Popular Federal Assistance Programs (Financial Aid, Housing Aid and other types of assistance)

If you find yourself in dire financial straits, you may not be out of luck. There are many federal programs designed to offer you assistance and keep you on your feet. Here are ten of the most popular ones.

General Income and Assistance

Social Security

Social Security benefits are available to senior citizens as a way to fund their retirement and assist them financially as they reach an advanced age. In order to be eligible to receive benefits, you must have earned a sufficient number of Social Security credits. These credits are earned by paying wage taxes as a worker. If you’ve earned enough credits, the earliest you can begin collecting your monthly benefits is age 62.



Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Although managed by the Social Security Administration (the same federal agency that facilitates Social Security benefits), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is funded by the U.S. Treasury. That means that eligibility does not depend upon whether you’ve earned Social Security credits. In order to collect your monthly SSI benefits, you must be a citizen of the U.S., have exhausted other assistance programs and be blind, disabled or at least 65 years of age.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

As the name implies, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) is only ever offered for a limited time. TANF is funded by the federal government but facilitated by the states. The overall purpose of the program is to promote familial stability. Because it is state-run, many of the details – including eligibility requirements – vary by state, but those who do qualify receive financial assistance that allows families to live together and stay connected.



Medicare is a large, multifaceted federal health insurance program. You may be eligible for benefits if you are an elderly or disabled citizen. Eligibility exceptions are also made for citizens with End-Stage Renal Disease. Medicare is managed broadly by the U.S. Health and Services Department and is comprised of four parts (A, B, C and D, each representing a different aspect of medical care). Unlike SSI, Medicare eligibility does depend, in part, on payment into the Social Security system.




Medicaid is the “sister program” of Medicare. Also managed by the U.S. Health and Services Department, eligibility for Medicaid depends primarily upon income. For those who qualify, Medicaid will pay for a wide variety of health care services. It is a federal program but individual states have a lot of input over how it is run. That means that eligibility requirements differ from state to state.

Medicare Prescription Drug Program

Commonly called “Medicare Part D,” the Prescription Drug Program is a system requiring tiered payments. Beneficiaries must pay for a majority of their prescriptions up front, but the program still benefits long-term prescription drug users. The discounts allow citizens to obtain their prescription drugs without breaking the bank. Discounts eventually reach 95%. Eligibility for Medicare Part D is generally the same as the overall Medicare eligibility restrictions.


Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Commonly referred to as “food stamps,” the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is run by the Food and Nutrition Services Department and offers “nutrition assistance” to those who are eligible. In place of the “food stamp” coupons that earned the program its nickname, eligible low income individuals and families that qualify are given an Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) card which can be used to make purchases. SNAP benefits are only redeemable for food and planting seeds – other household items may not be purchased.



The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)

Also managed by the Food and Nutrition Services Department, The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) is designed to benefit eligible low-income individuals and families. TEFAP provides an assortment of healthy, multipurpose foods free to those who qualify. This federal program allocates both food and funding to the states, which manage and operate the program at the state level.


Stafford Student Loans

Stafford Student Loans are available to Americans pursuing an undergraduate or graduate degree. In order to be eligible, students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The two biggest benefits of using Student Stafford Loans to pay for college is that a) they have a competitive, fixed interest rate, and b) they are not based on credit, unlike most loans.


U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Assistance Program

Created to provide safe, respectable housing for low-income, elderly and disabled Americans, the HUD Public Housing Program offers affordable living for over one million people. The requirements which impact eligibility are decided upon by Housing Authorities (HA) at the state or local level. In order to be eligible, a person or family must meet strict financial requirements, but they differ from one area to the next.

Other programs

Although those listed here may be the most popular federal assistance programs, they are not the only ones. Programs that more closely fit your needs may be available. Check around the site or feel free to contact us with questions.