The federal and state governments have social welfare programs to help individuals and families in need. Many of these assistance programs help with everyday expenses, like utility bills, food, and housing. Certain people can even qualify for monthly payments to supplement their income.
Access Your Free Guide:Continue
Each program has eligibility requirements that applicants must meet to qualify for benefits. Requirements can vary, but they are often similar. Also, individuals who qualify for one program may automatically be eligible for another. Check out the benefits and qualifications for the following government programs.
About Energy Assistance
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal program – locally managed – that helps families cover energy costs. The financial assistance can help pay for monthly energy bills, energy crises, energy-related repairs, and weatherization.
To meet the local LIHEAP eligibility requirements, applicants must have a household income less than the program’s limit. The maximum income depends on how many family members are part of the household. Bigger families can earn more and still qualify.
Households may automatically be eligible for LIHEAP benefits if they participate in other government programs, such as individuals participating in SNAP or SSI. Residents not currently enrolled in a welfare program can check with their state government for specific eligibility requirements based on income, available resources, and energy needs.
About Food Assistance
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) gives qualifying households an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card so they can use it to buy food. The state adds funds to EBT cards, and participants use them like debit cards to purchase healthy food products.
SNAP benefits can pay for fruits, vegetables, meat, bread, dairy goods, and other approved products. However, participants cannot use benefits for nonfood items, alcohol, tobacco, or supplements. Similarly, SNAP benefits will not pay for some food, like meals hot at the time of purchase.
SNAP is one part of the federal food assistance programs. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has the following food assistance programs: SNAP, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), the School Breakfast Program, the National School Lunch Program and the Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP).
Each food assistance program. targets a specific at-risk population, including children, seniors, and expecting or post-pregnancy mothers. Like SNAP, these programs have limits on what participants can purchase. For instance, parents and children receive WIC benefits in “packages” that dictate which food items they can buy.
Eligibility for SNAP and other food assistance programs depends on the applicants’ household income and size. Some applicants, like those older than 60 years of age, may have higher income or resource limits. And, residents in Alaska and Hawaii have higher income limits due to the higher cost of living in those areas.
About Tax Refunds
IRS tax refunds need to be filed by almost every income-earning adult unless their yearly earnings are below a certain amount. You can file taxes online free of charge if you are legally required to submit your earnings.
The IRS free tax filing tool is available to everyone, and you could receive filing guidance if you earn less than $73,000. The filing requirement depends on your filing status, age, and gross income. You may still need to file a federal refund even if you make less than the income minimum.
When you are ready to file your taxes, you can mail your tax forms or submit your information online. Electronic filings and direct deposit refunds are the fastest methods to get your money. Snail mail and paper checks can add days to your waiting time.
The IRS refund schedule 2023 is no more than three weeks after the agency receives your filing. The IRS will process your return and send your refund as soon as possible. However, incomplete filings, errors, amendments, and late filings will delay your tax refund.
About Housing Assistance
Many people call the Housing Choice Voucher Program Section 8, as it is the eighth section of the United States Housing Act of 1937. The housing program makes monthly rent more affordable for qualifying households by paying for a part of it. The local public housing agencies (PHAs) send money to the landlord on the renter’s behalf, and they pay the remaining amount.
Unlike public housing, participants can choose where they want to rent. However, the choice must meet the following conditions: the landlord accepts Section 8 vouchers, the renters’ monthly contribution is not more than 30 percent of their earnings and it has a fair market rental price.
Like other welfare programs, eligibility requirements depend on the applicants’ income and household size. PHAs may prioritize some applicants, such as those with disabilities or experiencing homelessness. Some applicants may be ineligible for the program if they have an eviction history or were convicted of a crime.
Participants’ financial assistance amount depends on eligibility factors, fair market rent, and utility allowances. Fair market rates are set in the 40th to 50th percentile for the area.
Unfortunately, participants can lose their eligibility if they break program or tenant rules. Households can lose their vouchers if they lie on their applications, do not report an income change, or are convicted of criminal activity.
About Income Assistance
The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides payments to certain applicants with limited income and resources and a qualifying condition, such as a disability or blindness. Applicants 65 years of age with low incomes may also meet the eligibility requirements for Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
In addition to having a low income and few financial resources, applicants must meet the SSA’s definition of “insured.” The SSA looks at applicants’ work history to determine if they have worked long enough and earned enough to pay Social Security taxes.
The SSI application process can depend on the individual’s age. For children younger than 18 years of age, parents and guardians can submit a child disability report and wait for a representative to contact them. Individuals between 18 to 64 years of age can apply for SSI and disability benefits online, by phone, or in person. People 65 years of age or older can only apply for SSI by phone and in person.
