Grants and Government Assistance Programs for Single Mothers

Being a single mother can be one of the most expensive jobs ieducatin the world. This is one of the main reasons why there is a social safety net that low income families can fall back on when they are struggling.

Most hardship grants, government assistance programs and welfare benefits that give aid to single mothers are funded by the federal government and administered by the individual states. These assistance programs provide a variety of different forms of aid that can include monetary, nutritional, health, housing, childcare, and educational needs.

There is a lot of competition to receive benefits from these grants. If you are a single mother who is struggling financially, you should start applying to these grants to ease your financial burden as much as possible.

Types of Assistance the Government Provides Single Mothers

There are six main types of assistance that the government offers to single mothers through government grants. These areas that the government assists with are:

  • Monetary needs
  • Nutritional needs
  • Health needs
  • Housing needs
  • Childcare needs
  • Educational Needs

Cash Assistance

In the United States, the government offers relatively little monetary assistance to low income families. There are a few programs that do help with the monetary needs of recipients. These are TANF and Unemployment Insurance.


TANF, also known as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, is the primary cash assistance program that the United States government provides. In the past, this program was called welfare and recipients have to prove that they are at least working part time, or at least actively searching for a job.

There are two types of TANF assistance. These are “child” grants and “family” grants. Child grants only pay for the needs of a child, while the family grant helps the entire family. This gives recipients a little bit of cash every month that they can spend on clothing, shelter, food, and other essential items.

By law, recipients can receive TANF benefits for up to five years. However, there are some states that have shorter limits on how long a person can receive these benefits.

The funds for TANF come from the federal government, but the services are managed by individual states. You can find out more about this program, and the eligibility requirements for your state by following this link to read their website.

Unemployment Insurance

If you have lost your job through no fault of your own, you might be eligible for unemployment insurance. You can contact the office of the Unemployment Insurance Program in your area to find out more about how to apply.

These programs are administered by individual states, with funds from the federal government. This means that different states might have different eligibility requirements, and different states will have their own restrictions on how much unemployment aid you can receive.

For example, the state of Massachusetts offers up to $855 per week for up to 30 weeks of unemployment insurance. On the other hand, the state of Florida offers less than half of that, just $275 per week for up to twelve weeks.

In general, unemployment insurance is not intended to be enough money for people to live on, it is merely meant to supplement their bare essentials alongside their emergency saving funds in times of disaster.

Of course, if you are a single mother who is trying to raise a family in poverty, you need all of the help that you can get and unemployment insurance can be a great help to you.

There are some programs and grants which can help you with your bills. Learn more about How to Get Help With Bills for Single Mothers here.

Food Assistance

There are more government grants and assistance programs that focus on providing food to low income families than there are programs that focus on giving people money directly. These programs include SNAP, WIC, the Emergency Food Assistance Program, and the National School Lunch Program. There is also the Special Milk and the School Breakfast programs.


SNAP, also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, is a federal nutrition program that was called food stamps in the past. This is a program that single mothers can use to help stretch their family’s food budget.

SNAP recipients are issued benefit cards every month, and they can use this to buy several different kinds of food. The items that they can buy with food stamps include:

  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Dairy products
  • Bread and Cereal

SNAP is a means-tested government assistance program, which means that recipients have to prove that they are low income before they can start collecting benefits.

The income requirements for getting these benefits varies from state to state, based on the median income. This is one of the most important parts of the American social welfare system, and is the only way that a lot of families are able to eat. Visit SNAP website to learn more.


WIC is the National Program for Women, Infants, and Children. This is a temporary food assistance program that single mothers can use to feed themselves and their children.

This is a program that provides low income women and children with nutritious food. To join this program for herself, a single mother has to be either pregnant, breastfeeding, or within six months of having given birth or had their pregnancy end.

Even if they are no longer eligible for WIC themselves, single mothers can still apply to WIC on behalf of their children, until those children are five years old.

Like with other government assistance programs, WIC is a means-tested program. This means that the eligibility requirements vary from state to state based on the median income and poverty line in each state.

Generally speaking, your household income has to be less than 185% of the poverty line for the area that you live in. If you are already receiving other welfare benefits like SNAP, Medicaid, or TANF, then you likely already qualify to participate in WIC.

If you are interested in applying for WIC, you can get in touch with your local office to get more information about the application.

The Emergency Food Assistance Program

The Emergency Food Assistance Program is a program that distributes food to low-income Americans regardless of their age. It does this by giving money to local food banks, and by providing for individual food consumption at home.

In order to enroll in the Emergency Food Assistance Program, you may have to also be enrolled in SNAP. Other people who are automatically eligible for TEFAP benefits are people who are enrolled in programs like TANF, Medicaid, WIC, Supplemental Security Income, Head Start, Veteren’s Aid, and Fuel Assistance.

