Grant is a broad term that refers to the different ways the U.S. government redistributes funds to eligible beneficiaries. This article examines the different types of grants available to single mothers in the United States.
There are a plethora of grants for single mothers – such as TANF money, food stamps, WIC, CCAP, etc., all of which have played an important role in assisting single mother families in times of financial need.
Scholarships like the Pell Grant are a unique, need-based scholarship that helps needy students pay for college. This is especially true for low-income students and students of color – groups that disproportionately include single parents.
Eligibility for this scholarship is based on demonstrated financial need, and the applicant must complete a FAFSA form each year to qualify – and it is FREE.
In addition, there are subsidies in the form of tax credits for low-income families and Medicaid, which subsidizes health insurance. For many single mothers with no income, this may be the only option for health insurance.
If you are a single mom going back to school or need help paying the bills, below are some, though not all, “single mom subsidies” – most of which are administered at the state level.
While not a guaranteed right, they are freely granted based on economic need – meaning that priority is given to those with the “greatest absolute need.”
List of grants for single mothers
Federal Pell Grant
The Pell Grant is America’s largest student aid program. It offers grants of up to $6,495 to the neediest students to attend college.
In 2019 alone, more than $28 billion in Pell grants were awarded to nearly 7 million students nationwide, including nearly 60% of black students and nearly half of Latino students.
This need-based grant is a way for single mothers with limited resources to go back to school and return to the workforce. And it’s free money that doesn’t have to be repaid.
The first step in applying for a Pell Grant is to fill out the application (Free Application for Federal Student Aid). The deadline for submission is June 30 each year or as early as October 1 before the year for which you need help.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
Similar to the Pell Grant, the FSEOG is a type of supplemental grant awarded to students who have “the greatest need” for financial aid, according to the FAFSA.
Priority is given to those with the “absolute greatest need,” that is, with the expected lowest Family Expected Contribution (FCE) and those who are also Pell Grant
Eligible students may receive additional grants of $100 to $4,000 per year, depending on the severity of their need and the availability of funds.
Federal Work-Study Grant
Federal Work-Study (FWS) is a federally subsidized financial aid program that offers students of single parents the opportunity to earn money by working part-time on or off campus, often in their chosen field of education.
Students can work up to twenty (20) hours per week and receive a monthly payment based on an hourly wage that they can use for educational expenses.
However, this “earn while you study” option only works if you have minimal living expenses and are supported by your family to meet your children’s needs.
Federal Student Loan
Due to the ongoing pandemic, the federal government has suspended interest and monthly payments on federal student loans until August 31, 2022.
For single mothers who are returning to school and need additional assistance beyond the Pell Grant, subsidized or unsubsidized student loans are often offered as part of an overall financial aid package.
Although it is the least desirable form of financial aid, federal student loans allow you to borrow money for college at lower interest rates than most private loans. In addition, you may be able to defer interest payments until after you graduate.
As with most federal student aid, you must first complete and submit a FAFSA. To be considered, you must check “yes” on the section of your FAFSA that asks about your interest in student loans.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
TANF is the most important part of the safety net for very low-income families. Its main goal is to help these families become self-sufficient through a combination of short-term financial assistance and job opportunities.
The two types of TANF grants are called “child-only grants” and “family grants.”
Child-only grants, which only address the needs of the child, are generally lower than family grants, about $8 per day for a child.
The second type of TANF subsidy for which you may be eligible is the so-called “family subsidy,” which many consider the easiest subsidy to obtain.
This is a small monthly amount for food, clothing, shelter and other essentials – for a period of up to 60 months, although many states set shorter time limits.
These cash grants are often referred to as “welfare,” and the conditions under which you can receive them depend largely on where you live. In states with larger African-American populations, TANF policies are less generous and more restrictive than in others.
An unemployed single mother with children under the age of 19 is eligible for assistance under TANF. However, the recipient must participate in work activities for at least 20 hours per week.
Diversion Cash Assistance (DCA)
Detour Cash Assistance (DCA), often called Emergency Cash Assistance, is an alternative assistance for single mothers in emergency situations. It is usually offered as a lump sum payment in lieu of cash benefits.
Families who qualify can receive a one-time grant of up to $1,000 to address an emergency or minor crisis, but this can vary depending on the severity of the financial crisis.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
The goal of SNAP – formerly the Food Stamp program – is to provide healthy, affordable meals to the neediest families, many of whom have little or no income.
It is one of the most important components of America’s safety net. For many of the poorest Americans, SNAP is the only form of income assistance they receive.
The assistance is provided in the form of a debit card (EBT) that recipients can use to purchase food at any participating store in their locality.
