How to Qualify for Public Assistance

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Public assistance helps low-income people afford livable housing, food, health care and other basic necessities. The federal government provides public assistance through county programs so you must meet the qualifications set by your county's Department of Social Services. Some people automatically qualify for public assistance programs, such as food stamps, because they receive Social Security benefits such as Supplemental Security Income. However, most people must fit certain income and household criteria to qualify for public assistance.

  • Establish the citizenship of each person for whom you are requesting assistance by providing a birth certificate, Social Security card or immigration documentation that shows at least five years of legal residence in the United States. Anyone without established citizenship does not qualify for public assistance.

  • Contact your county Department of Social Services to request the income guidelines for the public assistance programs in your county. Compare the maximum monthly or annual income to your household income. If your income is lower than the program threshold, you may qualify for benefits.

  • Provide proof of pregnancy if you are pregnant and want to qualify for public assistance such as Medicaid or the Women Infants and Children nutrition program. Social service offices will only accept a statement of pregnancy that a doctor or other medical professional has signed. You can use a home pregnancy test as proof.

  • Be honest when filling out the applications requesting public assistance. The program may disqualify you for providing purposely fraudulent information.

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