National School Lunch Program

The National School Lunch Program is a program that is administered by the United States Department of Agriculture. This program is in place to ensure that all school aged children have access to a nutritious lunch every day. These are low cost or free meals that low income families can use to feed their kids.

Regulations for reduced price meals vary from state to state but your family income must be less than 130% of the poverty line to be eligible for free meals.

If you are enrolled in SNAP then you are automatically eligible for your child to receive free meals under this program.

If you are interested in taking advantage of this program to feed your kids, you can find out more information on the National School Lunch Program website.

Summer Food Service Program

The Summer Food Service Program is similar to the National School Lunch Program. This program operates over the summer, so that kids can continue to get healthy meals even when school is not in session. They operate across the country and you can find more information about how to participate in the program here by visiting their website.

School Breakfast Program

The National School Breakfast Program is another food service program that can help single mothers, similar to the National School Lunch Program.

This program offers reimbursement to states if they administer nonprofit breakfast programs in schools and residential childcare facilities.

Like with other government food assistance programs, you can find out more information about how to apply for this program right here on their website.

Special Milk Program

Unfortunately, not every school and child care facility offers the School Breakfast Program. However, for schools that do not sponsor this program, children are often eligible to participate in the Special Milk Program as an alternative. As with other government assistance programs, you can find ore information on these programs by visiting Special Milk Program website.

Healthcare Needs

Healthcare is another area where the government gives relatively little assistance. There are three main types of aid that the government provides with healthcare. They are Medicaid, CHIP, and the National Family Planning Program.


Medicaid is a federal government program that provides low income families who are struggling to afford medical insurance. This is a different program from Medicare. Medicaid is for people with low incomes, Medicare is for senior citizens.

The eligibility requirements for Medicaid vary from state to state. This is because the program is administered by individual states who use federal funds for the programs.

If you are a single mother who is in need of government assistance to pay for medical costs, you can find out more information about the programs in your state that you can use to get the help you need. You can check out the Medicaid website to see if you qualify in your state.


The other major form of healthcare assistance that the federal government provides to single mothers is the program CHIP. This program lets uninsured children get access to healthcare. This is an option for families whose income is too high to be eligible for Medicaid, but not high enough to pay for private health insurance.

This program covers all of the expenses that children need for their healthcare. This covers medical visits, vaccinations, dental health, and vision. Most families who are in this program are in the program for free. Some pay minimal amounts in co-pay, enrollment fees, and monthly premiums.

The National Family Planning Program

Title X is a program that is devoted to helping low income families access comprehensive family planning and preventative health services.

This program gives funds to clinics so that women with low incomes can still get affordable health care, even if they do not have insurance.

Some of the services that recipients can get with this program include breast and pelvic examinations, HIV testing, pap smears, cancer screenings, affordable birth control, as well as pregnancy testing and counseling.

This has been an important source of health care for single mothers who are trying to support themselves and their families on a low income.

There are also several programs that can help you with medical bills.

Housing Needs

Housing is another area where the government puts a relatively high amount of effort into building the country’s social safety net. Section 8 vouchers and public housing are the only way that some people are able to avoid homelessness. These programs give people across the country a safe place that is off of the streets.

Are You Qualified For These Programs?

If you are a single mother trying to raise her family on a single income, you are probably wondering if you even qualify for any of these programs to begin with. The specific eligibility rules vary from place to place based on the median income and poverty line that is set in each state.

However, generally speaking, there are some indicators that you can look at to see if you probably apply. Usually, your child will be eligible for participation in these school food programs if they are already receiving SNAP, TANF, or the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations.

They will also usually qualify if they are foster children who are under the legal supervision of the foster or court system. Whether or not you qualify is also largely based on your income level. If your family makes less than 130% of the poverty level, your children should be able to qualify for free meals at school.

If your family makes less than 185% of the poverty level, your family will likely be eligible for reduced price meals. Again, because the poverty level differs from place to place, you will have to check with your local office to see if you qualify.

Housing Assistance Programs

While a lot of the assistance that the federal government provides is focused on food, there are also some housing assistance programs that they offer. The most significant of these programs is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Even if you already have a stable income, you might still be able to qualify for a first time homeowner program. This helps low income families and individuals get on their feet by providing them with support in terms of energy costs, weatherization, energy crisis help, and other home repairs related to energy.

As with other government programs that provide assistance to single mothers in need, you can find more information about this program by visiting their website.

Section 8 Housing

Section 8 is a federal housing program that helps needy families find safe housing. People in this program receive vouchers that they can use to pay for a portion of their rent. Their landlords accept these vouchers as part of the payment and send the vouchers in to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

This is one of the ways that single mothers can find assistance, but Section 8 housing is often overpopulated and you could be on a waiting list for years before you start receiving benefits. You might never end up qualifying for Section 8, but if you do you will be less restricted than if you live in public housing.

Public Housing

Along with Section 8, public housing is the primary housing assistance program that the government sponsors.

