You may have taken a pay cut or be out of work. Parents in a struggling family worry about how to care for the children: paying the rent, buying food, paying for prescription medicine and for daycare expenses. Additionally, there are utility and credit card bills as well as transportation costs. Fortunately, there are several places offering financial help for struggling families.
National School Lunch Program
Public schools offer free or reduced-price lunch to students from struggling families through the National School Lunch Program. Additionally, many schools offer a hot breakfast as well. The school counselor can advise you of the requirements to qualify for the program.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, helps low-income families to stretch their food dollars. They determine the amount of assistance on a case-by-case basis, depending on your income, number of dependents and several other factors. You can apply online or at your state social services agency.
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Apply at your bank or credit union for a consolidation loan to pay off your bills. Although the level of debt does not decrease, you will only have one monthly payment to make. Additionally, the credit union may offer a more favorable interest rate than what you are paying on your credit cards.
Consumer Credit Counseling Service
The Consumer Credit Counseling Service (CCCS) helps people who are struggling to pay their credit card bills. If you cannot afford the monthly payments or are already behind in your payments, then the CCCS will try to negotiate affordable payments on your behalf. The agency designs a monthly budget that you agree to abide by until your debts are paid.
Pharmaceutical companies have programs to help people who are struggling to pay for their prescription medicine. Some companies provide vouchers for free medicine while others will mail coupons for significant savings. Your pharmacy may have a program for reduced-price medicine for people without health insurance.
State and Local Government
Your state or local government may have programs to make emergency payments to prevent utility shutoff. Some northern municipalities have programs to help with winter heating bills. Additionally, they may have programs to defray daycare expenses for working parents. Visit your state social services office to find out what programs you qualify for and how to apply.
Some retirement accounts permit withdrawals for emergencies, such as a family facing eviction. Check with your bank or employee benefits office to find out if this is possible. You will pay an IRS penalty for early withdrawal.
Churches and Charities
Churches and charities, such as the Salvation Army and Catholic Charities USA, may offer assistance in any of several ways. A church may offer free or reduced daycare as well as groceries, financial assistance and emotional support to the struggling family. Charities may offer all of the above as well as housing for a homeless family, retraining programs to become more employable and clothing for job interviews.
Utility companies offer budget-billing programs to help people who are struggling to pay their bills. You pay the same amount every month throughout the year. The utility resets the amount once each year based on your average usage.