According to WelfareInfo.org, Americans may be able to receive various forms of assistance through state and federally funded welfare programs. The federal program, known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF, may last up to five years, as of December 2010. The duration of state welfare programs may differ. If you need medical assistance or help buying groceries, and you are a low-income family or individual, you can apply for benefits. You may contact your state’s human services division and ask about the most current income and asset restrictions for these programs, or find this information online on the website of your state or local human services department. If you qualify, begin the application process.
Gather details about your income; income received by members of your household; personal information about each member of your household, including birth date and Social Security number; and your medical conditions, if any. You must provide your state’s human services department these details when you apply for assistance.
Fill out an assistance application. Many states allow you to apply over the Internet by visiting your state’s human services website. Paper applications are also available. Note that you'll need to provide proof of your income and citizenship. On the application, check which type of assistance you are applying for. Most states use one application for all assistance programs, including medical welfare, or Medicaid, and food stamps. The food stamp program is known as SNAP, which stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. If you need other assistance, such as assistance with housing, home heating or employment training, check the applicable boxes.
Submit the application to your state’s human services division. You may be required to visit the office for an interview. If you are approved, you will normally receive SNAP benefits within 30 days and monthly thereafter; you will be given a card, similar to a debit card, to use at stores that accept SNAP for approved food purchases. Medicaid applications should also be processed within 30 days, but in some cases the benefits will be retroactive a few months for certain medical conditions.