To apply for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), you must complete an application and submit it to a local SNAP office in person, by mail, or by fax.
Will we receive supplemental food stamps in 2022?
EVERYONE who receives SNAP will receive additional benefits called Emergency Allotments (EAs) in April 2021. Starting in May, all households in states where these benefits are available will receive emergency allotments of at least $95. No additional paperwork is required.
As of January 12, 2022, 37 states had signed up to provide additional SNAP benefits to their residents under the Emergency Allotment (EA) program. Residents of these 37 states will receive a USDA-approved food stamp payment increase this month.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Program
WIC is a government-funded nutrition program that provides free healthy food to pregnant women, new mothers, and children under 5 who are perceived “nutritionally vulnerable.”
It is designed as a short-term program where eligible recipients typically receive benefits for six (6) months to a year, after which they must reapply.
In a typical month, women participating in the program receive $11 per month for fresh fruits and vegetables, while children receive $9 per month.
Eligibility is based on nutritional risk and income below 185% of the poverty line, with priority given to TANF recipients in most states.
Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
Funded by the Child Care and Development Program, CCAP is a state-administered program that helps low-income families pay for child care while they work, seek employment, or attend school or training.
In most states, families receiving child care subsidies must contribute to child care costs based on a sliding fee scale designed to require higher income families to make higher co-payments.
Eligibility guidelines vary from province to province, but in most cases your income cannot be higher than the income limit set by the province of your residence.
Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program (CCAMPIS)
The Child Care Access Means Parents in School Program, or CCAMPIS, is the only federal grant program that provides on-campus child care for low-income parents attending post-secondary educational institutions.
CCAMPIS is designed to help low-income student parents who need assistance to stay in school and graduate from college, but most have to get on a waiting list.
Applications for child care assistance through CCAMPIS funding are reviewed based on eligibility status, financial income, need, resources, and amount of family contribution.
Head Start / Early Head Start
Both Head Start and Early Head Start are federal school readiness programs for children between birth and age five. Early Head Start is for children from birth to age 2, Head Start is for children ages 3 to 5.
Eligibility requires a family income below the poverty line. Other factors that affect eligibility include homelessness, children in foster care, or receipt of certain public assistance. Pregnant women may as well be eligible for Early Head Start.
The program offers a wide range of services – from free medical and dental care, early childhood education, health and nutrition, to parent involvement with the family.
You must apply for a Head Start or Early Head Start program in your community that is closest to where you live. There are also more than 150 Head Start and Early Head Start programs for American Indian and Alaska Native children.
Use the Head Start Locator to find a Head Start program near you, or call 1-866-763-6481 (toll free) for more information about enrollment.
Section 8 Rental Subsidy
Section 8 is a government housing program that helps the neediest families afford safe and decent housing. The program provides vouchers to very low-income, elderly, and disabled families to cover part of their rent.
If you are eligible, you will receive a voucher that covers 70% of your rent and utilities. As a tenant, you have to pay the remaining 30% yourself.
For example, a single mother of two who rents an apartment for $700 and works 30 hours a week at minimum wage can receive a voucher worth about $440 a month.
The Section 8 program has always been overloaded, and waiting lists can stretch on for years. Check with your local PHA for waiting times in your area.
Public Housing Program
The public housing program is one of the three main housing programs in the US, along with Section 8 vouchers and project-based rental assistance.
Unlike Section 8, public housing allows low-income, elderly, and disabled families to live in public housing at a rent they can afford. Most renters pay no more than 30 percent of their income for rent and utilities.
The program is usually designed for families with incomes up to 80% of the median income of the district or conurbation in which they live, but it can vary from area to area.
To apply for social housing, you must submit an application to the local housing authority (HA) in the city or town where you wish to live. If the housing authority determines that you are eligible, your name will be placed on a waiting list.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).
LIHEAP provides one-time financial assistance to qualified low-income families who cannot pay their utility bills. In almost all cases, LIHEAP pays only a portion of the monthly bill, and the family must pay the rest on their own.
It is intended for the truly needy: the disabled, the elderly, and families with preschool children. The subsidy is paid directly to the utility company. The subsidy is not paid to the beneficiary.
To be eligible for a LIHEAP grant, household income must not exceed 60% of the state median income or 150% of the poverty level AND at least 110% of the poverty level, whatever is higher.
If you need help paying your bills or are at risk of running out of heat, you can call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) at 1-866-674-6327 to find out where and how to apply for LIHEAP.
Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)
The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) allows low-income families to lower their energy bills. In most states, priority is given to seniors and families with children.
One of the most important factors for eligibility is income. Depending on the state you live in, you may be eligible for weatherization assistance if your income is below the 200% poverty line.
