There’s a lot of bullshit about this topic and frankly I’m sick of seeing articles promising women in desperate need a pot of gold that does in fact NOT EXIST.
So here we go as of September 2014. If you know of more programs, please email me or leave them in the comments. I try to ensure this information is factual, real, and up to date.
Disclaimer here – I’m not a financial adviser, just someone who wants to provide helpful information for moms in need. I’m the product of a single mom and I know full well the struggles moms go through on a day to day basis, both trying to raise kids on her own, while going to school and working at the same time.
This website is my dedication to her and what she achieved in her life. It’s my hope this information and page can bring help to other single moms (and dads!) out there trying to raise a family while also getting ahead!
I try and give as much factual information as possible, from my own experiences, my own research into the topic.
What is Financial Assistance?
This is an umbrella term that covers a number of different needs. It can include Financial Aid for school and many forms of assistance for low income individuals.
First, the good news is that there are Financial Assistance programs out there, both government ones (State and Federal) and private programs.
The bad news is that financial assistance is likely only to be supplemental – you are still going to have to work and find other means of making ends meet. If you expect to survive ONLY on government handouts and private assistance, you are going to have serious problems surviving.
So if you think financial assistance IS the solution to your money problems, I’m not going to tell you it is because…well…it isn’t. At the end of the day, you are going to have to take responsibility for your life and find a way to make ends meet. Financial assistance will only help you in that direction till you can get back on your own feet.
We can break Financial Assistance up into Financial Aid and Low Income Assistance:
Financial Aid Assistance
Any sort of assistance with the aim to help you pursue schooling. This could include financial help for school, rent assistance, loans, scholarships, grants, or anything providing assistance FOR school.
First off, there are a few terms we should disambiguate (clarify). First, there’s Financial Aid, which basically means supplemental assistance for schooling. This can take the form of some sort of grant aid, student loans, and scholarships. Financial Aid applies to SCHOOLING. It’s not ‘free money’ for doing nothing. It’s not government ‘living assistance’ to make ends meet if you don’t have enough money at the end of the day.
The whole purpose of Financial Aid is to make it possible for individuals who cannot afford schooling on their own to pursue education opportunities they otherwise could not.
Financial Aid can be further broken down into:
Loans backed by the government and given to students who wish to pursue education. You are granted a loan which must be repaid
Scholarships & Fellowships
Money given based on merit and/or need, generally for specific types of programs or fields. This is not free money – you have to specifically APPLY for a scholarship and have the necessary qualifications to win it.
Money that’s not repayable offered to students pursuing a specific education direction. There are some school grants that are given as PART of a financial aid package (FAFSA) based on your assessed need. There are grants that may be offered directly from the educational institution you are applying for (I once automatically qualified for a 2k grant automatically because I was taking a specific university course)
Note: there are a lot of websites out there that advertise ‘Grants for Single Moms’ or ‘Financial Assistance Grants’ or ‘Government Grants’ This is simply not true. There are grants given out by the government, but these are NEVER for financial assistance for individuals. These cater to organizations or programs that align with current government interests, and usually center on programs aimed to help the community or that detail in research.
Special resources that target specific career fields, genders, or race. Usually offered by private non-profit organizations, businesses, or educational institutions.
These are special programs that don’t quite fit into the other categories. They could include private assistance (corporations that offer employees tuition kickbacks or tuition help if they go back to school), philanthropy organizations, web-based sweepstakes for school, etc. I wouldn’t plan my education costs based on special funding programs – these are icing on the cake; if you manage to qualify for something, it’s just extra money, but don’t count on it!
Low Income Assistance
There are a number of broad Low Income assistance programs that cover pretty much everything. These include food assistance, bill assistance, education assistance, medical assistance, job assistance, child care assistance, senior assistance, rental assistance, etc.
We can broadly divide Low Income Assistance programs either by categories (food, education, bill, rental, senior assistance, etc) OR by federal, state, and non-profit. For the purpose of this article, we’ll introduce these programs by the later.
