Did You Know You Can Get Free Money From The Government?
The coronavirus pandemic and shutdown of businesses has caused unemployment to quadruple. If ever there was a time to need unemployment benefits, this is it.
While the federal government has provided economic help to workers and businesses through the CARES Act, the short-term assistance isn’t the only way Americans can get help.
Other programs existed before the Covid-19 pandemic to offer free money to people in need, and they’re still available today.
Here are some programs funded by taxes that could help you get through unemployment even if you need help long after relief programs set up during the coronavirus are no longer funded:
Help Paying Utility Bills
Natural gas and electricity are things that most homeowners or renters can’t live without. If money is tight, then paying this important bill can be difficult.
The average national utility bill accounts for 7% of a family’s monthly budget. Low-income families pay 10-22% of their income for electricity alone.
An electric bill is typically due 21 days after the meter is read. If it isn’t paid on time, a late notice could give you five business days to pay it. After that, a utility company could disconnect service.
Many states have ordered utility companies during the pandemic to suspend disconnections. Power companies may also be willing to work out payment plans with customers. Charities may also offer help.
One of the biggest programs to help pay utility bills is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP. It issues grants through the states and is funded by the Department of Health and Human Services.
The grants can be used to pay heating and cooling bills, or to pay to weatherize a home and make it more energy efficient.
Eligibility varies by state, but generally requires being at 150% of the poverty level. That equates to $17,820 annual income for one person, and $36,540 for a family of four.
Discounted phone and internet service is offered through the Lifeline program, which is based on income of 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines.
Child Care Assistance
Annual day care costs for an infant range from $5,000 in Mississippi to $22,600 in Washington, D.C., according to the Economic Policy Institute.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services gives states money to distribute to low-income families for child care through the Child Care and Development Fund. Grants are typically for child care for children under 13.
Healthcare Help for Kids
Low-income parents may also qualify for free or reduced-cost healthcare for their children through InsureKidsNow.gov.
The site helps parents find services such as the Children’s Health Insurance Program and local Medicaid programs. Dental assistance is also offered.
Down Payment Assistance
Coming up with a down payment can be one of the biggest roadblocks to buying a home. Chances are that your state has programs to help you cover those upfront costs.
Most states offer down payment assistance for home buyers through grants and loans.
The state of Nevada, for example, gives prospective homeowners who qualify a grant of up to 5% of their home value to put toward a down payment and closing costs.
For home loans backed by the federal government, Nevada offers grants for buyers with an annual income below $98,500.
College grants such as the federal Pell Grant can make affording college easier. Pell Grant recipients in the 2020-21 award year can get up to $6,345.
Award amounts are based on financial need, attendance costs, and enrollment status. Apply for a Pell Grant through the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, called FAFSA for short.
Other federal grants for college include:
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education Grant Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant
This isn’t free money, but it’s close. Through a site affiliated with the National Association of State Treasurers, you can search for money owed to you.
It’s a database to search for unclaimed money such as a deposit paid to a utility company that you forgot about, a lost savings bond, uncashed paycheck, unclaimed life insurance benefits, or other money you may be owed from years ago but forgot about.
States return more than $1 billion annually, according to the site.
States offer free online searches of their unclaimed property databases. You can search it as a private citizen or wait for your state to locate you.
It’s a shot in the dark if you’ll find unclaimed money owed to you, but it’s fast and easy to check. What have you got to lose?