The federal government has stepped in once again to help those in need during the continued COVID-19 pandemic. Many received unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES) back in March 2020, but those benefits have since run out.
Now the second round of stimulus checks is going out to Americans to provide another financial boost as part of the new Defense Bill. This new legislation also makes it easier for low-income college students to qualify.
But the question still lingers in the mind of many: Are government benefits, like SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF, going to continue to be available to those who need them most?
In short, yes. Read on to learn more about these programs and how to determine if you qualify during the COVID-19 crisis.
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SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) Benefits During COVID-19
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has made it easier for families in all 50 states to receive the nutritional support they need. So you may qualify for benefits, even if you are receiving other forms of assistance.
Included in the new Defense bill is an additional $13 billion for SNAP starting on Jan. 1, benefits will be boosted by 15% a month for all SNAP recipients running until June 2021. In the defense bill, an additional $300 unemployment boost has been added, but don’t worry, if you receive SNAP benefits it will not count towards your income.
Among other changes, the bill allocates $5 million to the Department of Agriculture it to expand people’s ability to order their food online
Here are the few programs that can assist you and your family:
Child Nutrition Programs
The federal government is collaborating with the states to help feed children from low to moderate-income families due to continued school closures. Use USDA Meals for Kids Site Finder to locate a program near you.
You can also call the USDA National Hunger Hotline at 1-866-348-6479 or 1-877-842-6273 if you need additional assistance.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children
The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program received an additional $500 million in funding under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Funds are available through September 30, 2021. Due to social distancing guidelines and WIC clinic closures, most WIC programs are now offering virtual applications.
On Sunday, December 20th, 2020, congressional leaders announced promises of a six-month increase in Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits and the creation of a USDA task force for online purchasing in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
$5 million has been allocated to the Department of Agriculture expanding American’s ability to order their food online. Prior to the passing of this bill, many didn’t have access to use their government benefits to purchase food online and couldn’t buy food from grocery stores and restaurants when they moved towards online ordering and delivery only.
The increased need for SNAP to aid families experiencing hardship pushed for an additional government funding bill enacted a bill in October.
In recent months, the USDA allowed states to use waivers and extend flexibilities without requesting USDA approval and continue to provide aid to families facing hardship.
You can also use this online tool from Benefits.gov to learn more about food and nutrition resources in your state.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program
Are you currently receiving food stamps, but don’t qualify for the maximum benefit? The Food and Nutrition Service unit under the USDA is permitting states to dole out emergency allotments to boost the amount of your monthly benefit.
Pandemic EBT is also being offered by states to provide Supplemental Nutrition Assistance, aka SNAP benefits to children who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunch.
Applying for Medicaid and CHIP During COVID-19
Many states have witnessed a spike in demand for health insurance coverage by families impacted by COVID-19. Consequently, they have streamlined the eligibility and enrollment process for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Although most open enrollments are closed, some state healthcare enrollment periods are extended. If you’ve had recent life changes or qualify for Medicaid or CHIP, check to see if you’re still eligible to enroll or change plans here.
Don’t qualify for Medicaid or CHIP? Apply through the marketplace at Healthcare.gov. You may be eligible for subsidized coverage to help lower the out-of-pocket costs for healthcare.
Be sure to accurately input your information when applying online. Otherwise, your application could be delayed for processing or denied. You can call the agency in your state for assistance if you prefer not to use the online tool.
Do you have medical bills due to COVID-19? You might not be held liable for medical bills if you contract coronavirus and must seek medical treatment. Read more here.
Applying for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) Benefits During COVID-19
The TANF program provides financial assistance payments and other essential benefits to low-income, underemployed and unemployed individuals. The program is managed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Each state determines what types of benefits, beyond financial assistance payments, are available to recipients.
If you were furloughed or laid off due to COVID-19, you could qualify for cash assistance and other resources your state offers under this program. Some states also extend benefits to self-employed individuals who have lost a substantial portion of their earned income due to COVID-19. This includes childcare, job preparation, and work assistance.
States have continued to relax their eligibility criteria or offer benefits for a brief span to help those in need get back on their feet. There’s also been a push for additional supplemental benefits, like clothing allowances, family support services, financial and credit counseling, housing search and placement services and mortgage assistance.
Benefits.gov offers a handy tool to help you check your eligibility. Be prepared to provide your date of birth, employment status, and answer questions about your household, income and health during the screening process.
If you qualify, visit the Office of Family Assistance’s website to find information for your state.
Get the Help You Need During COVID-19
Don’t continue to suffer in silence. If you’ve been adversely impacted by COVID-19, apply for the help you need today. Follow the guidance we’ve provided to learn more about relief options that may be available to you.
Most importantly, apply for food stamps, Medicaid, or TANF right away if you’re eligible. Applications are coming in troves, resulting in longer than normal processing times so you want to get the ball rolling to get the help you need sooner than later.
The applications for these benefits are accessible online, or you can call your state’s agency for further assistance.