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 financial hardship.
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.
While the federal government is the largest source of aid, primarily in the form of the Pell Grant, state governments often fund grants and scholarships for residents attending college in their state.
In addition, there are grants in the form of tax credits for low-income families and the Medicaid, which subsidizes health insurance. For many single mothers with no income, 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”.
List of Grants for Single Mothers #
- Federal Pell Grant
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
- Federal Work-Study Grant
- Federal Student Loan
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
- Diversion Cash Assistance (DCA)
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
- Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC)
- Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
- Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS)
- Head Start / Early Head Start
- Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
- Section 8 Rental Subsidy
- Public Housing Program
- Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
- Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
- Supplemental Security Income
- Title X: The National Family Planning Program
- National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
- Local Food Banks
- Lifeline Program
- Unemployment Insurance
- Paid Family Leave
- Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
- Grants for American Indians and Alaska Natives
Federal Pell Grant #
The Pell Grant is the America’s largest student aid program. It provides grants of up to $6,495 to the neediest students to attend college.
In 2019 alone, over $28 billion in Pell grants for school were awarded to nearly 7 million students nationwide, including nearly 60 percent of Black students and nearly half of Latinx students. 1
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. 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.
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 Grant #
Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a federally subsidized financial aid program 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 #
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the federal government has suspended interest and monthly payments on federal student loans through September 30, 2021. 2
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.
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.
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 known as a “family grant,” as what many consider to be the easiest grant to get.
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.
TANF cash benefits vary greatly from state to state.
For a family of three, the maximum TANF benefit paid in 2020 varied from $170 per month in Mississippi to $1,086 per month in New Hampshire — the most generous of any state.
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.
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 at least 20 hours per week.
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. 3
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.
Will we get extra food stamps in April 2021? #
EVERYONE who gets SNAP is getting extra benefits, called “Emergency Allotments” (EAs), in April 2021. Starting in May, all households in states with these benefits will receive emergency allotments of at least $95. No extra paperwork is needed.
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.
In a typical month, women in the program receive $11 per month for fresh fruit and vegetables, while children receive $9 per month.
All women and children 1–4 years old enrolled in the WIC Program will receive a temporary increase in the amount of benefits to buy fruits and vegetables to $35 per participant per month, from June to September 2021.
That's an extra $105 per month for a single mother of two.
Eligibility is determined by nutritional risk and incomes that fall below 185% of the poverty level 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.
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.
Applications are considered for child care assistance through CCAMPIS funding on the basis of eligibility status, financial income, need, resources, and family contribution levels.
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. There are also more than 150 Head Start and Early Head Start programs for American Indian and Alaska Native children.
Use a Head Start locator to find a Head Start program nearest you or call 1-866-763-6481 (toll-free) for more information on how to apply.
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. 4
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 housing 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.
If you're planning to apply for weatherization assistance, find your state on the map and contact the local WAP agency serving your area.
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 138% of the poverty level — about $30,300 a year 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.
According to the latest data, over 37.5 million children were enrolled in Medicaid — the primary source of coverage for low-income children and another 9.6 million were enrolled in CHIP. 5
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 $794 for an individual and $1,191 for a couple. 6
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.
Children who receive free or reduced-price school meals under the National School Lunch Program are eligible for Pandemid EBT (P-EBT). P-EBT is a temporary food benefit program for children who have lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures.
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 40 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 — including a job lost directly or indirectly because of the pandemic.
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.
Benefits vary from state to state — from $235 in Mississippi up to $855 in Massachusetts. States differ in how long they will pay benefits. Most offer up to 26 weeks, or 6½ months, of payments.
The American Rescue Plan Act extends expanded unemployment benefits through September 6, 2021, and includes $300 a week in extra compensation to workers who have lost their jobs.
If you've been laid off or furloughed, you're qualified to apply for unemployment benefits in the state where you live. In many states, you are able to file a claim online or over the phone.
If you’ve collected unemployment benefits at any point in 2021, you could be eligible for free or (or nearly free) coverage through the Affordable Care Act marketplace, with significant federal subsidies that could help lower premiums to as little as $0 per month.
Sign up for the subsidized coverage on HealthCare.gov. The window will be open through Aug. 15 and savings will run for the rest of the year.
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.
Currently, there are nine (9) states in the country, including the District of Columbia that offer, or will offer, paid family leave to new parents to bond with a newborn baby or provide care for a seriously ill family member.
Rhode Island enacted a paid family leave law in 2014, allowing for four (4) weeks of time off — the shortest paid leave of any state. Both California and New Jersey offer up to six (6) weeks of paid maternity leave, which increases to 8 and 12 weeks respectively beginning July 1, 2020.
New York joined them effective Jan. 1, 2018 — starting off at 8 weeks and 50% of pay in 2018, and reaching 12 weeks and 67% of pay in 2021. D.C.’s and Washington’s law will take effect in 2020, Massachusetts in 2021, while Connecticut is poised to become the 7th state in 2022, and Oregon in 2023.
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 $6,728 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 is refundable.
The American Rescue Plan temporarily expands the CTC for 2021 to $3,600 per child under 6 and $3,000 per child ages 6 to 17, makes it fully-refundable and removes the $2,500 earnings floor.
Click to explore other tax-saving benefits.
Many states do offer their own version of Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) to complement the federal EITC — each uses federal EITC eligibility rules, however, the percentages vary greatly from state to state.
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 financial hardship, 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.
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.
- NCAN, How Congress Can Close Equity Gaps in Postsecondary Education.
- FSA. Coronavirus and Forbearance Info for Students, Borrowers, and Parents.
- One in five SNAP households lives on cash income of less than $2 per person a day.
- CBPP, Helping Low-Wage Workers Make Ends Meet.
- Medicaid.gov. Medicaid & CHIP Enrollment Data Highlights.
- SSA. SSI Federal Payment Amounts for 2021.