Financial Help for Needy Families

Families may need financial help for any number of reasons. Loss of a job, unexpected medical bills or other financial crises can cause families to struggle to put food on the table and keep roofs over their heads. Numerous state and federal programs offer financial help when needed.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, TANF, provides cash assistance to needy families for a limited period of time to assist them with basic needs such as housing, food, clothing, medical care and transportation. Families usually receive benefits via electronic benefit cards that resemble debit or credit cards, which they can use at numerous stores to purchase items or at automatic teller machines to make cash withdrawals. Apply for help at the welfare office in the county in which you reside.

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers

Section 8 Housing Choice Vouchers, offered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, helps needy families pay for housing. Families can use vouchers anywhere as long as their landlords agree to accept the vouchers. Apply for help at the public housing agency in the county in which you reside.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Available in all states, the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture helps needy families purchase food to meet their nutritional needs. Families can use funds to purchase a wide variety of food items including meat, dairy products, fresh produce, canned goods, frozen foods, cereals, baked goods, rice and pasta, snack foods and beverages at many different grocery stores. You can apply for the program at the welfare office in the county in which you reside.

National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program of the U.S. Department of Agriculture helps pay for lunches for school children from needy families. Most public schools and many private schools participate in the program and they must provide lunches that meet nutritional standards set forth by the U.S.D.A. You can apply for the program directly at your child’s school.


Available in all 50 states, the Medicaid program helps some needy families pay for medical care, including visits to doctors or clinics, hospitalization, medical tests, prescription drugs and mental health care. In some states, children may qualify but their parents may not; in other states the entire family may qualify. You can apply for Medicaid at the welfare office in the county in which you reside.

Home Energy Assistance Program

The Home Energy Assistance Program helps needy families pay home heating and cooling bills. The program makes payments directly to utility companies on behalf of eligible families. Contact your utility company or the welfare office in the county in which you reside to find out what agency administers the program in your state so you can apply.