The federal government has stepped in to help those in need during this trying time. Many are receiving extra unemployment benefits under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES), and stimulus checks are going out to Americans to provide a slight financial boost.
But a question lingers in the mind of many: Are government benefits, like SNAP, Medicaid, and TANF, still available to those who need it most?
In short, yes. Read on to learn more about these programs and how to determine if you qualify during the COVID-19 crisis.
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.
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-income families since there are widespread 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, you can apply and enroll in the WIC Program online. Find the website and contact info for your state here.
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).
Many healthcare enrollment periods are extended. You could also not be liable for medical bills if you contract coronavirus and must seek medical treatment.
Confirm your eligibility here. Or you can reach out to your state’s Medicaid agency to learn more. If you or your family members do qualify for coverage, the next step is to submit an application through the Health Insurance Marketplace.
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.
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.
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.
The federal government has encouraged states 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 the state agency for further assistance.