Life is usually good when you have enough money to pay your bills, not have debt, and enjoy the leftover money you may have. Now, if you get laid off, life gets a bit more stressful. The bills you may have started eating up into your savings, and you will be at a place where you need help with bills being paid. This is super unfortunate and can happen to many people.
What do you do when you do not have enough money to pay your bills? Where can you go for assistance?
These circumstances can happen to you and many other people. The hard part is knowing where to go for assistance and help with bills.
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The 2-1-1 Hot Line:
If you are ever in need of help with bills, the 2-1-1 hotline is a confidential resource hotline from the United Way to help you find some of the local agencies in your area to assist in help with bills.
This hotline can connect you to many resources such as:
- Food and Nutrition programs
- Housing and aid for shelter
- Job assistance
- Care for Veterans
- Help for drug or alcohol addicts
- Support groups for mental illness or disabilities
- Programs with aid for those released from prison.
Having the resources and assistance from many programs can help with bills. When people are down on their luck, the more resources you have, the better the level to get out of a bad situation. If you need assistance, dial the number 2-1-1. This hotline can give you assistance for programs in your local area. You can visit 2-1-1.org for their website as well.
Where to Find Help With Bills?
Finding help with bills can be as easy as calling 2-1-1. There are Federal programs, which you can find on the government website, but here is a list of some of the programs you can find to help you along your way.
Shelter is essential for people to feel safe and secure. Not having the adequate income to make it through the month for rent can be a stressful event. Here are certain places that can help with rent payments and housing for lower-income families. They seek to help with bills to be paid.
- The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) can assist with any forbearance or housing assistance. It can work with you to help with mortgage assistance to get those payments lower. There are also some relocation resources that they have for people that lost jobs as well. HUD also assists with locating Section 8 housing.
- Rural Development Program is a program that is run by the USDA that helps farmers to avoid foreclosures. They can also assist low-income renters. The USDA can also help find places to live for those that low-income.
- The Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8) is another program that helps low-income earners find housing or assistance in low-income housing. So what it does is take your household income and multiply it by 30%. That is the amount they figure you can afford to rent. They then take this amount and subtract it from the rent values in the area you live. You will pay the amount that is calculated, and they will pay the remainder to the landlord.
- Gradient Gives Back Foundation is a group that awards a family or one year’s worth of rent or mortgage payments to a deserving family. It is like a housing scholarship. You can apply for it or nominate someone else for it.
- Through its Pathway of Hope program, Salvation Army can help with bills related to utilities or rent. This is a great program that aims to reach those that hard hit with financial struggles. Check out their website to see what the Salvation Army may offer in your area or community.
Living life without utilities can be challenging. Not having the money to pay for heat during the winter or even A/C during the summer can affect the health of lower-income families. Phone service and broadband are keys for communication and the ability to move up in the world. These utilities are a must. Not having the money to pay for them should not cause poor health or inabilities to make things happen. These programs can help with the utilities.
- LIHEAP is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. It is a federally funded program that provides assistance to help with bills for people who need help. They will help pay some bills to stay cool in the summer and warm in the winter. You can learn more about what they are doing from your state’s LIHEAP office.
- Lifeline is a program started by the FCC to provide low-income families access to phone service. They have been operating since 1985. It is available to low-income families. In 2016, they upgraded the program to provide broadband access as well. This allows families to have access to broadband internet and phone service.
- Your Utility Company can also help with bills. A simple phone call and explanation of events can allow them to make alternatives for payment until you can get back on your feet. They can also have other resources to utility assistance programs that can help you out in this challenging time.
- Dollar Energy Fund is a nonprofit that partners with many companies around the country to help those in need. They help these through individual donations to help those that are in need. There help provide grants to low-income families to help with the prices of utilities.
One of the most vital things for our body is food. It gives us energy, nutrition, and the building blocks for our bodies to grow and mature. Food is also the thing that keeps us healthy. After paying for rent and utilities, food can be one of the last items people will pay for. Here are some programs that can assist with food-related needs.
- SNAP is the federal government’s program to help needy families purchase healthy foods for their families. It is called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. This used to be the food stamp system, but with technology, the families have been given an electronic card like a debit card to help purchase food. You must meet specific criteria to participate in this program. You can check out more information on the USDA website.
- WIC is another federal government program aimed at low-income children up to age 5 and pregnant women. It stands for Women, infants, and Children. They are provided with vouchers that are sent to them to purchase food at different store locations. You can find more information on the USDA website.