To apply for weatherization assistance, find your state on the map and contact the WAP agency responsible for your area.
Medicaid: Health Insurance for Poor
For those without health insurance, Medicaid provides medical benefits to eligible families whose financial situation can be described as low or very low income.
Medicaid is not identical as Medicare. While Medicaid is for poor people, Medicare pays for medical services for people 65 and older and the disabled.
If you are a single mother and meet certain income criteria, Medicaid may be the way for you to get much-needed medical care-even if you are unemployed.
Federal poverty limits are used to determine eligibility for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
Each state operates its own Medicaid program under federal guidelines – each with different income limits, higher in some states and lower in others, to qualify.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
CHIP provides health insurance for uninsured children (up to age 19) in families whose income is too high to qualify for the state Medicaid program, but who cannot afford private insurance on their own.
According to the latest data, more than 37.5 million children were enrolled in Medicaid – the main source of insurance for low-income children – and another 9.6 million were enrolled in CHIP.
It covers everything children need – doctor visits, vaccinations, dental and eye care. For most families, it is free. Others pay low monthly premiums, enrollment fees, and co-payments for some services.
Like Medicaid, CHIP is administered independently by each state, has its own rules, and operates as an extension of Medicaid, as a separate program, or as a combination of both.
Supplemental Security Income
The Supplemental Security Income (SSI) program provides monthly cash assistance to people who are disabled, blind, or elderly. Since its inception in 1974, the SSI program has guaranteed a minimum income for those eligible.
The current basic monthly SSI benefit is $841 for an individual and $1,261 for a couple.
SSI recipients can also receive other forms of assistance besides cash. In most states, anyone receiving SSI benefits is automatically eligible for Medicaid.
Although SSI is intended for a wide range of people, such as the blind or elderly, benefits also apply to children with disabilities whose parents have little income or assets.
For many single parents with a disabled child, SSI is often their only source of income. However, the eligibility requirements are complicated and the application process is lengthy.
If you intend to apply for SSI, you can complete the application online at www.ssa.gov or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 to schedule an appointment with a Social Security representative
Title X: The National Family Planning Program
Title X – pronounced Title Ten – is the federal program designed exclusively to provide comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services to low-income families.
It provides funding for family planning clinics so that low-income women who do not have health insurance can receive treatment at reduced rates or, in some cases, for free.
Services include breast and pelvic exams, Pap tests and other cancer screenings, HIV testing, pregnancy testing and counseling, and affordable contraceptives.
For years, Title X, along with Medicaid, has been an important source of basic health care for millions of women in low-income families.
National School Lunch Program (NSLP)
NSLP provides free or reduced-price meals to eligible students whose family income falls below certain “poverty guidelines” and allows schools to serve students a nutritious, low-cost lunch every day.
Children from families with incomes at or below 130% of the poverty line are eligible for free meals. Children with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty line are eligible for reduced-price meals.
If you already receive food stamps, your child is automatically eligible for free lunch. Even if you do not, your child may still be eligible for a free or reduced price lunch.
The easiest way to apply is to contact the school during the school year and fill out a school lunch application. Proof of income may be necessary.
Other School Meal programs
The School Breakfast Program provides free or reduced-price, balanced meals on school days.
The Summer Food Service Program provides free healthy breakfast and lunch for children during summer vacation.
The Special Milk Program provides milk to children in schools and day care centers that do not provide a national school breakfast or lunch.
The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP)
TEFAP is a federal grant that provides food to low-income Americans, regardless of age, both directly to families for consumption at home and to emergency food providers such as food banks, food pantries, soup kitchens, and shelters.
Eligibility requirements include participation in existing food programs (SNAP) or other assistance programs (TANF) that use income as the basis for eligibility.
Families participating in the following means-tested programs are also eligible for TEFAP: Food Stamps/SNAP, TANF, WIC, Medicaid, Supplemental Security Income, Head Start, Fuel Assistance, or Veteran’s Aid.
Because this program is administered at the state level, it is best to contact your state distribution office for more information about TEFAP.
Local food banks
First of all, a food bank is not a grant in the strictest sense. It is a place where food is donated and made available to people in need. It is designed to help families who are not eligible for other welfare programs.
If you are struggling to put food on the table, you can use your phone to dial 2-1-1 to find a local food pantry or food bank near you.
Feeding America has a national network of more than 200 food banks that provide food to more than 40 million hungry people, including 12 million children and 7 million seniors, through food pantries and meal plans.
Launched in 1985, the Lifeline program has been around since the Reagan administration to help low-income families afford a connection and access emergency services, such as 911.
