Do you need help with grants, federal aid, scholarships or ways to find money for school? Lots of companies want to help you, often for a fee you don't have. And searching for help online can get very confusing quickly.
At a loss? So are a lot of other people. Maybe you need to know where you can find local service agencies. What if you desperately need help right away to make home repairs that affect your health and safety, or help to feed your children, pay medical bills, find a place to live or get a job.
There are many services available. We tell you how to find them. We also let you know what you may really find. It may not be what you want to hear - or what you think a politician promised.
You are not going to find an agency where you just sign up and receive money to pay bills or erase credit card debt. But with some effort you can find aid and people who will help you help yourself. Use the information below to find help. Always beware of people who offer to help you for a fee. All the resources we cover here are free of charge.
Discover your program today!
Though the federal government provides some funding to states to help low income families and emergencies, there is no standard way we know of to find out how to get some of that help. If you are facing an emergency you can follow the recommendations in this article. You can also do your own search using such keywords as the name of your town or county and “Low income” and “emergency” to find resources that are relevant to where you live. You can also contact a local HUD office. They do not generally provide support directly but they do have a number of programs that could be of help and they would likely know how to find other options near you.
Update February 2018 If substance abuse or any kind of addiction is part of your problem check out our newest article about Help For Addiction to find the help you need. It could save your life, not to mention your relationships…
Update January 2018 Has all the business, excitement, stress and more of the recent holiday season left you not only exhausted but maybe also a little bit (or a lot…) blue? Sometimes what you really need is someone to talk to. But that might make you uncomfortable, especially if you have to give out information about yourself. You do have an option that won't require that you do that and in fact is completely confidential. You can get free counseling and therapy via online chat at 7cups. It's easy to get started so give it a try, especially if your “blues” are affecting your life or your family's in a negative way.
Update April 2017 Is the help you need related to an addiction you are battling – or one you think you can control? Deep down you probably realize that you are only fooling yourself if you think you can handle it on your own. Addiction is a powerful and dangerous slippery slope usually to jail or even death. Get the help you need – it doesn't have to cost a lot and there are lots of programs out there to help you. AA is free (and they have coffeee!) and they are all over the place, just do a simple search for meetings near you. If there is a City Team Ministries in your area they have an awesome program with a great track record for freeing people from the bondage of addiction through their 9-12 month live-in program. And there is an addiction hot line that is free and confidential, available 24/7 877-582-2352.
If you search for “I Need Help” you will get a variety of results. High on the list will likely be those who want to give you a loan. Maybe not so helpful if your problem is too much debt or you have no way to qualify for an installment loan. Some may be similar to this article, with some reasonable ideas and tips about where to find help, especially locally. Others will be about online therapy, or free communication with mental health experts. You may want to bleep right over those if your issues are financial but perhaps you should stop and think about it. Is some sort of mental issue — maybe as basic as depression or anxiety — causing behavior that is hurting your family and/or financial situation? If so then perhaps a pretty anonymous call with someone who truly has your best interest at heart would be a good idea. You may just want to give it a try…
Update January 2017 Tax time is rolling around again! If you for some reason have not filed your taxes for several years and you're anxious about it, it's time to unload that burden. Regardless of whether you owed taxes or were due a refund in any of those years, you are required to follow a return. And the IRS does not look kindly on non-filers. The good news is that if you were due a refund you most likely will have no penalties. Otherwise, penalties will apply and the amount will depend on your financial details. No one can get you out of filing, but some people do specialize in helping folks out … and some are even free. Check out Free Tax Help and get some peace of mind this year…
If you have been released from prison or are anticipating being released soon, check out the information in this article about Grants for Felons. There is probably more help out there than you think!
If you're tempted to spend some of the last of your scarce cash on a book about Free Money be sure first to take a (free) look at our review of one of the most highly publicized book: Kevin Trudeau's Free Money "They" Don' t Want You To Know About. We bought it and read it so we could tell you exactly what you'll find (inclduing what's good about it).
Trying to find a better rental home you can afford? Get free information about government and private organizations that will help you in Assistance for Rent.
Are you worried that you might soon lose your apartment because the landlord has applied to have it removed from rent control or plans to replace the building at much higher rents? Pay attention to local news about the subject if that's the case. That's what's happening to some folks in San Jose, CA (as of April 2016) and a local politician is trying to push through a program to provide them with compensation and assistance if they have to move. The same thing could be happening in your area so stay tuned in to what's going on. Check your city's web site regularly for news.
Do you need a car to get or keep a job? We don't know of federal grants for this purpose but there are lots of other organizations out there that help. Find out more in Money For A Car.
Not in a crisis? Read our review of the benefits.gov website. Complete the questionnaire. It covers your whole situation. It will identify government aid available to you. For repairs to your home for health and safety, see our article about resources to help you repair your home.
Are you a student and looking for money to pay for college or career school? If you're ignoring federal help because you don't think you'll qualify, think again! Nerdwallet reports that their study shows that students and families left almost $3 billion (!!) on the table simply because they didn't fill out the FAFSA to apply for financial assistance. So don't make any assumptions – get busy on that FAFSA now. They've made it easier and the earlier you fill it out the more aid you could receive.