Instead of giving participants rent vouchers, public housing lets the elderly, the disabeled, and eligible low income families live in public housing units. This provides recipients a place to live at a price that they can afford.

Public housing residents have to meet strict eligibility requirements that are set by the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The wait lists to live in public housing are not as long as the wait lists to join Section 8. However, residents who live in public housing are more restricted than residents in Section 8 housing. This is because public housing residents have to live in a designated area, while Section 8 residents can live anywhere in the state that accepts Section 8 vouchers.

Weatherization Assistance Program

The Weatherization Assistance Program is a less well known form of government aid that single mothers can take advantage of in order to keep their homes safe and secure. This program is administered by the United States Department of Energy, and it is designed to help low income families make their homes more energy efficient, so that they can lower their energy bills.

This program often gives priority to families with senior citizens or young children. If you are a single mother who needs help to weatherproof her home and make it more efficient, you should use the Department of Energy’s website to find out more about the specific resources that are available in the area that you live in.

You might also want to learn about Rent Assistance for Single Mothers.

Child Care Assistance Programs

In addition to food distribution programs, the federal government also offers assistance through several different child care programs. These include the public assistance day care programs, head start day care, and state child care assistance subsidies for single moms.

This gives parents a day care that they can afford so that they can look for a job, attend school, or attend career training. Eligibility is based on the average income in your area. You usually have to pay on a sliding scale. Families with more income have to pay a higher rate than families with less income.

Paid Family Leave

This is not an option in every single state, but depending on where you live you might find help from the Paid Family Leave program. People often associate this with maternity leave, but this is not the only reason why you would need to take urgent time off to be with your family.

If you are in a situation where you have to take time off of work to respond to a family emergency, you might be able to get temporary help from your State Disability Insurance Program. If you are a single mother who has missed work to respond to a family crisis, this program can help you recover your lost wages.

This program does not exist across the entire country. It is only available in certain states and usually it is only certain low income residents of those states who are eligible to use this program.

However, if you are a single mother who desperately needs the money she lost when she had to miss work, it is worth seeing if this program is available in your area.

Public Assistance Day Care Programs

Every state has a Health and Human Services Department that can help you find grants and money to help you cover the rising cost of child care. When you apply with these programs, you can usually get child care during the day for free or for a low price.

Eligibility to apply for these programs depends on several factors including your need, your income level, and the availability of room in the programs in your area.

Head Start Day Care

Head Start and Early Head Start are two established federal government programs that have been successfully providing education opportunities to low income families with children under the age of five.

This program is both a daycare service and an educational opportunity. The goal of these programs is to help every child get ready to start school.

You might want to read our Child Care Assistance for Single Mothers article to learn more.

Educational Needs

The United States Government also spends relatively little money sponsoring education. Aside from funding public schools, the primary grants that the government can offer single mothers here are the Federal Work Study Grant, the Pell Grant, and the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant.

These programs help to make college more affordable for students who come from families with the lowest incomes. If you are raising your family by yourself, this might be the only way that you can afford to send them to school.

Federal Work Study Grant

The Federal Work Study Grant is a financial aid program that lets students with only one parent earn money while they attend college. This program lets students earn money by working jobs on or near their college’s campus. Students typically receive a paycheck once a month, which they can use to pay for their educational or living expenses.


The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant that is given to students with the strongest need for financial assistance, as determined by their FAFSA form. Applicants who are also receiving the Pell Grant and have the least amount of family contribution to their tuition are the highest priority for this grant.

If you are a single mother who is trying to go back to school yourself or hoping to send your child to college, this is a good grant to look into.

Pell Grant

The Pell Grant is the largest student aid program in the United States. This is a need-based grant that is given to millions of students every year, many of whom are single mothers. This is free money that does not need to be repaid, and you can use it to go back to school and launch your career.

If you are interested in applying for the Pell Grant, the first thing that you need to do is fill out the Free Application for Student Aid.

You might want to check out our Education and College Grants for Single Mothers article for more information about education grants.

What If You Don’t Qualify for Grants?

Depending on the median income level where you live, you might be in the tricky spot of earning just a little bit too much money to qualify for welfare benefits, but not enough money to get by every month. If this is the case, there are still resources that can help you.

You can usually find assistance from community organizations, charities, and churches. It is also important to remember that most of these grants and programs are only temporary. It is not a good idea to rely completely on government assistance.

It is also important to remember to keep trying. Regulations change every year, as does the poverty line for your community. Just because you do not qualify to participate in a grant program this year does not mean that you will be unqualified next year.

Final Thoughts

Raising a family on one income is no easy task. Fortunately for parents everywhere, there are programs that can help ease the cost of raising a family. Many of these programs are grants issued by the federal government and administered by individual states. The grants cover an array of different necessities to help recipients make ends meet.

This social safety net encompasses things like education, money, nutritional assistance, health services, safe housing, and child care. The eligibility requirements vary from place to place but if you are trying to raise a family on just one income, these programs will help make your finances more manageable.