We have written some comprehensive articles about some of the low income assistance programs. For example, check out our Mortgage Assistance Guide and our Rental Assistance Guide for information about programs that can help you pay/keep your mortgage or help you pay your rent.
State Assistance Programs
Most states do offer some type of income assistance programs (by themselves or in conjunction with Federal programs). These cover anything from rent, telephone, electricity, phone bills, dental, health, food stamps, and the link. State Assistance is a full topic in itself, which we will cover shortly.
Suffice to say, if you qualify as low income, your state WILL have some sort of assistance you can apply for. They do vary from state to state and they cover a broad range of programs, from child care, medical care, dental, bill help, career assistance, senior assistance, etc.
Community Action Agency (CAA)
A community network founded in1964 and backed by federal dollars. By law, they are required to use 90 percent of the federal funds received to be used towards local agencies and organizations that provide assistance to low income persons.
CCA agencies specialize in helping those who are most vulnerable – seniors, children, single parents, homeless, and the disabled. Actual funding may be offered, expense assistance, food handouts, and other types of both cash and non-cash assistance may be offered by these agencies.
In addition to short-term assistance, other assistance that focuses on self-sufficiency may also be offered such as debt counselling, job training, job workshops, etc. The idea here is to provide people with a means of breaking out of poverty and becoming independent from state and private assistance programs.
For more information about CAA programs, go to our Community Action Agency page (coming soon)
Federal Assistance Programs
There are also federal assistance programs available. Unlike state assistance, these come from the federal government and will apply to all states.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of programs:
- Low Income Housing Assistance (HUD)
- Trade Adjustment Assistance Program
- Education Assistance – aimed at helping students deal with student loans such as loan deferment, loan consolidation, etc.
- Energy Bill Assistance
- Veteran Assistance
- Low Income Health Care Assistance
- Low Income Heath Care Clinic Assistance
- Low Income Dental Care Assistance
- Low Income Legal Services
- Food Assistance
For more information, go to our Federal Assistance Programs page (coming soon)
Support Agencies / Non Profits / Charities / Organizations
Besides the government programs, there’s a wealth of agencies, both federally funded and private, that can provide assistance.
Charities – these are offered by religious organizations and/or nonprofits. You can get help with paying bills, food stuffs, counselling, job training, rent assistance, housing, free medical care, education assistance and other types of help. The downside of Charity-based assistance is there are a limited number of such programs and only a limited number of people can be helped due to high demand. It’s usually only the most needy that qualify.
Free Legal Advice – federal grants provide low income individuals with access to free lawyer advice. This is provided by Legal Services Corporation an organization which distributes federal grant funding to lawyers around the US to provide free consulting services for low income persons.
Senior Assistance Programs – if you are a senior (over 50), you may qualify for specific assistance programs. These programs may help with medical bills, prescriptions, home care services, meal deliveries and other such needs.
Debt Assistance Programs – if you’ve landed yourself in debt, there are some programs to help with some aspects of this, usually in the form of advice. You can get free debt counselling, credit card hardship programs, loan restructuring etc.
Job Training Assistance – At the federal, state, and private level there are job training programs available for individuals in need of career assistance. These focus on helping individuals find jobs or learn new job skills so they can gain meaningful employment. Some of the major programs include:
- One-Stop Career Centers
- Workforce Investment Act
- Local Employment Centers
- Private Organizations
Child Care Assistance
Some families, especially single parents, struggle to balance work and parenting. There are programs out there that can provide child care assistance (through subsidies, vouchers, or programs) if the parent is going to school or working, or searching for jobs. The importance of childcare cannot be understated for low income households as many parents are limited in their options for work and career IF they have to look after children. By freeing up a parent’s time to pursue career and school opportunities, childcare assistance can help break the cycle of poverty.
The Final Word
- Pursue education that can give you better job opportunities
- Finding a job or better paying job or even staring a new business
- Fixing debt/credit issues AND living within your means
- Extract yourself from an unhealthy relationship situation that’s keeping you in poverty