There is a plethora of grants for single mothers — the likes of TANF cash assistance, food stamps, WIC, child care assistance, to name but a few 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”.
Federal Pell Grant #
Beginning in the 2024—25 award year, Pell Grant eligibility will be determined by a new formula. For many, this new formula, called the Student Aid Index (SAI), will make it easier than ever to be eligible for federal financial aid programs such as the Pell Grant.
Pell Grant is America’s largest student aid program that provides grants to the neediest students to attend college. These grants are awarded on a sliding scale, ranging from $750 to $7,395 for the 2023—24 academic year.
According to the National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators (NASFAA), over $35 billion in Pell grants were awarded to nearly 6 million students nationwide, including nearly 60% of Black students and more than 40% of Latinx students. 1
These need-based grants offer 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 August 31, 2023. 2 Interest will begin accruing on Sept. 1, 2023, and payments will be due starting in October.
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.
What is the interest rate on student loans in the US? #
|Subsidized / Unsubsidized Loan||5.50%|
|Direct PLUS Loan||8.05%|
Interest rates for direct loans disbursed between July 1, 2023 and June 30, 2024.
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.
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 varied from $260 per month in Mississippi to $1,243 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.
For example, a single mom with children under the age of 19 earning little or no income may be eligible for assistance under TANF. However, the recipient is required to work or 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, is designed to provide immediate assistance for single mothers in times of emergency.
It is generally offered as a one-time payment in lieu of extended cash benefits, the amount of which may vary from state to state.
For example, in New Jersey, the maximum total diversion payment is $750 for a family of three, and in Colorado, the maximum amount is $2,500, regardless of family size.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) #
The aim of SNAP — commonly known as food stamps, 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.
What is the highest income to qualify for SNAP? #
In most cases, your household must meet both the gross (130% FPL) and net (100% FPL) income limits described below or you are not eligible for SNAP benefits.
For a single mother of two, this works out to $2,495 in gross monthly income and $1,919 in net monthly income.
|48 States + D.C||100%||130%|
* SNAP gross and net income limits are higher in Alaska and Hawaii.
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.
In a typical month, women in the program receive $11 per month for fresh fruit and vegetables, while children receive $9 per month.
What is the income limit for WIC? #
To be eligible on the basis of income, your gross income (before taxes are withheld) must be less than or equal to 185% of the poverty level. For a single mother of two, that's about $3,833 a month to qualify.
- Family Size Income Limit
- 1 $2,248
- 2 $3,040
- 3 $3,833
- 4 $4,625
- 5 $5,418
- 6 $6,210
- 7 $7,003
- 8 $7,795
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 the state in which you reside.
Click here to see what program is available in your state — each with its own eligibility guidelines and application process.
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.
Both undergraduate and graduate students are eligible to participate in the program, as are students taking online courses.
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.
How do I apply for the Head Start program? #
To apply for Head Start and Early Head Start, you can contact the 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.
Voucher amounts are based on Fair Market Rents (FMRs) calculated in the area by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). 4
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, if you earn $2,000 per month and the home you want rents for $900 per month, you would pay $600 and the voucher would cover the difference of $300.
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. It is intended for those who are truly vulnerable: the disabled, elderly, and families with children.
In almost all cases, LIHEAP pays only a portion of the monthly bill, and the family pays the rest. 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 national poverty level.
What if I need help with my utility bills? #
If you are in danger of being without heat or need help with utility bills, you can contact the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) at 1-866-674-6327 or dial 2-1-1 to find out where and how to apply for LIHEAP in your local area.
Families who struggle to keep their homes cool during the hot summer months may apply for Summer LIHEAP. Applications open at varying dates depending on the state.
Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) #
Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP) provides a one-time financial relief to low income families for water and wastewater bills to avoid shutoffs or disconnections.
LIHWAP grants are available to States, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, U.S. Territories, and Federally and state-recognized Indian Tribes and tribal organizations.
To be eligible for LIHWAP, you must have an income not exceeding 150% of the federal poverty level. Priority is given to households with the elderly, disabled or a young child under age 6.
LIHWAP will run through September 30, 2023, 6 or until funds are exhausted. The application process and requirements are the same as for LIHEAP.
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) #
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.
