What Government Assistance Is Available for Poor People?

In 2009, approximately 44 million Americans were living below the poverty line, according to the "Washington Post." This includes not only people who are out of a job, but the working poor as well -- people who are working, but still not making ends meet. The government offers assistance in a variety of ways to those who need it. Assistance programs cover all areas where a family might need financial aid. Check to see if your income level qualifies you.

Food Assistance

Food is essential for survival and the government helps those who cannot afford it. Through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) -- formerly called "food stamps" -- families receive debit cards that they can use to buy food in grocery stores. The Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program provides specific food items -- milk, bread, eggs and cereal, for example -- to pregnant women, babies and families with children. Additionally, the government offers free or reduced-cost school lunches for the students who qualify.

Housing Assistance

Housing can be a major expense. Individuals who are having difficulty providing housing can apply to be a part of the "Section 8" program, which pays for a percentage of the rent of a house or apartment in qualified housing units. The Federal Housing Administration backs mortgage loans for those who can afford them but who may not qualify on their own or who cannot afford a 20 percent down payment.

General Assistance

Those who are out of work may receive welfare benefits, which are small financial stipends to cover major living costs during times of need. Unemployment benefits can help you get by while you are looking for a new job.

Health-care Assistance

Health insurance is expensive when you don't receive it from your employer. The government offers the Medicaid program to those whose income level and available assets are low enough for them to qualify.

Education Assistance

Young children may be able to enter a Head Start program or a Universal Pre-Kindergarten program free of charge, which can help set them up for success in school and later in life. Disadvantaged students going to college will qualify for both grants and low-interest loans from the government.

Job Assistance

The U.S. Department of Labor can help you find a job that you're qualified for. Many local branches offer job listings along with seminars to teach you how to write a good resume and how to interview for a job. Some areas may offer free apprentice programs, which can teach the skills you'll need for a better career.