In the midst of COVID-19, single parents are faced with an entirely new set of challenges. There’s tremendous pressure from school closures and a single income, which may have been impacted by furloughs or layoffs. Food insecurity has increased, and millions of families are struggling to keep up with rent payments. Fortunately, there are plenty of federal, state, and non-profit organizations that provide programs for financial help for single parents.
While it’s not realistic for many single parent households to keep an emergency fund, it’s important to know your options when faced with hardship. Consider a short-term personal loan with fair terms when the unexpected happens.
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Financial Help for Single Parents
During COVID-19, the CARES act provided a $1,200 stimulus check to all Americans that met income eligibility. Beyond these circumstances, state and federal programs exist to provide financial help for single parents in low-income situations, including programs to help pay for pets. Available funds vary by state and program, determined by the grant amount.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
TANF offers financial help for single parents by providing basic needs such as food and housing to help families achieve self-sufficiency. States receive block grants and operate varying programs across the country.
- What it offers: Financial assistance for families with children when basic needs can’t be met. There aren’t federal rules that determine the amount of cash benefits paid to a family through TANF, and the amount allocated to each family varies by state. For a family of three, the maximum monthly stipend ranges from $170 in Mississippi to $1,039 in New Hampshire.
- Eligibility requirements: Recipients must have a child under the age of 19 enrolled in school, meet household low-income eligibility, and be a U.S. citizen or meet immigration requirements. Additionally, the parent must show they’re taking specific actions for self-sufficiency outlined in the application.
- How to apply: Benefits vary, but application information for each state can be found on the Office of Family Assistance website.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income provides financial payments for children with disabilities in low-income families.
- What it offers: A monthly payment based on the federal benefit rate. In 2020, the maximum amount is $783 for each eligible individual.
- Eligibility requirements: The child must not be earning more than $1,260 per month and have a medical condition that results in functional limitations for at least 12 months.
- How to apply: Apply online using the application on the official website of the U.S. Social Security Administration.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
The EITC reduces the overall amount of owed taxes and in some cases, issues a refund.
- What it offers: A credit that lowers the amount of taxes owed, gives tax breaks, and, in some cases, refunds to low-income families. In 2020, the maximum benefit for a person with one child is $3,584 per year.
- Eligibility requirements: Applicants must have a valid Social Security number, earned income from working or owning a business, and have a child that meets qualifying rules.
- How to apply: You must file a tax return to claim EITC. Required tax documents can be found on the Internal Revenue Service website.
Help With Childcare for Single Parents
Childcare has a high price tag in a two-income household, making it nearly unaffordable for a single income household. These options offer quality care for school readiness for parents who are eligible.
Child and Dependent Care Credit
The Child and Dependent Care Credit provides a tax refund for child care related expenses incurred due to work or school.
- What it offers: Credit for a percentage of child care provider expenses up to $3,000 when filing taxes as a single parent.
- Eligibility requirements: You must file taxes with a qualifying dependent listed and report the care provider name, address, and SSN or EIN.
- How to apply: Complete Form 2441 and attach it to your Individual Income Tax Return.
Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF)
The Child Care Development Fund allocates money to provide child care to low-income single parents who are pursuing a career or a form of education.
- What it offers: Child care assistance through over $5 billion in federal funding for working parents in low-income households.
- Eligibility requirements: Children must be under the age of 13, and parents must be employed or enrolled in a training or another education program.
- How to apply: Contact the child care subsidy agency in your state.
The Head Start and Early Head Start Programs
Head Start is a federally funded program that promotes school readiness for children ages three to five for the Head Start Program and birth to age three for the Early Head Start Program.
- What it offers: Free learning and development services for children five and under plus prenatal services for pregnant women.
- Eligibility requirements: Children under the age of five in low-income families and families receiving public assistance are eligible for the programs.
- How to apply: Use the program locator to find programs in your area, then call the corresponding phone number for next steps.
