The Family Investment Program is Iowa's version of the federal Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program. The FIP provides cash assistance to very low-income households with children. Families can receive benefits for up to 60 months in a lifetime. Payments are made electronically through Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT). The benefits are deposited onto an EBT card you can use to make purchases, pay bills or withdraw cash at an ATM. There are certain guidelines to meet and requirements you must fulfill to qualify for the FIP.
The state and federal governments set the general eligibility guidelines for the program. You must:
- Be a U.S. citizen. Your children must also be U.S. citizens or have eligible status.
- Be an Iowa resident.
- Have a Social Security number for all household members
- Have dependent children under the age of 18 living in your home. If your children are older than 18, they must still be in school and expected to graduate high school before turning 20. If you're pregnant, you become eligible in the month before your due date.
- Meet income limits. As of 2015, a single parent with two children can't exceed $361 per month in income after deductions.
- Meet asset limits. When you apply, your family can't have more than $2,000 in countable resources. Your home and vehicle are excluded. Some examples of assets that count include cash, bank accounts, stocks and bonds. After you begin receiving FIP, you can have up to $5,000 in countable assets.
- Apply for any other benefits you are eligible for, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, Medicaid or Social Security disability benefits.
You're required to participate in a work and training program called Promise Jobs. You'll work directly with a Promise agent to create a Family Investment Agreement. The signed agreement explains the steps you'll take to support your family and the state's role in that plan. You're required to work at least 20 hours per week. Until you can find employment, there are job-readiness, job training and volunteer work-related activities for you to participate in that satisfy the work requirement.
Child Support Requirement
If you seek child support from a child's other parent, you must cooperate with child support enforcement. This means you'll need to provide any information you have to help locate the absent parent. If you've already filed for child support but the parent isn't paying, the state can help enforce the order. Any support collected will go directly to the state for the months you are receiving FIP benefits. The amount the state keeps can't exceed the total amount of money you receive from the FIP. If you feel it's in your child's best interest not to cooperate with child support, let your case worker know. The state will determine whether or not you have good cause based on your reason and proof you provide.
Applying for Assistance
The Iowa Department of Human Services provides the Online Application for State of Iowa Services (OASIS) that lets you apply for the FIP online. You'll need to answer questions about your household, including the number of people living in the home and your income.
Obtain a paper "Financial Support Application" at your local county Department of Human Services office or download it from the DHS website. Complete the application in person or mail it back the office.
After your application is received, an interview is scheduled. When you come to the interview, you'll need to bring certain documentation, such as proof of income. Applications take seven to 30 days to be reviewed. After your application is reviewed, you'll receive a notice in the mail letting you know whether or not your household is approved. You'll receive your first FIP check within seven days of receiving the approval letter.
Jeannine Mancini, a Florida native, has been writing business and personal finance articles since 2003. Her articles have been published in the Florida Today and Orlando Sentinel. She earned a Bachelor of Science in Interdisciplinary Studies from the University of Central Florida.