Disabled or caring for someone who is? An excellent site can help you find resources and support. Read our review and user guide for disability.gov.
Are you a senior, struggling to get by on a fixed income? Take a look at the tips and suggestions in Grants for Seniors.
Is your need urgent? There are local resources that you can call and visit in person. You may need to swallow your pride to do this. There is nothing wrong with needing help. People provide help because they care about you. Leave any attitude at home and take advantage of what is offered.
You should also check the services offered by your local housing agency. For individual state help see our articles about grants in California, Florida, Illinois, New York and Texas. We are working to add new states regularly so check back often to see if we have found support you have missed.
Finally, did you graduate college recently? There's a new repayment plan that could lower your monthly debt payments. See our January 2013 Free Money Newsletter.
Feel like you've seen it - and tried it - all before? We put together a special article all about newer resources, including many that take advantage of new technologies. You might find ways to “crowdfund” assistance for your needs, see how the Department of Labor can help you recover past wages (you might not even know you have!), and how to save on some of your shopping. Discover more about creative ways to find help in Free Money 2015.
Here are some more resources we recommend:
If you are a family in serious need you might want to check out the Gradient Foundation. Their Community Outreach Program helps low income, under-served families who may lose their home. You can apply online, providing a bunch of information about yourselves and your family’s situation. If accepted the Foundation will pay your mortgage or lease payments for a year, helping you get back on your feet. They also provide counseling and assistance to help you reach self-sufficiency.
It's like 9-1-1. In 90% of the country, dialing 2-1-1 puts you in touch with someone who can help you find local help for your needs. It's not available everywhere but does claim to cover 90% of the population and to reach all 50 states.
The number of organizations offering services is increasing. But finding them and knowing which one can help you can get confusing. By dialing 2-1-1 you can talk to a human being and explain your situation. They can then provide information about what is available where. The types of services covered include basics like food, clothing and shelter, including
- help with rent and paying utility bills;
- help finding a job, getting transportation to and from work, receiving job training and being sure you are getting any unemployment benefits you are entitled to;
- finding good childcare and after-school programs, tutoring and mentoring services, and access to government programs like Head Start;
- identifying sports, recreation programs and summer camps your children might attend;
- getting help with health-related issues whether they are physical or mental. These might include counseling and support groups along with Medicare and Medicaid and other health insureance issues, children's programs, and problems related to drug and alcohol abuse; and
- assistance for seniors and people with disabilities including help with transportation, programs like Meals on Wheels, respite care, in-home help services related to health or basic homemaking services, and adult day-care service offerings.
Local Community Services
If you’re having a tough time making ends meet and you frequently are faced with food insecurity even if you’re receiving help from government programs, there are other organizations that may be able to help you. One is called “Feeding America.” It has a nationwide network of food banks , food pantries and meal programs available in every state plus Washington DC and Puerto Rico. The service is free, confidential, and you don’t have to have any specific qualifications to receive support. They will even help you identify current government programs for which you could qualify. Search Feeding America food bank locator to get the most current list of existing locations.
Free Dental Care: Did you know it exists? There are actually a number of ways that you can find either free or low cost dental care that charges you based on your income. Check out our review of current options for free dental care.
If you don't have 2-1-1 in you can go and talk to lots of widely available service agencies yourself. It may not be fun but it can work. They may or may not be able to help you, but they can refer you to another organization that could help. To find these agencies do an online search including the name of your city, county or state; look up community services in your telephone book; or go to a library and ask for assistance at the Reference Desk.
Here are some of the most promising organizations to approach:
Community Service Agency is often the name of local outfits providing food, clothing, job assistance, and more. They typically provide direct support (including pajamas and gifts during the holiday season) and may also be able to refer you elsewhere.
YMCA or YWCA: These are in lots of local communities. They often provide local support services and pride themselves on building strong communities, individuals and families.
Religious Organizations: Even if you haven't been inside a church, temple, mosque or other religious building for a long time - or ever - they exist to support their community of faith. The definition of that “community” typically includes those who are not “members”, and most provide some sort of service to the community. They also have ties to many local service agencies.
The Salvation Army: You may know them best as the folks ringing bells outside retail stores during the holiday season. Their mission is to spread the teachings of Jesus Christ and serve the needs of others in Jesus' name, with no discrimination. Don't be afraid of getting preached at(it might be a good thing!). These people want to help you and they provide lots of critical services in thousands of communities.
If you have some urgent needs but there are no grants for which you are eligible there are a couple of other options to try. They won't give you money instantly but may be worth looking into. First there are some crowdfunding platforms that let people in need seek funding from folks out there who are just looking to help people. We review the top rated ones in Free Money 2015. If these don't look promising there are also some online lending programs that cater to those with less than stellar credit scores. Peerform is one that allows investors to help fund loans to people. You don't have to tell a big story about yourself or create any videos. You just fill out their application form and then wait to see if people will fund your loan. Again, it doesn't happen instantly, but if you are successful your loan rate will be much lower than going after something like a paycheck loan. Peerform will arrange loans up to $25,000, and there is a loan origination fee of 5% of the loan amount. Discover more about Peerform and other online lending platforms that make unsecured personal loans in our review of Personal Loans.