A Guide to Low Income Assistance Programs for Single Moms

Being a single mother can be tough dealing with the kids, workings and trying to pay for all the expenses. That is why you will take any sort of help that you can get to make life a little bit easier. This article will guide you through on the low income assistance programs (also known as public benefits, welfare, or social security programs) that can benefit a single mother.

Note that many of these programs are applicable to single fathers too, but some (like WIC) are designed for women and children, unfortunately.

Temporary Assistance For Needy Families (TANF)

If you are a struggling single mother one of the first programs you should be looking into is TANF. This is a federally funded government program as they have provided financial relief to over 1.6 million families. The program provides temporary financial aid to families who are living off income which is much lower then the poverty threshold.

TANF offer monthly cash payments that can be sent directly to your bank account to pay for expenses such as:

  • food
  • clothing
  • utilities
  • housing
  • transportation

Eligibility: The eligibility of this program is determined by the combined income of the household in correlation with the number of dependants living in the household. So if you are a single mother and don’t earn a high income, you should have no problem being approved for TANF benefits.

The TANF program is operated by the state in which the family lives in. Each state has their own set of eligibility requirements regarding the benefit levels as well as the length of the payments. However most states do require that families applying have an asset limit of $2000 or less. There is a federal law stating the longest a family can receive the assistance is for 5 years, however after that time period you can apply for an extension of cash assistance.

Requirements: To receive the cash assistance there are employment requirements that must be adhered to. It is required to work for an average of 30 hours per week, or have employment no later then 2 years after first receiving the cash assistance.

Single mothers have more flexibility with employment, as single mothers must work an average of 20 hours per week if they have any children under the age of 6.

To meet the job requirements you must do at least one of the following:

  • have unsubsidized or subsidized employment
  • receive on the job training
  • participate in community service
  • receive up to 12 months of vocational training
  • provide child care services to to people participating in community service

Amount of payments: This varies greatly depending on the state, with payments ranging from  approximately $170 all the way up to $925. The payments depend on the size of the family and which state you are in. Using an average of all 52 states combined, the amount the average payment equates to is approximately $500.

How to Apply: Application varies by the  state however it is administered by the Office of Family Assistance. Searching Temporary Cash Assistance For The Poor(TANF) along with your state on the internet should bring up the contact information.


If you currently do not have medical insurance for you or your children and are considered low income, then the chances are good that you will qualify for Medicaid.  With Medicaid you will get free health care for you and your children. If you are eligible for Medicaid can receive its coverage immediately, as there are no waiting lists.

If you earn less than 138% of the poverty level, you will be able to enrol in Medicaid under ObamaCare, also known as the Affordable Care Act. However some states have chosen not to use The Affordable Care Act aka ObamaCare. To see a detailed guideline on the required income levels per state please click here.

Woman Infants and Children Program (WIC)

The WIC program offers free healthy food to pregnant mothers, and to women with children under 5 years of age. This program provides free food nutritional information  and even health care referrals

The eligibility can be a little bit tricky as you have to have at least one known nutritional risk. A Nutritional risk is defined as individuals who have a medical or dietary based health condition.

Furthermore your gross income has to be equal to or less than 185% of your state’s poverty income guideline.

The average length of the program varies from six months to a year, although when the benefit period expires you can then re apply. Keep in mind you must also be deemed at a nutritional risk by the physician or nutritionist to be eligible for these benefits.

To find more information and to apply click here to find toll free numbers of the WIC state agencies.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

You can receive free groceries for you and your children through the SNAP program. SNAP is a federally instated food program which assists with food payments for the needy and low income families and individuals across the country.

The SNAP benefits are received in the form of a plastic card called an electronic benefits transfer (EBT) card which works similar to a debit card. The card is used to buy groceries at participating locations in the area the family or individual is located.

Low Income Public Housing Program

This program operates through something called housing agencies (HAs). Your local housing agencies provide funds to low income families to ensure they have rent payments that they can afford to pay.

Eligibility for this program is based on income. The housing agencies use income limits created by the HUD which are set at 80% of the income of your area median income, as well as very low income limits at 50% of the median income for your metropolitan area.

If your are accepted for the rental assistance, there most likely will be a lengthy waiting list that you will be placed on.The waiting list time varies from approximately six months to a year. Once your wait is over you will then have to sign a lease with the housing agency. The rent payments, which is called the Toal Tennant Payment is based on your entire family’s anticipated annual income less any deductions. You can stay in the public housing as long as you comply with your lease, however the housing agency will re evaluate your income to determine if you are still in need of public housing.

To apply for the Low Income Public Housing Program you contact your local Housing Agency, if you have issuing contacting your local Housing Agency you can also contact your local HUD Field office.

Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program

If you are struggling financially with rent the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher Program could be a helpful option. The government will pay up to 70% of your rent costs with you paying the remaining amount. Unfortunately, there be long waiting periods in excess of one year to be accepted into the program.

Applying to this program is similar to the Low Income Housing Program. Contact your local Housing Agency, if you have issuing contacting your local Housing Agency you can also contact your local HUD Field office.

Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)

This is a state administered program that will help you pay for child care while your are working, or in school. The program pays for a good portion of child care costs, however you will have to co-pay based on the size of your family and your income.

The eligibility varies state by state and in order to qualify your income must be equal to or below the income level set by your state. To view a detailed list of the income guidelines by each state click here.

Unemployment Insurance

If you are a single mother who recently lost their job, it is essential that you apply for unemployment insurance. Unemployment Insurance provides weekly payments to the unemployed who have lost their jobs through reasons through no fault of their own for up to 26 weeks. The payment amounts are based on a percentage of the amount you made with your last employer. The amounts vary state by state however on average the payments equate to approximately 50% of your weekly earnings however it can be a lot less depending on the state in which you reside.

Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP)

If your income is too high to qualify for Medicaid, and can’t afford private health coverage you can qualify for free health care for your children. You might have some small co-payments to make or some monthly premiums but usually it will be free. CHIP covers everything including doctor visits, vaccinations, dental visits, as well as eye care.

This program is administered on a state by state basis, so the income eligibly varies. On average the family income must be below 200% of the Federal Poverty Line.

Head Start/EarlyHead StartProgram

Another program that can be possibly be helpful is the Head Start/Early Head Start Program.These are two different local head start programs offered by the federal government that provide financial assistance to families who have children aged 0 to 5 years old. The program offers a wide variety of financial assistance such as health care, child education, as well as helpful information for pregnant women. The program strives to ensure stable family relationships between parents and their young children as well as to enhance the physical and emotional well being of the children.The programs are designed for families or individuals who are at or below the poverty level.

To apply for the Head Start program you must contact your nearest Head Start program locator  in your community.