The program provides a monthly subsidy for telephone or broadband Internet to low-income individuals or families, but is capped at $9.25 per household per month.
The Lifeline subsidy is not limited to “welfare recipients.” While the eligibility criteria may vary from state to state, they are generally provided to those trying to survive at less than 135% of the federal poverty guidelines.
You can apply for the Lifeline discount through a provider in your state or the appropriate state agency. Lifeline provides a useful tool to search for participating companies in your area.
The Department of Labor pays weekly compensation to unemployed people who lost their jobs through no fault of their own – even if they lost their jobs directly or indirectly as a result of the pandemic.
For unemployed single mothers who can barely make ends meet, these benefits help ease the pain of unemployment by temporarily replacing some of their wages while they look for work.
Benefits vary from state to state – from $235 in Mississippi to $855 in Massachusetts. States also vary in how long they pay benefits. Most offer up to 26 weeks or 6½ months of payments.
If you have been laid off or fired, you can apply for unemployment benefits in the state where you live. In many states, you can file your claim online or by phone.
If you have been receiving unemployment benefits anytime in 2021, you may qualify for free (or nearly free) insurance through the Affordable Care Act Marketplace, with significant government subsidies that can lower premiums to as little as $0 per month.
Sign up for subsidized coverage at HealthCare.gov. The window is open until August 15, and the savings apply for the rest of the year.
Paid Family Leave
America does not guarantee paid leave to new mothers. Although the Family and Medical Leave Act guarantees 12 weeks of paid leave, it is unpaid and employers with fewer than 50 employees are exempt.
Currently, there are nine (9) states, including the District of Columbia, that grant or will grant paid leave to new parents to care for a newborn baby or to care for a seriously ill family member.
Rhode Island enacted a paid family leave law in 2014 that provides four (4) weeks of leave – the shortest paid leave of any state. Both California and New Jersey provide up to six (6) weeks of paid maternity leave, increasing to eight and twelve weeks, respectively, as of July 1, 2020.
New York went into effect on January 1, 2018 – with 8 weeks and 50% of pay in 2018 and up to 12 weeks and 67% of pay in 2021. Washington and Washington D.C. laws will go into effect in 2020, Massachusetts’ in 2021, while Connecticut will become the seventh state in 2022 and Oregon in 2023.
Delaware and Maryland are the last states to introduce paid family leave, becoming the 10th and 11th states to do so.
However, paid family leave (also known as family leave insurance) is not an entitlement. Rather, it is income replacement insurance that workers contribute to through a small monthly deduction from their wages.
Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a tax credit that primarily benefits low- to middle-income working parents whose earned income is below a certain threshold – especially those who pay little or no income tax.
The EITC is “refundable,” which means that its use reduces the total amount of Taxation owed and can result in a refund if the amount of the credit exceeds the tax liability – up to $6,728 for a family with three or more children.
The Child Tax Credit, on the other hand, reduces the tax liability for families with children and, depending on income, can be up to $2,000 per eligible child, of which $1,400 is refundable.
The American Recovery Plan temporarily increases the CTC for 2021 to $3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 per
Many states offer their own version of Earned Income Tax Credits (EITCs) to supplement the federal EITC – each state uses the federal EITC rules, but the percentages vary widely from state to state.
Grants for American Indians and Alaska Natives
If you are a member of a Native American tribe and are looking for federal grants or benefits, there are a number of federal financial assistance opportunities specifically for American Indians and Alaska Natives.
While Grants.gov only publishes grant opportunities that benefit organizations, the best place to find grants that benefit you personally is at NativeOneStop.gov, where you can review a list of resources for which you or a family member may be eligible, including, but not limited to
* Temporary Tribal Assistance for Needy Families.
* Native Employment Work Program
* Indian Child and Family Education
* Urban Indian Health Care Program
What if I don’t qualify for the grants?
If you are one of those who earn “too much” to qualify for benefits like food stamps, but “too little” to make ends meet each month, you can contact your local churches, charities, and community agencies in times of financial need to see if they can provide some form of temporary assistance.
You can also call 2-1-1 if you need help getting food, housing, employment, medical care, counseling, or paying your bills. The 2-1-1 service is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Remember that most of this help is temporary. You should not rely exclusively on them, but rather strive to become self-sufficient so that you can support your family on your own.
1. NCAN, How Congress can close equity gaps in postsecondary education.
2. FSA. Student loan payments to restart after August 31, 2022.
3. one in five SNAP households lives on a cash income of less than $2 per person per day.
4. CBPP, Helping low-wage workers fulfill themselves.
5. Medicaid.gov, Highlights of Medicaid & CHIP enrollment data.
6. SSA. SSI federal payment figures for 2022.