Food Assistance for Sole Providers
These programs aim to provide free and low-cost food for single parents and children. Food provided through assistance programs is nutritionally balanced as per USDA guidelines.
National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
The National School Lunch Program is a federally funded program offering free and low-cost nutritional meals to adolescents in residential child care, public schools, and nonprofit private schools.
- What it offers: Nutritional meals that meet federal requirements, which vary for local schools.
- Eligibility requirements: Students in federal assistance programs, such as TANF and SNAP, and those with families with incomes below 130 percent of the Federal poverty level may qualify for NSLP.
- How to apply: Applications are handed out at the start of the school year, and parents may apply by submitting an application with the school or district at any time.
Summer Food Service Program (SFSP)
The Summer Food Service Program is federally funded and reimburses state agencies and providers who serve nutritious meals to children and teens in low-income areas.
- What it offers: Free meals and snacks to children in low-income families during the summer months when school is not in session.
- Eligibility requirements: Serves children 18 years and younger in families who are 130 percent below the poverty level or who are enrolled in a Federal Assistance Program.
- How to apply: No application necessary. The Food and Nutrition Service’s finder can locate SFSP sites near you.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP, formerly the Food Stamp Program, allocates funds on a prepaid debit card for qualifying purchases at grocery stores.
|SNAP Income Eligibility Limits|
October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021
|People in Household||Gross Monthly Income|
(100 percent of poverty level)
|Each additional person||+$486||+$153|
- What it offers: The maximum monthly amount allowed under the SNAP program varies by household size.
- Eligibility requirements: Must qualify for state-specific criteria which can include income limits which are updated annually.
- How to apply: Applications vary and each household must contact their State Distributing Agency for more information.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
The Emergency Food Assistance Program is a federal program providing food assistance to supplement nutrition for low-income families.
- What it offers: Food through state distribution agencies such as food pantries, soup kitchens, and community action agencies.
- Eligibility requirements: Criteria varies by state based on household income.
- How to apply: Applications vary and each household must contact their State Distributing Agency for more information.
Single Parent Grants and Scholarships
Oftentimes, single parents feel prohibited by traditional student loan repayments, which can create a debt cycle, so they opt out of obtaining a higher education degree altogether. These resources offer a solution for financing college for single parents, which don’t require repayment.
The Federal Pell Grant Program
Pell Grants are needs-based, don’t require repayment in most circumstances, and are awarded to low-income individuals pursuing higher education.
- What it offers: Grants are awarded in sums of up to $6,345 for the 2020–21 school year.
- Eligibility requirements: Students with a household income of $50,000 or less qualify, but most students who receive the award have a household income of $20,000 or less.
- How to apply: All Federal Student Aid programs require a completed FAFSA form to be submitted annually.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG)
The FSEOG program is a grant for students with the utmost need for financial assistance and administered at the financial aid office of participating schools.
- What it offers: Eligible recipients are awarded $100–$4,000 each year dispersed by terms depending on the severity of need and availability of funds.
- Eligibility requirements: You must be currently enrolled as an undergraduate and have never received a collegiate degree previously. The grant is awarded to students with the lowest expected family contribution, determined by FAFSA.
- How to apply: All federal student aid programs require a completed FAFSA form submitted annually.
Healthcare for Families in Need
Healthcare can be particularly challenging for single parents, especially for those without job security. The following resources are public for those who qualify.
Medicaid is available to low-income families through state-administered programs, and details vary by state.
- What it offers: Medicaid is a public health insurance program covering basic medical needs like doctor visits, hospital expenses, home healthcare, and nursing homes.
- Eligibility requirements: Eligibility for Medicaid is determined by Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) and non-financial criteria which includes being a resident of a state that you’re receiving the benefit of and citizens of the U.S. or a lawful permanent resident.
- How to apply: There are two ways to apply for Medicaid, one being contacting your state Medicaid agency directly, and the second being an application with the Health Insurance Marketplace.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
CHIP provides affordable healthcare for babies and children that don’t qualify for Medicaid because of income, but don’t earn enough for private health insurance.
