There are several programs offered for families that are experiencing financial stress. These government programs for low income families are designed to help meet their everyday necessities and basic expenses. To qualify for these benefits, a person or family must meet certain requirements. Factors affecting government-assistance include income, family size, and citizenship.
In order to apply for these types of government benefits, individuals are required to prove their income is below a certain amount and falls within the Federal Poverty Level (click on this link for more information about FPL). Listed below are some of the programs offered to families that qualify for government assistance programs:
Food & Nutrition Low Income Programs
BenefitsCal provides California residents with assistance to apply for and manage benefits online. Some of the program assistance includes food (helping put healthy food on the table), cash aid (receiving cash each month to help pay for housing, food and other expenses), and health coverage (get health care for your family, including for children and seniors).
CalWORKs is a welfare program that gives cash aid and services to eligible California families. If a family is struggling with finances, food, utilities, clothing or medical care, this program can assist with immediate short-term help.
CalFresh is designed for low-income individuals who meet federal income eligibility rules and want to add to their budget to put healthier options on the table.
School Breakfast Program (SBP)
The School Breakfast Program is a federally funded program which assists schools and other agencies in providing healthy, well balanced breakfasts to children at reasonable prices. In California, the SBP is administered by the California Department of Education.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP is a federal program that provides health and nutrition benefits to low-income individuals and families that are used at stores to purchase food.
Women, Infant, & Children (WIC)
WIC proudly serves more than eight million pregnant and post-partum women, infants, and children in the United States. Research has found that WIC is a cost-effective investment that improves the nutrition and health of low-income families. Administrations and Congresses both have provided funding to this successful program since 1997. WIC serves all eligible low-income pregnant women, infants, and young children who apply.
Child Nutrition Programs
These Child Nutrition Programs are administered by the USDA. Under the umbrella of this benefit is several food and nutrition programs including:
- National School Lunch Program: Provides free or reduced cost lunches to school-age children
- Special Milk Program: Provides milk to kids who do not have access to school meal programs
- Child And Adult Care Food Program: Provides reimbursements for food to eligible kids and adults at participating care centers, after school programs, and emergency shelters
- Summer Food Service Program: Reimburses program operators who provide free meals and snacks to low-income kids and teens
Low Income Health Insurance Programs
Medicaid is a program that is funded by the federal government and states to provide health insurance coverage to low-income Americans. At the moment, Medicaid covers one in every four children, 21 percent of low-income adults and 60 percent of all nursing home residents. Medicaid is available for eligible adults, children, pregnant women, people with disabilities, and senior citizens.
Medicare is similar to Medicaid, but it is a federal health insurance program primarily designated for people aged 65 and over, as well as qualifying younger people with disabilities.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) Benefits
Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are available to people who cannot work for at least one year due to a medical condition or for people who are expected to die from that condition.
County Medical Services (CMS)
A program that funds medical care for uninsured indigent adult county residents. While not a health insurance program, County Medical Services (CMS) funds services through a network of community health centers, private physicians and hospitals.
Medi-Cal Services (Financial Assistance)
Medi-Cal is California’s health care program that provides various medical services to residents with limited means or resources.
Health Insurance Marketplace
The Affordable Care Act created the Health Insurance Marketplace, providing access to health coverage for all adults regardless of income. Health care plans have different subsidies, there is no denial due to pre-existing conditions, and most plans cover preventive care. In California, the Health Insurance Marketplace is operated through Covered California.
Child’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
A health benefit program that branches off from Medicaid. If a family does not qualify for Medicaid, CHIP provides low-cost health coverage and dental care to kids up to the age of 19, and pregnant women.
Home & Auto Low Income Benefits
Housing Choice Vouchers
Operated by the federal government, the housing choice voucher program provides housing assistance for very low income families, the elderly, and the disabled. Housing Choice Vouchers (Section 8) are generally managed through the state or county Public Housing Agency.
California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance
California’s Low Cost Auto Insurance Program is a state-sponsored program that makes auto insurance affordable for good and responsible drivers. Each policy provides liability coverage for the primary driver and eligible secondary drivers.
The California LifeLine Program is a state eligible program that provides discounted home and cell phone service to eligible individuals. This program discounts and helps consumers lower their cellphone/phone bills. Households eligible for this program are allowed a discount on either a home phone or a cell phone (but not both).
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) provides assistance to eligible low-income households with the goal of managing and meeting their immediate home heating and/or cooling needs.
Affordable Connectivity Program
Administered by the Federal Communications Commission, the Affordable Connectivity Program offers up to $30 per month as a discount towards internet service for qualifying households.
Low Income Cash Aid & General Relief Programs
Supplemental Security Income Program (SSI)
The SSI program provides monthly cash assistance to certain disabled people, the blind, elderly adults age 65 and over, and those who have limited resources. Monthly payments are determined on a per situation basis.
Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)
This welfare program is administered through the Department of Health and Human Services and provides temporary cash assistance to qualifying low income families while working towards employment and self-sufficiency. The program also offers additional benefits such as job training and child care.
Cash Assistance Program for Immigrants (CAPI)
CAPI provides cash assistance to certain blind, aged and disabled legal non-citizens ineligible for Supplemental Social Security Income/State Supplemental Payment (SSI/SSP) due to their immigration status.
Employment Development Department (EDD)
Unemployed individuals looking for jobs can visit EDD’s website and they can assist with connecting job seekers and employers in the state of California.
General Assistance/General Relief (GA/GR)
Provides temporary cash assistance for eligible county residents who have no other means of support. Any aid received must be repaid to the county.
Education Programs & Benefits
Head Start programs support children’s growth from birth to age 5 through services centered around early learning and development, health and family well-being. This program helps children get ready to succeed in school and in life through learning experiences specifically tailored to their growing needs and abilities.
Federal Pell Grant Program
Federal Pell Grants are awarded to undergraduate students who display exceptional financial need and have yet to earn a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree. To apply, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
Listed above are some of the many programs that assist with low income families. If none of these programs are what you are in search for, looking into your hometown programs might be a better fit for you and your family. For more information or more resources, visit Employment Development Department.
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Heidi Deal is the author of the Newcomers Handbook to Living In Los Angeles & Orange County, and a children’s book author specializing in history and human rights.