The United States has several national programs meant to help its citizens during times of financial crisis. These are often collectively referred to as the safety net. The safety net is meant to help low-income citizens or people who do not have good prospects or many opportunities for supporting themselves. U.S. welfare programs are not easy ways to avoid responsibility, but come with many restrictions, limits and conditions.
The United States has a number of government programs to assist senior citizens. Medicare is a national health insurance program meant to provide health care services to the elderly. Although Medicare Part A is usually premium-free, Medicare as a whole comes with deductibles, premiums and co-pays, which must be covered by beneficiaries. But Medicare is generally lower-cost than private insurance. Medicare benefits include inpatient and outpatient hospital care, home health, hospice services, preventive health screenings, vaccinations, skilled nursing care and doctor’s visits. Low-income seniors can also get help paying Medicare costs from Medicaid.
Medicaid is another national health insurance plan, but this one is meant primarily for children. Low-income elderly, the disabled and pregnant women also qualify for Medicaid, but the majority of Medicaid users are children under 18. Medicaid is administered by the states, which decide who qualifies for the program and enrolls members. Medicaid provides comprehensive health services and usually includes benefits for vision and dental services as well as doctor and hospital visits.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, often just referred to as welfare, is a government program designed to help families with children and pregnant women become self-sufficient. TANF is funded by federal block grants but is managed by the states. Participants must meet income and work requirements, in exchange for which they receive monthly cash benefits to use for housing, food or other expenses. TANF families may also receive child care assistance, help with transportation and job training. If TANF participants do not fulfill their work requirements, their benefits can be reduced or eliminated. Federal law sets a five-year limit on TANF participation, although states are allowed to extend this under certain circumstances. However, states are also allowed to set shorter time periods for TANF benefits.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is a government program meant to help families and individuals buy healthy food. SNAP eligibility and benefit amounts are generally based on household income and the number of people in the household. Many families and older citizens qualify for SNAP, but single adults with no children may also qualify if they meet income and asset tests. SNAP can be used for any kind of fruits, vegetables, meats, cereals or dairy products. You cannot use SNAP for nonfood items, alcohol or tobacco products.
Amber D. Walker has been writing professionally since 1989. She has had essays published in "Fort Worth Weekly," "Starsong," "Paper Bag," "Living Buddhism" and more. Walker holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in English from the University of Texas and worked as an English teacher abroad for six years.