For example, a single person living alone cannot make more than $29,160 and a single mother of two cannot earn more than $49,720.
What does weatherization program cover? #
WAP conducts an assessment, or “energy audit” analysis of your home to address health and safety concerns. Services may include but are not limited to:
- sealing of cracks and holes to reduce heat loss;
- insulation of attics, floors and walls;
- insulation of hot water tanks and pipes;
- heating system repairs or replacement;
- installation of efficient lighting and refrigeration;
- window and/or outside door repair or replacement; and
- mitigation of energy-related health and safety issues.
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).
What is the highest income to qualify for Medicaid? #
|48 Contiguous States||100%||138%||400%|
* Income limits are higher in Alaska and Hawaii due to the higher cost of living.
If your state is expanding Medicaid, you’ll probably qualify if you make less than 138% of the poverty level — about $34,310 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.
In most states, subsidy eligibility starts above 138% of the poverty level, as Medicaid expansion covers adults with income up to that level.
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.
As the primary source of coverage for low-income children, CHIP 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 #
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a means-tested program that 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. Beneficiaries may have no more than $2,000 in assets for individuals and $3,000 for couples.
How much does SSI pay? #
The current basic monthly SSI benefit is 7
- Individuals $914
- Couples $1,371
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 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.
|48 Contiguous States||130%||185%|
* Income limits are higher in Alaska and Hawaii due to the higher cost of living.
California is the first in the country to provide all public school students to eat breakfast and lunch for free regardless of income status.
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.
Unemployment Insurance #
Additional weeks of pandemic federal benefits has ended in all states on September 6, 2021.
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.
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.
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 fourteen (14) 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.
|District of Columbia||8||$1,049|
|New Hampshire *||6||$1,848|
As of June 2023, eight states — California, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, Washington State, and District — have active programs. Six in Colorado, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, and Oregon — await implementation.
Benefit payments for the Oregon program are to start in September 2023; benefits payments for the Colorado program are to start in January 2024; and benefits for the Delaware, Maryland and Minnesota program are to start in January 2026.
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.
It’s a simple idea that helps lower to middle-income workers — especially single mothers who owe little or no income tax — keep more of what they earn.
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 $7,430 for a family with three or more children.
What is the maximum income to qualify for EITC for tax year 2023? #
Depending on your filing status and number of qualifying children, you might be eligible for the credit on your 2023 federal tax return if your income is under $63,698.
|NO. OF CHILD||MAXIMUM CREDIT||SINGLE||MARRIED|
|3 or more||$7,430||$56,838||$63,698|
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 $1,500 is refundable.
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.
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. 8
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.
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) #
Affordable Connectivity Program (ACP) is another FCC program that provides eligible households with a discount on broadband service and connected devices.
If your household income is at or below 200% of the federal poverty level or about $49,720 for a family of three, you may qualify to receive:
- Up to $30 per month discount on your internet service or up to $75 per month if you live on Tribal lands.
- A one-time device discount of up to $100 for a laptop, tablet, or desktop computer. This one-time discount requires a co-payment of more than $10 and less than $50.
ACP is also open to those who are already enrolled in various assistance programs like SNAP, Medicaid, Federal Public Housing Assistance, SSI, WIC, or Lifeline.
How do I get help with my internet bills with ACP? #
To apply, visit GetInternet.gov to submit an application. Once your application is approved, contact a participating provider to select a service plan and have the discount applied to your bill.
For example, if you are an AT&T Internet customer, you can call (866) 986-0963 to apply your ACP benefit to your current plan.
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 are not limited to,
- Tribal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
- Native Employment Works Program
- Indian Child and Family Education
- Urban Indian Health Program
Like all other citizens who meet eligibility requirements, all American Indians and Alaska Natives, whether they live on or off reservations, are eligible to receive benefits provided by the state.
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.
- NASFAA, Issue Brief: Doubling the Maximum Pell Grant.
- FSA. Student Loan Payments to Restart After August 31, 2022.
- 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.
- LIHWAP is set to expire at the end of 2023, and some in Congress are calling to make LIHWAP a permanent, ongoing program.
- SSA. SSI Federal Payment Amounts for 2023.
- If you live on Tribal lands, you can receive a discount of up to $34.25 per month, and up to a $100 reduction for first-time connection charges.