How To Get Financial Help When You Need It

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Help may be available if emergencies strike you and your family.
Help may be available if emergencies strike you and your family. (Image: Phil Ashley/Lifesize/Getty Images)

Job loss, bad health, and a slow economy are just a few reasons people find themselves in need of financial help. Programs are available through government agencies and through private relief organizations who can provide help if you need a short-term boost to keep food on your family's table or a roof over your head.

Things You'll Need

  • Personal identification
  • Social Security number
  • Paystub or estimate of current income, if any
  • Birth certificates for you and family members

Get your ducks in a row. When you go to places like the Department of Human Services for help, you will need need verification documents such as pay stubs, proof of earned income, birth certificates for everyone in your household, utility bills and your drivers license and Social Security numbers for each person in the house.

Get started right away. It can take months to get assistance from the government, although some relief programs may be able to help immediately. If you have just lost a job, start with the unemployment office in your state. You can find a location near you through the National Resource Center link in the References section. Then check Benefits.gov, a government-run search engine that is designed to connect people to benefit programs that might help them. Another option to try: call 211, a national hotline service run by the United Way that connects people to local social services agencies and other aid providers.

If you have children under the age of 5 or you are a pregnant woman, check into W.I.C. This is a nutrition program that helps pregnant women, new mothers, and young children eat well and stay healthy. I know that this is available in Texas. You can call the 1-800-WICFORU line (800-942-3678) to find out how to access the program in your state.

Go to your local church or churches for help. If it is a large enough church they might have programs that will help you get job leads, clothing for interviews, and help for your bills. You will need your money to pay your bills and buy shampoo and deodorant (something that is usually not available at a food bank) Check with The Catholic Charities and various Catholic churches for help with bills. The Catholic Charities and other places like them typically require that you are already at least a month behind on the bills before you qualify for immediate aid. However, many churches don't require the paperwork that the government requires. And when you get back on your feet, you can help other people you meet at church.

Look up food banks and other resources in your phone book or through the 211 hotline. Many county and city food banks have no religious affiliations. Many cities also have clothing banks that offer free or very cheap clothing for job interviews.

Check with your local college or university for help. If they have a Department of Clinical Nutrition, they may offer some assistance. Also, if it is a medical or dental school, you might find free or prorated medical care there.

Check to see whether your area has a county hospital that offers free or sliding scale fees for health care -- particularly for preventive care. Emergency rooms are required to treat you once you become critically ill, but it is better for you and for all concerned if you don't let your health deteriorate to that state.

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