Federal Programs Benefits And Resources

It’s been a stressful year for many people, particularly those directly affected by unemployment and reduced wages. While unemployment insurance is one lifeline for individuals and families, it may not be enough. 

In these cases, the federal government offers other benefits to help struggling Americans make ends meet. The list below explains how you can get help for necessary expenses such as health care, housing, food, and more. You can find out which programs you qualify for by completing a short survey on Benefits.gov.

2-1-1 is another valuable resource that can assist you with food, housing, employment, health care, and financial counseling for free. Dial 2-1-1 or visit 211.org to find referrals and more.

Financial Counseling Resources

If you lost your job during the pandemic, you know that every dollar counts. A counselor can help you make the most with your budget and offer advice for smarter money management. Here are a few places to look:


  • Money Smart, an instruction program run by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, helps families improve their financial literacy and foster better relationships with their bank.


  • Money Matters, a resource offered through the Federal Trade Commission, provides advice for several subjects, such as preventing scams and improving your financial skills, debt management, and credit cards.


  • Making Smart Financial Choices after a Job Loss can help you sort through the financial hurdles of unemployment with guidance from the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) and the National Association for State Workforce Agencies. 



Many banks now extend payment assistance for borrowers during the pandemic, including refunds on fees, payment deferral, and more — all without affecting your credit score. Call or visit your bank or credit card provider and ask for a forbearance plan for COVID-related relief. Remember that these plans only postpone your payments temporarily, so you will need to pay them in full when the forbearance period ends.

Assistance For Energy Bills

If you are struggling to afford your energy bill right now, check to see if you are eligible for aid through the Low Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), designed to assist low-income earners with their energy costs. Because every state’s LIHEAP program differs, check your State LIHEAP Program criteria.

To learn more about the application process, call or email the National Energy Assistance Referral project at 1-866-674-6327 or energy@ncat.org.

Assistance For Childcare

For many families, childcare is the most significant expense. If you’re struggling to find affordable childcare, contact your State Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program to see how to qualify for cash or other additional resources.

Assistance For Food

You shouldn’t have to worry about feeding yourself or your family after a job loss. The federal government offers low-income Americans aid through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). To see if you qualify, visit the Pre-Screening Tool and learn how to apply.

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is another federal program that extends food assistance, health care recommendations, and nutrition education to low-income expectant mothers and children up to five. Learn how to apply for WIC here

Children of eligible families can also receive reduced or free meals at school. Visit the nationwide Food Finder site to find food pantries, shelters, and kitchens that offer free meals close to you.

Housing And Rental Assistance

If you lost your job and are afraid that you may lose your home, these federal programs may help.

If you are a homeowner…


  • The US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides guidance for Avoiding Foreclosure.




Contact your lender to discuss a forbearance plan related to financial difficulties caused by the pandemic. Forbearance only postpones your mortgage payments, not waive them, so make sure you clarify details such as repayment or extended loan terms. 

If you are a renter…


  • The Department of Housing and Urban Affairs offers guidance for tenants, which you can read about here.



Renters can talk to their landlords about lowering their rent or suspending payments temporarily. Landlords may have access to mortgage assistance programs if their tenants are unable to pay their rent. 


  • CareerOneStop, 13 Feb. 2020, www.careeronestop.org/WorkerReEmployment/MoreBenefits/more-benefits.aspx.
Ian Schindler