For millions American Family, 2020 was the year of economic conflict. Last spring the COVID-19 pandemic shut down businesses across the country, with the unemployment rate reaching the highest level since the Great Depression. Those who remained on the job did not necessarily reduce hardship, as many hours were reduced, leaving them with less money to pay the bill.
“American ethics is in itself a pull-up-by-bootstrap mentality,” says Rob Fisher, an associate professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences. Case western reserve university. However, he does not think there should be any stigma associated with using public safety nets.
The government supports families in many ways, including taxes ranging from mortgage to unemployment benefits. Most people will not close these government programs, and Fisher says they should not feel any different about accepting help for needs such as food and health care.
Major public assistance programs
The government operates a number of public assistance programs, but the following are most likely to apply to people experiencing temporary economic crises.
TANF. For temporary assistance to needy families, TANF can take various forms. “It can be cash, and it can provide money for child care and employment training,” Ruth A. Brandwein, professor and professor emeritus of the School of Social Work, says Stony Brook University. States can also designate that TANF funds can be used for other needs such as transportation or state services.
SNAP. Supplementary Nutrition Assistance Program replaced what was previously known Ration card. Today, families get a debit card that can be used to pay for non-prepared foods. “For most people, it probably lasts for three weeks (outside of the month), but it’s better than nothing,” Brandwein says.
WIC. Special Supplemental Nutrition Program Short for Women, Infants and Children, the WIC program provides food assistance to low-income pregnant and postpartum women as well as infants and children up to 5 years old. The program serves more than half of infants born in the United States. , According to the Department of Agriculture.
Medicaid. For people with low incomes and limited assets, Medicaid Provides free health insurance. Many states have expanded Medicaid coverage in recent years, so more people are eligible. “It’s nothing now that is limited to a narrow handful,” says Harry Nelson, a health care attorney and author of “The United States of Opioids: A Prescription for Liberating the Nation for Pain”. In his home state of California, Nelson estimates that about a third of people are covered by Medicaid.
Program eligibility varies by state
Before applying for aid, people need to understand the eligibility requirements for their state. James A., president of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Solutions at Medicaid Managed Care Organization, Amerihal Caritas. “Even though Medicaid is a federal program, states are given the opportunity to show what eligibility looks like,” says Laffman.
In the case of Medicaid, this means that states have different income eligibility requirements. For example, in Louisiana, a family of three would be eligible for Medicaid if their annual income is at or below $ 29,973.60, which is 138% of the federal poverty threshold. In neighboring Texas, the same family could not make more than $ 3,692.40 each year to qualify for Medicaid. This is because states limit coverage only to those who earn less than 17% of the federal poverty threshold.
The income limit is only a restriction on program eligibility. States may also have property limits and, in the case of TANF, a lifetime cap on the amount of aid someone receives. The federal government limits people to 60 months of TANF benefits during their lifetime, but Brandwein says many states have a two to three-year limit. To get help, programs may also have work requirements that employ people or work a certain number of times each week.
When to apply for help
Mitt Joyner, president of the National Association of Social Workers, says families should start preparing for aid much earlier. She advises that everyone can create a file to store social security cards, birth certificates, marriage certificates and copies of bills as all these documents may be necessary during the application process.
Then, people should consider applying as soon as they have trouble paying their obligations. She says, “Don’t wait until you’re down for your last dollar.”
Since some programs have property limits, Fisher says people will want to decide what it means to burn through savings to become eligible for aid. It also helps to be familiar Federal poverty level To estimate your probability of being eligible.
If you are eligible for help, social workers say that there is no shame in accepting help. For those who hesitate, Joyner says self-talk therapy: “There is a safety net, and I have the right to access it.”
A decline in advancing available assistance may cause other problems. Living under economic stress Worried Or turn to substance abuse. What’s more, untreated chronic conditions can lead to complications that stress medical systems and can disable people. “It doesn’t help anyone if people don’t have access to care,” Nelson says.
Where will help
For those who have never applied for public assistance, the process can be overwhelming. Pre-pandemic, people could go to churches, community nonprofits, and government offices to request help in navigating the application process. However, many of those buildings are now closed to the public.
Some communities have 2-1-1 numbers that will connect callers to community agencies such as United Way, but people without phone or Internet access may have to depend on family or friends for help.
Not everyone will be eligible for public assistance, but there may be other avenues for help through private organizations. “The food banks are doing a really good job,” Joyner says. “Some of them are suspending (eligibility rules) and just giving people food boxes.” Utilities and Landlords There can also be their own support programs, and Joyner advises people in financial crisis to call every business that bills them and state their status.
Above all, social workers say that people should not feel embarrassed to ask for help during this difficult time. “I bet in those years you’ve spent a lot on taxes, and here’s your chance to get something back,” laughs. “It’s not a handout. It’s a handout.”