Everyone should have a place to call home and be able to put food on the table, but sometimes for low-income families paying for the most basic of needs can be an ongoing struggle. The federal government offers many programs that support just this, providing grants to ensure that low-income families have access to affordable housing, food, and other necessities. There are four major food assistance programs for those with low-income. The government not only provides public housing but has several other programs that place low-income families into private subsidized housing. There are even government grants that help low-income families pay their bills, providing for reliable phone access and paying for heating and electricity costs.
To be considered low-income, you should earn approximately 50-80% of the average median income in your area. This is also described as being at or below 135% of median income in your area. The poverty line for a family of four is currently around $23,000 per year. But this exact number varies greatly across the United States. When preparing to apply for help, remember that you usually need to be able to provide records such as tax returns, paycheck stubs and bank records to receive help under these programs.
In all cases, the grants for low-income families that come from the federal government are issued to state agencies that handle the needs of those in their local communities. When starting your search for help, find the local office that handles each program to apply. I’ve provided links to local contacts for all of the programs and services offered below.
Feeding Your Family
A great deal of support is offered by federal government grants that fund food programs for low-income families. These programs feed our school children daily and support expecting mothers and infants. They provide food assistance to low-income families. They also source food to food banks, soup kitchens and meals on wheels programs to help some of our neediest citizens avoid hunger and food insecurity. In all cases, the funding is provided to the states and applying for help is handled on the local level. If you need assistance providing good quality food for your family, consider applying for help through the following programs.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program
This federal program specifically targets a few types of low-income Americans with nutritional support. CSFP is available for expecting mothers and those who are in their first year following birth. It also supports infants and children up to age 6. Additionally, the program feeds low-income seniors over the age of 60. To apply, contact your state CSFP distributing agency.
Emergency Food Assistance Program
The USDA provides this federal food program to assist low-income families and elderly with food insecurity and nutritional support. It provides grant support to states by purchasing and distributing food that ends up in your local food bank. It also supports programs that deliver meals to the elderly and feed the homeless. Each state sets its own criteria on program eligibility. To find out if you are eligible in your state and to get help, contact your state TEFAP distributing agency.
School and Child Nutrition Programs
The USDA runs several programs to help feed America’s low-income school children. The largest by far is the National School Lunch Program, which provides balanced meals for free or reduced prices. It also provides support through the Child and Adult Care Food Program and the Summer Food Service Program to ensure that children don’t slip through the cracks in daycare and summer settings. To apply, contact your child’s school and note that if you are already receiving assistance under the SNAP program you are automatically qualified for free school meals.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
SNAP, formerly called food stamps, is the federal government’s largest food assistance program, helping millions of low-income Americans avoid hunger. Grants funding this Food and Nutrition Service program are awarded to states and administered through local SNAP offices. Finding out if you are eligible for this program is easy as SNAP offers an online eligibility tool. To apply, you must contact your local SNAP office. Visit this SNAP map and click on your state to find the office nearest you.
Finding Affordable Housing
The federal government provides grants for affordable housing for low-income families through the Department of Housing and Urban Development or HUD. Grant funding is issued to state and local governments that in turn provide services to low-income families. In addition to providing several programs for rental assistance, the HUD also works to help more Americans become homeowners and enforces fair housing laws that discourage discriminating rental practices. If you need help finding affordable housing for your family, consider applying for assistance through these HUD programs.
Public Housing Program
The HUD provides the Public Housing Program to ensure that low-income families have safe and affordable housing options. Around 1.2 million households currently live in government public housing. Options exist to live in single and multi-family settings in both homes and apartments. Public Housing is open for low-income residents who are individuals, families, seniors or disabled. To apply, you must contact your local Public Housing Agency. Use the map provided on that link and click on your state to find a listing of the PHA that serves your local area.
Housing Choice Voucher Program
Also known as Section 8, the HUD’s Housing Choice Voucher Program provides assistance to low-income individuals, families, seniors and the disabled. This program allows its participants to find their own housing options with owners willing to rent properties under the program, paying a housing subsidy directly to the landlord. The family then pays the difference in rent. The voucher program can allow families to stay in their current residences and even use the voucher to purchase a home, in some circumstances. For those that need help paying for housing, Section 8 funding is a viable option. To apply, you must also contact your area’s Public Housing Agency. Use that link and click on the state on the map where you live to find the proper contact for assistance in your local area.
Affordable Apartment Search
HUD maintains relationships with owners of properties willing to rent to low-income families. Landlords in this case already receive subsidized funding and offer lower rent to applicants that meet low-income requirements. Use the search tool to find apartments in your area. To apply, simply visit the management office of the apartment you wish to rent and let them know that you are interested in renting a subsidized property under the HUD program.
Paying Your Bills
Low-income families can actually get help to pay bills from the federal government in several cases. It provides the Lifeline program to provide discounted access to home and cell phone plans. It also provides assistance for home heating and electricity costs through the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Community Services.
Low-income families can apply for Lifeline to help pay for a home telephone or cell phone plan. This program provides up to a $9.25 per month discount on phone services and in some areas additional support is offered by the state. The program limits this assistance to one phone per household. To find out if you are eligible, use the Lifeline pre-screening tool. To see if your phone provider is enrolled in the program, find your state on the map to browse Lifeline phone providers. To apply for help, contact the phone provider you wish to use for phone service and inquire about Lifeline.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
The 2013 block grant funding for LIHEAP provides over $3 billion in funding for this federal program. Under the program, low-income families can receive help to pay for electricity bills and to afford weatherization and energy efficiency upgrades to their homes. Assistance may not be offered year round, with most funding traditionally being used during the winter months to provide for emergency heating expenses. To apply for help, you do not contact the federal government but rather the state LIHEAP office in your area. You may also contact the National Energy Assistance Referral project to quickly find out where to apply locally for LIHEAP. Email NEAR at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-866-674-6327 Monday through Friday.
Category: Other Grant Information