US government assistance programs for needy people

In the United States, there are varieties of benefit programs offered by the local, state, and federal government to low-income people. Each benefit has specific requirements for an individual or family to qualify. The requirements are listed in the application or information describing the benefit qualifications. One of the common requirements is the amount of income an individual or family earns in a year.

Here are some programs available to low-income families:

  • Food stamp program
  • Health programs
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Food stamp program

The food stamp program basically is a way for qualified individuals and families to buy food for free. People who receive the assistance basically go to their local grocery stores and buy the food as we all do. Instead of paying cash or via credit card, these individuals pay from their government funded amount. The amount, for instance, could be deducted from their government issued card. More information on this program is available from the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service. See this page for contact information.

Health programs

Normally, people pay for their own medical care. This can be done in any number of ways including self-pay, via health insurance or government-funded health insurance programs. Because the medical care is expensive, it is often difficult for people to afford health care costs. So those needing health care or even those not anticipating health care often buy health insurance - if they can afford it.

Health insurance is not cheap. To make health insurance affordable, employers offer health insurance benefits to their employees. Employer offered health insurance, however often does not cover the full monthly premium (or also referred to as health insurance fee). In these cases, the employee has to pay part of the premium, which is not necessarily a small amount. The money is deducted from the employee’s paycheck.

Those who have low-income cannot afford the health care costs. They can only use health care if this is free or very low-cost alternative. This is why the federal and state governments provide healthcare assistance programs. Pregnant women and children can get health care assistance in most states. Your local health department is the best place to find information on health care eligibility and benefits.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is the place to search for health care choices. The department’s website helps you find local clinics or doctors providing health care with low or no cost. You can also use your local phone directory (yellow pages to be specific) to find information local healthcare choices under Social Services.

Here are some health program offerings from the US government:

  • Medicaid – this program is for low-income families. To qualify, you have to check with your state. Each state has its own guidelines for people to qualify for Medicaid. What does Medicaid do for low-income families? It pays basically the medical bill (i.e., doctor visit fees, hospitalization fees, and other medical services).
  • Medicare – this is for those individuals who are 65 years of age or older. This program is for those who have certain disabilities. Medicare does not cover routine care (dental care, eye care, or regular check-ups) but it covers sick or injury care. The Medicare program also offers discount drug card for saving on prescription drugs.
  • SCHIP (stands for State Children’s Health Insurance Program) - this health insurance assistance program targets infants, children, teenagers. This free or low-cost healthcare pays for doctor visits, prescription medicines, hospital care, and so on.

Finding more on these health programs:

  • More information on Medicaid and Medicare programs can be found by contacting the Social Security Administration (1-800-772-1213) or the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (website at
  • for SCHIP, visit or call 1-877-543-7669.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program provides assistance and work opportunities to those with low-incomes. Because the assistance comes from the states (but it is a federal program), offerings are different state by state. You can learn more on the program by going to

Assistance for survivors of domestic violence

The federal government provides services to survivors of domestic violence. The assistance is in the form of shelter and food. You can contact the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services at

Posted on 3/2/2008
by Raj Singh