According to an article in USA Today, the average employee makes around $40,560 per year. The Federal Poverty Level says that a family of four is at or below the poverty level if they make $24,250 per year. Families who fall under this line qualify for most federal programs. Additionally, some programs allow families to qualify if they make up to two or three times the national poverty average.
Government assistance programs are the most popular, and typically most helpful, programs available for low-income families. Because benefits depend on income, the amount of assistance you receive may vary if you have an increase or decrease in pay.
Many people feel that using assistance is embarrassing or beneath them, however, the programs are in place to help families until they can get back on their feet. Getting the help you need now, will make it easier to become self-reliant. If you are struggling to pay bills or put food on the table, consider getting the help you need so you can focus on bringing in a higher income.
Food Stamps: This program is the most widely known government assistance program. Qualifying families receive a stipend each month to help pay for the cost of groceries. Families may qualify for anywhere from $100 to $600 or more per month. The money goes onto a debit-like card and families may only be use the money to purchase approved food items.
WIC: The Women, Infant, and Children Program is provides checks for approved foods each month. More women qualify for this program than food stamps. The goal of the program is to provide education and proper nutrition for women and children. Participants are required to attend some education courses.
Medicaid/CHIP: Health insurance is expensive. Despite Obama’s healthcare, reform some families still struggle to afford good health coverage. Low-income families may qualify to receive free or reduced-cost health care through the Medicaid program. The CHIP program offers traditional insurance coverage at a significantly reduced price.
In addition to government-sponsored programs, low-income families can take advantage of section 8 or subsidized housing, energy savings plan (through your local energy companies) and free phone service. Most programs require families to provide proof of income. Some programs may also require that at least one person in the family is actively looking for full-time employment.
Savings assistance: If you want to save for the future but struggle to get by, you may qualify for a special savings program through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Some states, like Utah, offer a special program that helps families build saving for a home purchase, college or retirement faster. You must meet income requirements, but if you qualify, you would commit to investing a specific amount each month. The program matches your contribution by three. Therefore, if you put aside $50 per month, they would add $150 per month, making your total savings $200 per month.
Budgeting: If you combine a strict, written, monthly budget with any assistance you can receive, you will be able to build an emergency savings account and pay off debt much easier. If you struggle with debt payments and you have a low income, talk to a free credit counselor to see if you can get reduced payments or even deferred payments on some debts (like student loans).