuming.

    If you plan to apply for SSI, you can complete the application online at www.ssa.gov or call toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 to ask for an appointment with a Social Security representative

  • Title X: The National Family Planning Program

    Title X — pronounced Title Ten — is the federal program dedicated solely to providing low-income families with comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services.

    It provides funding to family planning clinics, so that low-income women who do not have health insurance can get care at reduced rates, or in some cases, free.

    Services include but not limited to, breast and pelvic exams, Pap smears and other cancer screenings, HIV testing, pregnancy testing and counseling, and affordable birth control.

    For years, Title X, along with Medicaid, has been an important of source of primary health care for millions of women from low-income families.

  • National School Lunch Program (NSLP)

    NSLP provides free lunches or discounted meals to eligible students whose family income falls below certain “poverty guidelines” — making it possible for schools to serve nutritious, inexpensive lunches to students each day.

    Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty level are eligible for free meals. Those with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level are eligible for reduced‐price meals.

    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 any time during the school year to fill out a school meal application. Proof of income may be required.


    Other School Meal Programs

    • School Breakfast Program
      provide free or reduced-price, nutritionally balanced meals on school days
    • Summer Food Service Program
      offers free, healthy breakfasts and lunches to kids over summer break
    • Special Milk Program
      provides milk to kids at schools and childcare centers that don’t offer the national school breakfast and lunch programs
  • The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

    TEFAP is a federal grant that provides food to low-income Americans, regardless of age, both directly to families for home consumption and to emergency food providers like food banks, pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters.

    Eligibility criteria may include participation in existing food (SNAP) or other assistance programs (TANF) for which income is considered as a basis for eligibility.

    Families that participate in the following means tested programs are also TEFAP eligible: Food Stamps/SNAP, TANF, WIC, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Head Start, Fuel Assistance or Veteran’s Aid.

    Since this program is administered at the state level, it’s best to contact your State Distributing Agency for more information about TEFAP.

  • Local Food Banks

    For starters, food bank isn’t a grant per se. It 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.


    Feeding America has a network of over 200 food banks nationwide that provides food to more than 46 million people facing hunger, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors through food pantries and meal programs.

    Start by finding your local food bank here.

  • Lifeline Program

    Established in 1985, the Lifeline program has been around since the Reagan Administration as a means of helping low-income families afford connectivity and gain access to a “lifeline” of emergency services like 911.

    The program provides a monthly phone or broadband internet subsidy to low-income individuals or families but limited to $9.25 per household per month.

    Lifeline subsidy isn’t restricted to “welfare recipients” only. Although qualification criteria can vary from state to state, in general, it is made available to those who are trying to subsist on less than 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.

    You may apply for Lifeline discount through a provider in your state or designated state agency. Lifeline provides a handy tool to check for participating companies near you.

  • Unemployment Insurance

    The Department of Labor provides weekly compensation to the unemployed who lost their jobs through no fault of their own — for up to 26 weeks.13 These benefits vary from state to state — from $235 in Mississippi up to $795 in Massachusetts.

    STATES THAT PAY HIGHEST UNEMPLOYMENT COMPENSATION

    Massachusetts
    $795
    Weekly Benefits
    Washington
    $749
    Weekly Benefits
    Minnesota
    $717
    Weekly Benefits
    Rhode Island
    $707
    Weekly Benefits

    For out-of-work single mothers who struggle to make ends meet, these benefits help make the pain of unemployment less of a burden by temporarily replacing part of their wages while they look for work.

    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.

  • Paid Family Leave

    America does not guarantee new mothers paid leave. Although there are 12 weeks of job-guaranteed available under the Family and Medical Leave Act, it is unpaid and employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.

    Only three (3) states in the country, California, New Jersey and Rhode Island, offer up to six (6) weeks of paid family leave to employees to bond with a newborn baby or provide care for a seriously ill family member.14

    New York will join them effective Jan. 1, 2018, after passing the Paid Family Leave Benefits Law during the 2016 session — starting off at 8 weeks and 50% of pay in 2018, and reaching 12 weeks and 67% of pay in 2021.15

    D.C.’s and Washington’s law will take effect in 2020. Meanwhile, San Fransisco is only city in the nation that guarantees paid leave for new parents.

    Eligible employees may receive up to $850.00 per week in Rhode Island, $650 per week in New Jersey and as much as $1000 in California and Washington.

    However, paid family leave (a.k.a Family Leave Insurance) isn’t an entitlement. Rather it is an income replacement insurance that employees contribute to through a small deduction from their paycheck every month.

  • Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)

    EITC, the Earned Income Tax Credit is a tax benefit designed primarily to help low- to moderate-income working parents 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 $6,431 for a family with three or more children.

    The Child Tax Credit, on the other hand, reduces tax liability for families with children that may be worth as much as $2,000 per qualifying child depending upon your income, of which $1,400 can be claimed for the Additional Child Tax Credit.

    Click to explore other tax-saving benefits.

  • Grants for American Indians and Alaska Natives

    If you are a member of a Native American tribal entity searching for federal grants or benefits, there are a variety of federal financial assistance opportunities specifically for American Indians and Alaska Natives.

    While Grants.gov only posts grant opportunities designed to benefit organizations, your best bet to find grants that benefit you personally is NativeOneStop.gov, where you can browse a list of resources that you or a family member may be eligible to receive, including, but not limited to,

    • Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
    • Native Employment Works Program
    • Indian Child and Family Education
    • Urban Indian Health Program

What if I don’t qualify for grants?

If you’re one of those who earn “too much” to qualify for benefits like food stamps, but “too little” to get by each month, you may, in times of crisis, contact your local churches, charitable organizations, and community agencies to find out whether they can offer some form of temporary assistance.

You may also dial 2-1-1 for help with food, housing, employment, health care, counseling or whenever you need help paying your bills. The 2-1-1 service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

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Remember, most of these grants are temporary in nature, 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.

References
  1. What grants are available for single mothers?
  2. How do single mothers apply for Pell Grants?
  3. SMG, Expected Family Contribution
  4. According to the U.S. Department of Education, about 3,400 postsecondary institutions participate and award FWS as part of an eligible student’s financial aid package.
  5. Urban Institute, Why Does Cash Welfare Depend on Where You Live?
  6. Single parents are required to participate in work activities for at least 30 hours per week.
  7. One in five SNAP households lives on cash income of less than $2 per person a day.
  8. USDA, WIC Income Eligibility Guidelines. Currently about $876 a week for a family of four.
  9. Inside Higher Ed, More Aid for Student Parents
  10. CBPP, Helping Low-Wage Workers Make Ends Meet
  11. Other assistance includes energy-related home repairs, weatherization, and energy crisis assistance.
  12. SSA, SSI Federal Payment Amounts for 2019
  13. Only two (2) states offer more than 26 weeks: Montana (28) and Massachusetts (30).
  14. What states offer paid family leave?
  15. NY State, Paid Family Leave: How it Works
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