From home repair to assistance with utilities, help is out there if you know where to look.
If you’ve been thrown into financial straits by the U.S. economic fallout caused by COVID-19, your budget may no longer be enough to cover the basics. You may not be aware of the many resources out there to help with financial and utility assistance, diapers and formula, home repairs, and more.
Don’t be too proud to seek financial assistance before things get so out of control that you’re facing eviction, foreclosure, a barren pantry, or empty pockets. 211.org counselors have national resources to help those in need.
Here are local resources if you need help paying bills to get through a financial setback.
Many cities and even small towns offer utility discount programs if your income is low enough to qualify. You may even qualify if your income was only recently cut or eliminated.
For example, Seattle’s Utility Discount Program offers eligible customers a 60% discount on their Seattle City light bill and a 50% discount on their Seattle public utilities bill for income-qualified households. Columbus, Ohio offers a 20% discount on water and sewer charges and a payment relief program with a one-time (per year) credit up to $150 towards an eligible City of Columbus electric bill.
Lifeline is a federal program that lowers the monthly cost of phone or internet service
Your local Catholic Charities agency may have emergency assistance such as providing food, baby formula, diapers, mental health services for help with depression, stress and anxiety and assistance for military veterans in addition to senior services.
To find your local Catholice Charities office, search by zip code here.
City home repair programs
If the COVID-19 crisis reduced or eliminated your income, you may qualify for a city program that pays for home repairs and updates. For example, Houston’s Home Repair Program provides vital roofing, plumbing, electrical or heating repairs as well as system replacement to income-qualified residents.
Search your city website for available home repair or improvement programs.
Churches and other charitable organizations in your city probably have food pantries to help you get by if you’ve lost your job and can’t pay all your bills and buy food, too.
There’s no shame in going to a food pantry when you need help. Don’t do this as a “preventive measure,” of course, since many other people desperately need food items. However, if getting a free bag of groceries means you can pay for utilities or rent, you can always donate food to that pantry later when your finances improve.
Feeding America can help you find your local food bank for free food distributions and to apply for national food programs.
State utility discount programs
If you don’t find utility assistance though city programs, look into state energy assistance programs. For example, California residents enrolled in the state’s California Alternate Rates for Energy (CARE) program receive a 30-35% discount on electric bills and a 20% discount on the gas bill.
The State of Maryland’s Office of Home Energy Programs offers financial assistance to low-income residents for home heating and electric bills and may offer forgiveness of up to $2,000 for past-due utility bills.
Check The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), a state benefit program website for available assistance programs, discounts, and services.
Churches, synagogues and mosques
No matter your religion, if you need food, help paying bills, utilities or other financial assistance, there is likely a church, synagogue or mosque in your neighborhood ready and eager to help.
Ask friends, neighbors and family if they know of local programs, food pantries or programs provided by religious organizations. Call local churches, temples and mosques or visit their websites to learn about programs available.
You could be eligible for several programs in your area such as meal delivery, energy assistance and weatherization assistance, especially if you’re a senior or have a low income.
To find out programs in your area for which you may be eligible, search by zip code at The National Council on Aging BenefitsCheckup.
There are several organizations dedicated to helping those with medical needs. No matter if it is an emergency or an ongoing condition.
Medicaid is a federal and state program providing free or low-cost medical benefits.
Patient Advocate Foundation (PAF) helps insured and uninsured individuals diagnosed with chronic illness.
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Published by Debt.com, LLC