Government Programs for United States Citizens in Need

The United States government has designed and implemented various types of programs that provide shelter, food, funds and medical care to low-income U.S. citizens. Depending on your circumstances, age, medical conditions and financial needs, you can apply for one or several of these welfare programs.

For example, low-income senior and disabled citizens can apply for stipends from the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program and enroll in the Medicaid health insurance program at the same time. On the other hand, impoverished U.S. families can petition for welfare checks from the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and apply for SNAP food stamps simultaneously.

In addition, U.S. workers who have recently lost their jobs can apply for Unemployment Insurance (UI), a temporary financial assistance, through their state's unemployment agency. To learn more about assisted living facilities, click here.

Read the below topics to learn more about the United States' social programs that help the country's impoverished citizens meet their everyday needs:

  • The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

  • The Supplemental Security Income Program

  • The Medicaid Program

  • The Unemployment Insurance Program

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program

The main U.S. welfare program is the Department of Health and Human Services' (DHHS) Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). The program's primary goal is to help families in need achieve self-sustainability. TANF federal funds are utilized on a state level to create and manage programs that do at least one of the following:

  • Offer monetary assistance to low-income families with dependent children.

  • Increase the economic self-sufficiency of parents through job training.

  • Decrease the occurrence of out-of-wedlock pregnancies and promote the forming of a nuclear two-parent family.

Even though every U.S. state follows the DHHS guidelines when implementing the TANF program, different states can use the federal funds at their discretion and set different requirements for participation in the program. For instance, some states have reduced the amount of maximum available lifetime benefits and require beneficiaries to seek employment in order to continue receiving TANF payments.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

Administered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is the country's food stamps program for low-income citizens and families. Accepted SNAP applicants will receive an Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) card by mail. The department will then transfer funds to your EBT card on a monthly basis. However, only certain pre-approved foods can be bought with your SNAP benefits.

  • You can apply for food stamps through a local SNAP office after you meet several eligibility criteria:

  • Your family's gross income must be lower than 130 percent of the federal poverty level.

  • Your net income must be lower than 100 percent of the poverty level.

  • Your household's available resources cannot exceed $2,250.

  • Households with an elderly or a disabled individual can have up to $3,250, and they do not have to pass the gross income test.

  • In order to continue receiving your SNAP benefits, you must seek employment. Also, you must participate in job training courses that were assigned by your state.

Note: The federal poverty level rises for each additional family member.

The Supplemental Security Income Program

The Social Security Administration's Supplemental Security Income (SSI) welfare program provides supplementary funds to low-income U.S. citizens who are either disabled, blind or older than 64 years of age. Unlike SS retirement benefits, the SSI program receives its funding from general tax revenues, and you are not required to collect a certain amount of work credits in order to qualify.

To apply for SSI benefits you must not be absent for longer than 30 consecutive days from the country, and you must not be confined in a public hospital or a prison. To submit your petition, you are required to contact your local SSA office and schedule an appointment. Then, during your SSI interview, you will be asked to fill out the SSI application form and provide the necessary information and documents that prove your eligibility for the program.

Note: Certain eligible non-U.S. citizens may also apply for SSI.

The Medicaid Program

Medicaid is the largest U.S. health care program for low-income citizens who cannot pay for medical care. Medicaid is federally funded. However, the program's eligibility criteria are determined on a state level. In general, children from low-income families, parents of children eligible for Medicaid, pregnant women, low-income seniors and disabled individuals can qualify for Medicaid. Supplemental Security Income beneficiaries are also automatically enrolled in the program.

After submitting their application, Medicaid recipients will have access to the program's mandatory benefits, which include services such as: inpatient and outpatient hospital services, diagnostic and treatment services and laboratory and X-ray services. Beneficiaries will also have the option to use the services of nursing facilities, rural area clinics, home health providers and pediatric institutions.

Certain states may choose to add other optional benefits into their Medicaid program as well, such as physical therapy, prosthetics, dental services and more.

The Unemployment Insurance Program

The U.S. Unemployment Insurance program was implemented through a collaborative effort between state and federal agencies. The goal of the UI program is to help former workers maintain a certain level of financial self-sufficiency while searching for new employment. Apart from monthly paychecks, the program allows former employees to apply for educational assistance and self-employment assistance as well. Additionally, even though each separate state manages its own UI program, federal guidelines must be followed throughout all phases of the program.

Prior to filing a UI benefits claim through your state's unemployment agency, you must ensure that you meet the program's requirements, which may vary across the U.S. In general, you have to fulfill the following qualification criteria:

  • You must have lost your employment through no fault of your own.

  • You must meet the recent work and earnings requirements as set by your state.

If you were chosen to receive UI payments, you are required to register for employment with your state's UI agency in order to keep receiving your payments. You must file regular UI claims and report any job offers and earnings as well.

Note: The amount of payable UI benefits may vary from state to state.