In addition to federal SSI benefits, participants may receive state-administered supplement payments. However, this additional payment is not available in Arizona, Mississippi, North Dakota, the Northern Mariana Islands, and West Virginia.
Many SSI recipients also qualify for government health insurance coverage through the Medicaid program. Applicants 65 years of age and older may receive health insurance from the Medicare program.
While Medicaid eligibility is based on income and Medicare eligibility is based on age, both can pay for doctor bills, hospital stays, and prescription drugs. In certain circumstances, low-income elderly applicants can receive both Medicare and Medicaid benefits plus SSI.
Likewise, SSI recipients may automatically qualify for food assistance through SNAP. The application for SSI and SNAP are the same in some states, and individuals can apply for both at the same time.
About Student Debt Relief
Millions of college students use student loans to finance the cost of their college education. A student loan. A student loan is borrowed money for education-related expenses, such as:
- Housing (both on and off-campus)
- School-related books, supplies and other equipment
- Laboratory or other classroom fees
There are various types of student loans out there, but the most common are federal student loans issued by the U.S. government. When a student leaves school, he or she must repay the loan in full plus any interest that has accrued.
In an effort to assist Americans with large amounts of student loan debt, the government announced the Federal Student Loan Debt Relief program. There are essentially 3 parts to this plan:
- Forgives up to $20,000 in federal student loan debt for Pell Grant recipients, and up to $10,000 in federal student loan debt for non-Pell Grant recipients.
- Reduces monthly student loan payments for eligible current and future borrowers.
- Provides aid to borrowers who work at a nonprofit, serve in the military or serve in a federal, state, tribal or local government agency.
Students interested in applying for this relief program must meet the income requirements and have one or more eligible federal student loans. Anyone wishing to apply can submit an online application with the Federal Student Aid website.
While student loan repayments continue to remain paused as part of the COVID-19 legislation, the government has announced that interest will begin to accrue starting September 1, 2023. The Supreme Court has yet to make a final verdict regarding the Federal Student Loan Debt Relief program, so borrowers should prepare for repayment in the fall.
Free Federal Tax Filing With IRS Free File
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) offers a free federal tax filing program that may be able to help you complete your return with guided prompts. The IRS Free File program works with the Free File Alliance – a group of tax-preparation companies – to provide electronic assistance.
The organizations that offer IRS help filing taxes are private software companies, and you may recognize their names, such as the following:
It may help to find IRS recommended online tax preparers through the IRS website and follow the links provided. You may not receive free help if you go through a company’s website directly.
To file taxes free online using assistance programs, you must have an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $73,000 to receive free preparation assistance in most cases. However, some tax preparers may have additional requirements, including the following:
· Lower income thresholds, like less than $65,000 (TaxAct) or $39,000 (TaxSlayer)
· Age requirements, such as being younger than 65 years of age
· State of residence limits
· Free state filings but not federal
· Military service requirements
After you select a partnering company, the next step is to gather your tax documents to complete the process. These include things like income statements, like W2s and 1099s, and information about your spouse and dependents, if applicable.Regardless of your income, you can also use free fillable tax forms to prepare taxes on your own.
Volunteers in Tax Assistance (VITA)
You can reach out to Volunteers in Tax Assistance (VITA) for help preparing your basic income tax return. VITA is a community tax help program that operates thanks to certified volunteers.
All volunteers must pass tax law training to prepare tax returns. Plus, the IRS requires training and VITA sites to meet its own standards.
VITA offers free tax preparers services from certified volunteers if you meet any of the following requirements:
· Make less than $58,000 per year
· Have a disability
· Have a limited understanding of the English language
You can use the IRS website VITA/TCE Locator tool to find nearby sites for in-person help. Your state or county may also offer location tools. Depending on where you live, the closest site could be walking distance or several miles away.
Likewise, VITA taxes may be offered year-round or only during certain months of the year. The IRS authorizes select locations as Certifying Acceptance Agents (CAA), which is where you can apply for an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN) if you do not have one.
Here are some items you may need to bring to a VITA site when seeking assistance with your income tax return:
· Photo identification
· Birth dates and ITIN (or Social Security number) for you, your spouse, and dependents, as needed
· Income documents, including wages, interest, and dividend statements
You may need additional documents or information if you are applying for an ITIN or want your tax refund electronically deposited into your account. If you are married and filing jointly, both you and your spouse will need to sign the return.
Tax Counseling for the Elderly
Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) is a program like VITA that offers free tax preparation. However, TCE is specifically tax help for the elderly – those 60 years of age or older. TCE volunteers specialize in senior citizen tax help on retirement-related topics, like pensions.