- What it offers: Benefits may vary by state. Benchmark coverage includes routine check-ups, immunizations, doctors visits, prescriptions, dental and vision care, in and outpatient hospital care, X-ray and laboratory services, and emergency services.
- Eligibility requirements: CHIP applicants must be under the age of 19, uninsured, a citizen or lawful permanent resident, and within the CHIP income range.
- How to apply: Enrollment is rolling, and you may apply for CHIP by calling 1-800-318-2596 or by submitting an application through the Health Insurance Marketplace at any time.
Title X Service Grants
Title X Service Grants provide family planning resources such as reproductive and preventive health services through funding of state-specific public and private nonprofit entities.
- What it offers: Services offered through this program includes contraception, counseling, wellness exams, cancer screenings, testing and treatment for sexually transmitted infections, and pregnancy diagnostics.
- Eligibility requirements: Title X primarily serves low-income patients at over 4,000 clinics nationwide. Anyone is eligible.
- How to apply: No application necessary. Visit the Office of Population Affairs website to find a clinic near you.
Housing and Utilities Assistance Programs
In the face of uncertainty, mortgage and rent payments for safe housing weren’t required for a short time, but outside of a disaster, these programs can provide additional resources for single parent families.
Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Through LIHEAP single parents in low-income households who pay a high portion of their income to meet energy needs are eligible for energy grants.
- What it offers: Energy budget counseling, basic energy efficiency best practices, free energy efficiency upgrades, energy assistance in crisis situations, and a one-time financial assistance to balance a household’s utility bill.
- Eligibility requirements: You must need reasonable assistance paying for energy costs, and have an annual income below the maximum income level according to your state and household size.
- How to apply: Contact your state LIHEAP office.
Housing Choice Vouchers
Formerly Section 8 Housing, Housing Choice Vouchers offers rental housing for low-income families.
- What it offers: The participant is free to choose any housing that meets the requirements of the program including homes, apartments, townhouses, and subsidized housing projects.
- Eligibility requirements: The household must pay 30 percent of their monthly income for rent and utilities and not exceed 50 percent of the median income for the county.
- How to apply: Contact your Local Public Housing Agency.
Weatherization Assistance Program
The Weatherization Assistance Program aims to reduce the cost of energy utilities by improving household energy efficiency.
- What it offers: Whole-house energy improvement through new technologies to reduce energy expenses.
- Eligibility requirements: Households with income below 200 percent of the poverty line meeting state requirements.
- How to apply: Search for your state weatherization administrator and apply through the resources provided.
The Lifeline Program offers discounted phone services to low-income families in an effort to provide access to jobs, healthcare, educational resources, and emergency services.
- What it offers: Subsidized monthly phone and internet by participating companies.
- Eligibility requirements: During the pandemic, recertification is temporarily waived for residents in rural areas and Tribal Lands until November 30, 2020. General eligibility requires a household income of 135 percent below Federal poverty guidelines or families within federal assistance programs.
- How to apply: Use the National Verifier application system to apply.
Additional Resources for Single Parents
These state, federal, and non-profit organizations provide financial help for single parents as well as opportunities for single families to raise healthy children in the face of difficulties. If you were impacted by unemployment because of COVID-19 in Texas, Ohio, Florida, California, or Washington, understand your state-specific benefits for supplemental assistance.
Parenting is challenging, and doubly so for single ones. In fact, 12% of adults wouldn't be able to pay their monthly bills if they incurred an unexpected expense. As a caregiver, every dollar counts, and financial help for single parents are options that should be considered. If your family needs a little extra help this season, consider personal loans that offer a fair repayment schedule for a brighter financial future.
Sources: Pew Research Center | U.S. Department of Energy | U.S. Census Bureau | Medicaid | U.S. Department of Education | Congressional Research Service 1, 2 | Social Security Administration