Broke? Need help paying rent, fixing your car, child care, medical bills? There are many resources available, some specifically for single moms. Here are some programs that can help. Also, check out our Single Mom Monthly $500 Grant.
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Cash assistance programs
TANF, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, is the new name for cash assistance once called ‘welfare.' Today the program requires participants to work part-time or prove that you're looking for work. Learn more about TANF.
Guaranteed income (or universal basic income)
Universal Basic Income, or UBI, is increasingly gaining popularity as an efficient, effective way to alleviate poverty and improve society overall. The essence of these programs is that by giving people a guaranteed sum of cash each month — opposed to expensive, cumbersome and inefficient programs — recipients are more likely to get the services or resources they need, money flows more freely in local economies, and society overall benefits from a sense that we take care of one another, studies are finding.
“I am now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective — the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income.” — Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Single moms stand to benefit the most from this kind of aide. From feminist news site The 19th:
About 56 percent of the people who live in poverty in the United States are women, and most of those are women of color. Of that group, unmarried women with children, like Nichols, are the most likely to be below the federal poverty line. For her family of five, that’s $30,680.
Here is a list of pilot UBI programs:
A coalition of 36 mayors from places like Atlanta, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, New Orleans, Compton and Stockton, Calif., Gainesville, Fla., Wausau, Wisc., and Jackson, Miss., came together to test UBI programs in their cities. Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey committed $15 million to the organization.
Magnolia Mother’s Trust is a pilot program founded in 2018 that provides $1,000 a month for a year to low-income Black mothers living in affordable housing in Jackson, Miss. The program started with 20 recipients and now serves 100 mothers annually, who also get $1,000 in a 529 college savings account for their children.
The city of Los Angeles is launching what it calls “the largest guaranteed income economic assistance pilot program in our nation's history.” The city will select 3,000 families living in poverty to receive $1,000 a month for a year, with no rules for how the money is spent. Applicants must have at least one dependent minor or be pregnant, in addition to experiencing financial or medical hardships as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Since 2016, Jain Family Institute has built a global network of fellows, advisors, and partners that provides a unique view into the variety of ways cash transfer programs can be structured and implemented. Their white papers cover disbursement infrastructure, interactions with existing benefits, and optimal guaranteed income design.
The Oakland, Calf., city program, which has raised $6.75 million from private donors, will give low-income families of color $500 per month.
Food assistance programs
Find a food pantry near you using Food Finder, which will connect you with free food given away through local churches, community programs, charities in all 50 states.
Find your local food bank through the Feeding America website.
USDA National Hunger Hotline: 1-866-3-HUNGRY (1-866-348-6479) or 1-877-8-HAMBRE (1-877-842-6273). Monday through Friday, 7:00 AM to 10:00 PM Eastern.
Government food assistance programs including SNAP / food stamps / WIC are enhanced during the pandemic.
Do you qualify for food stamps? Each state has its own income limits. Check with your local agency to see if you qualify. As one example, here is the current income limit chart for Pennsylvania:
See if your local schools offer free meals for families with children, and food programs for senior citizens.
The Women Infants and Children program for families with children aged 5 and younger offers food coupons you can use at grocery stores, markets and bodegas, for qualifying food. Learn whether you are eligible for WIC, and how to apply.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program loads financial credit to low-income people on a debit card, that you use at your local grocery store and market. Learn how to qualify, and apply online for SNAP.
During the pandemic, the Biden administration expanded benefits for SNAP recipients through Sept. 30, 2021. Many states have chosen to continue those benefits indefinitely into 2022:
- New Jersey
- North Carolina
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- West Virginia
School Breakfast and Lunch Programs
This national program helps families with food through their local schools and daycare centers by providing free breakfasts and lunches to students. Learn more.
