Learn About Emergency Funds Options

You may need fast cash now if you are struggling with bills, rent or groceries. The government may offer emergency grants for individuals who meet the requirements of programs designed to provide financial assistance. These programs have specific conditions, such as households with children and a low income.

You can apply for emergency financial support, but the government will only give resources if they are available and you qualify. Likewise, assistance funds are temporary, so you cannot receive them forever. Check out some of the most common government programs and their requirements.

Where to Find Help Paying Everyday Bills
1 of 3 Next

Do you need emergency cash now to pay your utilities, cell phone or other household expenses? Some programs specifically help with utilities and other monthly bills, including phone lines and an internet connection. 

Three government-based programs to look for help paying bills include the following:

  • The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program 
  • The Lifeline Program
  • The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Each of these can give emergency money to pay bills if the applicant proves their household has a low enough income and meets the other requirements. If awarded, the household can only use the funds for the specific bill payment. And in many cases, the program pays the utility and bill companies directly on behalf of the application. 

In most cases, the household’s income must be no more than 135 percent of the federal poverty level based on the number of household members. However, participation in other assistance programs, such as Medicaid and food stamps, may mean they already qualify. 

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program 

You could get emergency help with utility bills if you are a qualified LIHEAP. LIHEAP is a utility bill assistance program that helps with energy bills like:

  • Coal. 
  • Electricity.
  • Heating oil.
  • Natural gas.
  • Water. 
  • Wood. 

The maximum grant amount varies by state, and some locations provide heating and cooling assistance, while others only offer one type. For instance, Alaska does not provide cooling assistance.

Each state sets the income limit for its LIHEAP program. However, according to the federal law, applicants in any state must have incomes at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level (FPL). This may be different in certain states where 60 percent of the median medium income is higher than 150 percent of the FPL.

While you must check with your state to find out income limits, the following are the FPL limits for 2023:

  • 1 person – $14,580
  • 2 people – $19,720
  • 3 people – $24,860
  • 4 people – $30,000
  • 5 people – $35,140
  • 6 people – $40,280
  • 7 people – $45,420
  • 8 people – $50,560

These income guidelines may also apply to the Lifeline Program and TANF programs covered below.

The Lifeline Program

Do you need help paying a bill to communicate with people outside of your home? The federal government established the Lifeline Program so households could reach:

  • Essential services like emergency responders.
  • Their current employers or apply for jobs.
  • Their children’s schools.
  • Utility providers and pay bills. 

The program can reduce the monthly cost of a household landline, cell phone or internet connection. Lifeline also provides free cell phones, but the offer is limited to one per qualified household. 

The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

Unlike the other programs, you receive emergency financial relief directly from TANF if you qualify. You can use TANF funds to pay your monthly bills instead of the government using your benefits to pay your expenses for you. 

TANF is only an option if you are unemployed, have children in your household, and meet the income and resource requirements. The program also has employment-related services to help you prepare, find and obtain a new job. 

TANF is not meant to cover all expenses. In fact, the maximum monthly TANF benefit in most states is a few hundred dollars. New Hampshire has the highest possible TANF benefit at $1,151 (as of 2022), though not all participants can qualify for this amount.

Non-Government Charities and Nonprofits

The government is not the only place to look for help if you need emergency assistance with housing expenses. The below list is local and national organizations that can help:

  • American National Red Cross
  • Catholic Charities USA
  • Combined Jewish Philanthropies 
  • Feeding America
  • Goodwill Industries International
  • HealthWell Foundation
  • Salvation Army
  • Samaritan’s Purse
  • United Way

If you need help with your rent, the next list of programs may be better suited to assist in covering your biggest monthly household expense.

1 of 3 Next