The free tax preparers for seniors must also pass IRS-approved training, and a TCE site must meet or exceed the agency’s standards.
You can find TCE sites offering free tax services for the elderly using the same VITA/TCE Locator tool on the IRS website. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) operates most TCE sites, so you may also use the AARP Site Locator Tool found on the same webpage.
AARP Tax Aide
The AARP has a free tax aide program available during the tax season, typically from February to Tax Day (mid-April). While AARP tax help is for people of all ages, the program prioritizes seniors (50 years of age or older) and lower-income taxpayers.
You can receive AARP tax preparation services in person from an IRS-certified preparer. Or, you can use AARP tax prep assistance to file your return online. Depending on where you live, you may need to make an AARP tax service appointment beforehand.
MilTax is a software program that especially assists with military-related tax questions, such as combat and training pay, housing, multi-state filings, and more. The U.S. Department of Defense created MilTax software to give step-by-step instructions for the following groups of people:
· Active-duty service members
· National Guard and Reserve members
· Eligible member’s dependents
Mil Tax services are available through your Military OneSource account. When it comes to MilTax for veterans, former service members and retirees can use it within one year of leaving service.
Similar to how AARP operates TCE services, H&R Block operates MilTax. You may be able to create an H&R Block MilTax account if you do not have a Military OneSource account.
Free Tax Software From Private Preparers
You can often find free online tax filing software from some brand-name preparers. These free online tax preparation services may help you with basic tax returns, but they may not be as helpful if you have a complicated filing, such as being self-employed or in the military.
Similarly, guidance for your federal taxes is usually a completely free online tax filing, but you may find small fees for help on your state return through the same preparer. Here are some of the most popular online tax places to get free help:
· TaxAct Free File
· TurboTax free
· 1040.com Free File Edition
· Credit Karma
· eSmart Free File Edition
· H&R Block
· Online Taxes Free at OLT.com
· United Way’s MyFreeTaxes
It’s a good idea to thoroughly research tax preparers before proceeding with a free filing process. Your tax filing has a lot of personal and financial information, and scammers could attempt to steal your identity, bank account funds, or more.
There are two main approaches that consumers take when getting free credit reports. You can request reports from all three bureaus at one time to see how the scores vary slightly (as they often do). Otherwise, you can spread out your requests throughout the year to track your credit increases or decreases every few months.
Search for Insurance Documents
If you suspect you have unclaimed insurance benefits, you may need to dig through paperwork to figure out how much you are eligible for and what company owes you money. You may also be able to find some undistributed insurance payouts online.
For instance, if a family member was a veteran, you can use the Veterans Affairs’ life insurance database to determine if you are eligible for any life insurance payouts. If you are, you can start a claim and begin the process to obtain it.
If you obtained a mortgage backed by the federal housing authority, you may be eligible for a refund on mortgage insurance required by the program. You can use a database provided by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to search for these refunds. You may need to provide financial documents in order to claim certain payments.
Check the IRS Database for Refunds
If you have ever moved around tax time, it’s possible you may have missed tax refunds mailed to you by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). If you think you might have unclaimed tax refunds, you can check the IRS database online.
However, you should have a generally clear idea of how much you are owed to perform the search. When claiming tax refunds from the IRS, you should be able to provide your Social Security Number, your filing status and the total amount of the refund. If you do not know how much the IRS owes you in refunds, you may need to contact the office directly for more information.
To claim your return, you must file tax return documents. You will need your financial information such as your income and previous tax returns to determine what your return should say. It is important to do this as soon as possible, because there is a three-year deadline for claiming refunds. Any refunds you do not claim within that three-year time frame go to the federal government instead.
See if You Have Any Unclaimed Bank Refunds
One final source of unclaimed funds is banks and investments. For instance, if a bank that you previously had an account with closed while you still had funds in your account, it should have returned the funds to you. However, in many cases, whether due to outdated contact information or negligence on the bank’s part, those funds are never received.
Additionally, many individuals may take out government bonds or purchase stocks and never follow up. In that case, you may be eligible for stock dividends or bond payments without realizing it. Therefore, make sure to search for unclaimed payments through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and more.
Avoid Getting Scammed
If you’re searching for unclaimed funds, it is important to be diligent and confirm that you are dealing with official entities. For instance, if you are claiming government funds, the website you are claiming it through should generally have a .gov URL and be secure. If the website is not secure or is not a .gov link, it may be a scam.
Additionally, many individuals or corporations may contact you offering to help you find and receive unclaimed funds. However, they may charge you for the service. Some companies may charge 10 percent or more of the unclaimed funds to help you receive them.
In most cases, these services are not necessary. Otherwise, they may be outright scams, stealing your personal information and then claiming the funds in their entirety.