As of April, 2021, SNAP emergency funding was expanded by an additional $1 billion per month to 25 million people as part of the Biden-Harris Administration’s American Rescue Plan Act, which includes:
- Extending a 15 percent increase in SNAP benefits— providing over $1.1 billion per month in additional benefits through September 2021;
- Funding meals for young adults experiencing homelessness through Child and Adult Care Food Program emergency shelters;
- Providing nearly $900 million for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, including a temporary increase in fruit and vegetable vouchers to $35 per month
Special Milk Program
If your school does not have a free breakfast or lunch program, they may qualify for the special milk program. Learn more.
Summer Food Service Program
The federal Summer Food Service programs helps families who depend on school lunches and breakfasts to access nutritious foods during summer breaks. Learn more.
Housing assistance programs
Even if you have a solid income, you may qualify for first-time homeowners programs, or rental assistance. Read more about housing help in this post about free housing and rental assistance.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low-income families and individuals with energy costs, energy crisis hellp, weatherization and energy-related home repairs. Find info for your state here.
Child care assistance programs
Public assistance day care programs
Each state's Health and Human Services can help you find grants and money for low-cost or free daycare, based on your need, income and program availability in your area. Learn about your options at the Office of Childcare Website.
Head Start day care
Head Start and Early Head Start is an established federal program that has proven successful in providing educational readiness for low-income children under age 5 from low-income families. The program's goals are to help all children get ready for school, as well as provide affordable child care to their parents.
State child care assistance subsidies for single moms
Each state has child care assistance programs that can help you find quality day care centers, and pay for them. Find programs in your state and town with the Office of Child Care's website.
More help for single moms
For more info on running your household efficiently, creating budgets, meal plans, chores and more, check out our resources guide for single moms.
Also, the nonprofit Savvy Ladies provides a free volunteer-run helpline service that pairs you with the appropriate volunteer to help you with:
- divorce and money
- family finances
- small business planning
- debt management (including credit cards)
- retirement investing/saving
- money and emotions
The following are government and community resources to help families in need — including single-parent-led households.
Check out our list of where to get free Christmas and holiday gifts for low-income families. As well as 20 scholarships for single moms.
Free Christmas gifts and toys
There are dozens of local and national programs to help low-income families enjoy the holidays with free gifts. Here is our guide to free Christmas presents.
There are also opportunities to get free toys from various sources year-round.
Get a free car, or help buying a car as a single mom
There are local and national programs to help low-income people get a free car, or finance a quality used car at good rates. This guide on how to get a car for low-income people will help.
If you're ready to buy a car, but money is a problem, we recommend 1800FreshStart, a marketplace for auto loans. 1800FreshStart is a quality service:
- Better Business Bureau rating of A+
- APRs starting at 1.74%
- Buy or refinance a car
- Available to buyers who have low or no credit, or who have gone through bankrupcy
- Apply for an auto loan within 90 seconds
More info on buying a car if you don't have a lot of money.
Free cell phone
Lifeline is a government program that helps low-income qualifying people get a free or reduced-price smartphone and wireless service. We elaborate on the dozens of programs throughout the United States, Puerto Rico and Virgin Islands, including those from big carriers like Verizon and T-Mobile in this guide to free smartphones and cell service.
Whether for your own use finding a job and personal use, or for your children to use for school work, we collected 15 ways to get a free laptop for low-income families and students.
Free wifi and internet
Check out our guide to 10 places to get free internet and wifi for home — for students and low-income families and people.
Medicaid is a joint federal and state medical insurance program for low-income families. Find out if you qualify for Medicaid, and learn about your state's benefits.
If you are one of the majority of Americans who rely on prescription drugs, you may be able to get them for free or very low-cost. Learn more in our prescription medication guide.
Whether you need new clothes for your children, a professional outfit for a job interview, or you just want to update your wardrobe, there are a lot of ways to get free clothes when you can't afford to buy them.
We put together a list of places to get free clothing.
The last thing any mom should have to worry about is how she'll feed her baby. Luckily there are programs like WIC that provide free formula to qualifying moms and babies.
Check out our guide to getting free formula and formula samples.
If you need help buying diapers, you have options. We put together a list of places to get free or cheap diapers.