How Does Public Assistance Work?

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Types of Assistance

From unemployment to disability benefits, persons and/or families with a demonstrated need may qualify to receive monies from the government and other non-profit organizations. Common types of assistance include: food stamps, veterans benefits, welfare, utility payment loans, unemployment benefits, reduced health care, reduced school lunch vouchers and housing vouchers (HUD). These, as with many other public assistance programs, require financial and employment documents to prove financial need, or in the case of unemployment benefits, a record of employment and a termination date as well as certification that the applicant is in search of new employment. Regardless of the public assistance program, an applicant must prove his case for assistance and be held accountable for the data he provides. In some cases, an applicant must continuously petition for assistance, for example on a monthly or yearly basis. The purpose of a continued (or rolling) application (or approval) process, is to eliminate overpayment or the unnecessary payment of benefits beyond the intended payment period. This also requires an applicant to continuously check with the assistance organization to monitor his progress (finding employment, for example) as well as prevent abuse of funds.

How to Apply for Assistance

To apply for public assistance, an applicant has to demonstrate need and eligibility. In most cases, an application is processed for approval. Upon approval, a specified assistance award is provided, determining the exact amount of assistance, length of time that assistance will be available; restrictions and qualifications that apply for continued eligibility are also determined. For example, a person receiving unemployment benefits might receive an award of 2,000 dollars, to be disbursed in 200 dollar weekly payments, over the course of 1 year. Restrictions may include and be subject to the applicant's willingness to search for new employment or remain available for full time employment should it be offered by a potential employer.

About the Author

Charlie Gaston has written numerous instructional articles on topics ranging from business to communications and estate planning. Gaston holds a bachelor's degree in international business and a master's degree in communications. She is fluent in Spanish and has extensive travel experience.

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