Government grants are available to persons without income for necessities, such as housing, food and clothing. Educational monies are also available to assist unemployed and low-income people with retraining and immersion back into the work force. Applications for these programs usually involve in-person visits to the offices managing the programs and dispersing the aid, although preliminary information can be inputted online.
General Assistance and TANF Grants
Most states offer General Assistance (GA) grants to low-income adult residents. These grants consist of cash aid, which can be used for rent, transportation, medical and dental needs, clothing and food. Residents must contact their local Departments of Human Services, Social Services or Welfare for GA applications. Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF), which is similar to the GA, but geared towards families, also offers cash aid grants to low-income residents. States often publish lists of county welfare office locations on the Internet. California and Pennsylvania, for instance, have Web pages with contact information for all welfare offices in their states. Cash aid is distributed to eligible applicants through an Electronics Benefits Transfer (EBT) card in most areas, which functions like a debit card, which is reloaded monthly with benefits.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and was formerly known as the food stamp program. States have different names for their SNAP allocations. California's SNAP benefits, for instance, are called the CalFresh Program. Applicants must go to a county welfare office, just as they would to apply for a GA or TANF grant, to apply for SNAP benefits. Eligible residents are issued EBT cards, which are reloaded with monthly allotments for food item purchases at stores. Many county welfare offices also have "emergency food assistance," which consists of either government food allotments, cash aid or expedited SNAP benefits due to immediate food needs.
Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program and Public Housing Grants
The federal Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program disperses vouchers to eligible low-income applicants, which can be used for rent on housing units of renter's choice. These vouchers stay with the renter, with renters paying a percentage of their income and the vouchers paying the rest to the landlord. Other government housing options provided to people without an income are public housing units. Federal, state and local agencies manage units reserved for low-income residents. Section 8 voucher and public housing applications can be found at local Housing Authority offices, which are listed on the U.S. Department of Urban Housing and Development website. Often waiting lists are long and it is easier to get vouchers or public housing in rural areas.
Pell and Other Educational Grants
The U.S. Department of Education offers federal Pell Grants to eligible students who have not received a bachelor's degree from college. Other federal grants, such as the federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant, may also be available. Applicants must use the online Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) to apply for all government financial aid programs. Many states also offer grants for college students; grants such as the Board of Governors (BOG) Fee Waiver, which is available in California and this grant waves tuition fees for low-income residents. Students list the colleges they would like to attend on the FAFSA and those schools later contact the student with award letters, offering them aid they are eligible to receive. Aid checks are dispersed through the school financial aid offices to students.
- California Department of Social Services: County Welfare Department List
- Pennsylvania Department of Public Welfare: County Assistance Office Contact Information
- Pennsylvania Department of Welfare: Cash Aid
- California Department of Social Services: Cash Aid
- California Department of Social Services: CalFresh
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