- SFSP is another USD program aimed at helping children with food. This is the Summer Food Service Program. It is a federally funded program that aims to get nutritious meals and snacks to children of low income during the summer when school is not in session. Find more information on how to apply and qualify on the USDA website.
- Soup Kitchens are another source to find food. Many soup kitchens are operated by churches and local nonprofits to help homeless or low-income families. These can be found in most cities. There is a Homeless Shelter Directory to help you find a food kitchen near you.
- Local Food Banks are often found all over the country. These are places you can come and grab some food for free. You can find them at local nonprofits. Most of them do not ask about your income, but you will need to show proof that you live in the area for them to provide to you.
- Feeding America Network is the largest food bank/ food pantry in the country. It is helping feed 1 in 7 Americans each year. If you are in need and searching for food, the Feeding America Network can make this happen. It feeds over 40 million Americans a year.
Being able to take care of yourself is vital for survival. Oftentimes, we may neglect our health because there may not be enough money to take care of it properly, like going to the doctor or even having physicals once a year. These programs make sure people have healthy bodies and medication to help them function. They help cover some of the cost of health care.
- Medicaid & Chip. The U.S. has two programs that can help out with healthcare costs. There is Medicaid, which is given to those low-income families and children. The other one is CHIP, which stands for Children’s Health Insurance Program. It is for young children, but their parent’s income is not low enough for Medicaid. These two programs help pay for and assist in the cost of health care for lower-income families and individuals.
- ACA. The Affordable Care Act is another program that can help people get cheaper health insurance. It helps give subsidies to people applying for healthcare. The lower your income, the more of a subsidy you will get. You can apply for this on HealthCare.gov.
- Free Clinics are offered all over. The NAFC ( National Association of Free and Charitable Clinics) is a nonprofit organization that helps people locate clinics. It is also helping to fund clinics and get people affordable healthcare. It is an extensive network that can help provide either free or a low-income choice for medical care.
- Urgent Care is that doc in the box kind of place to get in and out. You will find these cheaper and quicker than finding a doctor or even going to the hospital for medical issues.
- Generic Drugs are that are cheaper than brand-name drugs. We often hear the term Tylenol and think it is a type of drug. It is just the name of acetaminophen. Places like Walgreens and CVS will sell generic forms of this for a lower price than the brand name of Tylenol.
- Discount Drug Network is a drug network that will help in getting cheaper drugs or even generic medicines. It is a subscription-based drug network that helps keep the costs of drugs down.
Childcare & Education
Childcare and the education of children are essential. Setting up the proper habits and a good foundation at a younger age can help a child grow and have a healthy well-being. With less money, this cannot be easy. The ACF has created many different programs to help facilitate well-being in the education and childcare for low-income families.
- Office of Childcare is a federal program part of the ACF (Administration of Children and Families). They work on trying to improve access to quality early care and afterschool programs for children. It tries to promote the healthy development of the children and trains individuals to work with children more effectively.
- TANF is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. This is a federal program that is part of the ACF ( Administration of Children and Families). It is a program that aimed to help low-income families to become self-sufficient. They give temporary monetary support to these families in times of crisis.
- Head Start is a federal program that is also a part of the ACF. It aims to promote school readiness in infants, toddlers, and preschool-aged children in low-income families. They work on the early development, healthy habits, and well-being of the children. It is also helpful in creating a positive family environment for the children to grow up in.
We often hear people talk about building up an emergency fund, as Dave Ramsey may recommend or even say that you need to have some FU money to make sure you embrace hard times. These are great, but sometimes you get to the point that you run out of money.
Many things may happen as you come into a situation where you have less money. It can be a stressful time for you and your family. The good thing is many different programs can help with bills.
The Federal government may not be a favorite thing among people, but as you can tell, various programs help with housing, food, healthcare, and even childcare. It is something that makes you smile, seeing how little things can help you out in case of need.
If you require any financial help, I hope that these resources can help you in that endeavor. It is not easy being down on your luck, but with some research, you can come across many programs to help when you are in need.
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This post originally appeared on Your Money Geek.
Steve Cummings is the founder of the personal finance blog The Frugal Expat. As a traveler and expat, he has learned a lot about how to save money, live frugally, and invest for the future. His mission is to help people in saving, investing, and reaching financial independence.