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7 Ways to Get FREE Cash Assistance

7 Ways to Get FREE Cash Assistance

There is more than one way to get cash assistance! Too many people mistakenly believe there’s only one way to get cash help but we’ve found several options for low income people all across America.

You can apply for one or more of these programs, so let’s talk about what you may be eligible for.

7 Ways to Get Cash Assistance 

First, let’s review the seven ways that you can get cash assistance in America. After we review these programs, we’ll discuss some frequently asked questions.

TANF: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families

When most people think about cash benefits, they think about the TANF program that provides cash to families with kids.

TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families but this program has many different names depending on what state you’re in. It’s Reach Up in Vermont, TAFI in Idaho, Family Independence in South Carolina, Ohio Works First, etc. It exists in every state, but the name may vary. 

No matter what it’s called, this program provides a monthly cash grant to low income families with kids. These grants are usually around $429 – $498 on average. The amount you will receive depends on a lot of factors, including how many people are in your household, how much you earn and other factors. You can apply for TANF directly on your state government website. 

The money is deposited either directly into your bank account or on an EBT card. The downside? There’s a lifetime limit on how many months an adult can receive these benefits and once you reach that limit, you can never get more cash assistance from this program. 

General Assistance

There are many states that operate a “general welfare” or “general assistance” fund at the city or county level. Many tribal governments offer this benefit as well.

These local governments have cash available that can help low income residents with specific one-time needs, such as rent, food, prescriptions or funeral costs. In some cases, those funds may be distributed as cash.

Check with your local city or county government for more information. 

Pell Grants

The government offers Federal Pell Grants for undergraduate students who have not yet earned a bachelors, graduate or professional degree. You have to be enrolled in college to receive these funds, but this is a cash benefit that does not have to be repaid. 

If you’re interested in pursuing a higher education, check out how Amelia actually turned a profit just by going to school and using every available assistance program she could get.

Supplemental Security Income

Supplemental Security Income is a cash benefit program for low income people who are age 65 or older, blind, or disabled. This program provides up to $794 per month for a single person or $1,191 for a couple, but the amount you receive may be reduced based on your countable income. You can apply for SSI on the Social Security website

Social Security Disability Insurance

If you have enough work history to be insured by Social Security, then you may be eligible for SSDI if you become disabled. In order to be eligible, you must have a medical condition that is expected to last at least a year or result in death. You can apply for SSDI on the Social Security website as well. 

The Social Security office is notorious for wrongfully denying claims. If you are denied, make sure to file an appeal. I’m not sure what the statistics are for SSI, but nearly ⅔ of disability applications are denied the first time and many win their case on appeal. Always, always appeal. 

APT: Adult Programs in the Territories

Residents of some US territories, such as Puerto Rico, are excluded from receiving certain benefits (including SSI). However, there is a program called Adult Programs in the Territories that may be able to assist you if you are a resident of Puerto Rico, Guam or the US Virgin Islands and at least age 64, disabled and over age 17, or blind. This program provides monthly cash payments to those who meet the eligibility requirements. 

Guaranteed Income Programs

There are guaranteed income pilot programs popping up all over the country. Some of them offer just a few hundred dollars per month, others offer thousands. It depends on where you live. The eligibility requirement also varies. We maintain a comprehensive list of guaranteed income programs here.  

Don’t forget your unclaimed funds!

State governments are currently holding onto billions of dollars in unclaimed funds. This money comes from all sorts of places – forgotten bank balances, utility deposits, unclaimed inheritances and more. It’s easy and free to claim your unclaimed money. Visit for help finding your missing cash. 

Frequently Asked Questions

We get a lot of questions about cash assistance. In this section, we’ll try to address the most common ones.

How do I know if General Assistance is available in my area?

The easiest way is to call your local county government and ask if they offer general assistance or a general welfare fund. This is especially common in eastern states.

How do I know if I have cash benefits on my EBT card?

The easiest way is to use the Providers app to track your EBT card balance. It will show your Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) food benefits and your TANF (cash) benefits balances.

How much can I get in cash assistance?

Unfortunately, we cannot give specifics on that because it depends on which program you’re applying for and what state you live in.

Nicole leads the Low Income Relief team with over 20 years of professional research and writing experience. Nicole started Low Income Relief after a personal experience with poverty. When her husband was medically discharged from the US Army, their family experienced tremendous financial hardship. Nicole was able to gather help from multiple community agencies and move into a nearby low income housing unit in just two weeks! Since then, Nicole has been dedicated to helping low income families in crisis. She regularly spends hundreds of hours combing through countless resources to make sure that Low Income Relief has the most comprehensive and complete resource directories on the internet today. Prior to starting Low Income Relief, Nicole worked as a novelist, journalist, ghostwriter and content creator. Her work has been featured in various print and online publications, including USA Today, eHow, Livestrong, Legal Beagle, The Daily Herald, The Chronicle and more.

Amy C

Sunday 13th of November 2022

Hi, I’m currently trying to get disability, I have been through all my resources, I do not have any health insurance and need to see my doctors, I was denied Medicaid, I’ve had cancer and suffer from long term side effects from radiation, I will be 55 in December and I am single as well, any suggestions would be greatly appreciated!

Catherine Marucci

Sunday 13th of November 2022

Hi Amy. Here are some resources that may be helpful:

Debbie shepard

Monday 7th of November 2022

I'm going to get a liver transplant 2 hrs away in Charlotte nc they tell me ill need about 6000 dollars for travel food and housing for 6 weeks I've got to have someone with me during this time I'm 63 yrs old and I'm already in alot of debt please help me find the money for this thank you

Catherine Marucci

Tuesday 8th of November 2022

Hi Debbie. Here are a few options that may help:

Debra Cordes

Wednesday 19th of October 2022

I am 58, and I feel I am not getting all my available benefits. I have medicare A&B, AARP ADVANTAGE Plan, HNO, AM I ENTITLED TO OTC (I Do receive $80.00 either mthly or quarterly). I receive no FLEX CARD, I have copays for specialist, hospital, and am very limited on dental, eyes and hearing. Just wondering AM I ON THE RIGHT PLAN??? Any help is greatly appreciated. I am low income also, please keep that in mind. Thank You. Debra

Pamela pemberton

Friday 21st of October 2022

@Catherine Marucci,

Catherine Marucci

Thursday 20th of October 2022

Hi Debra. It may be worth reaching out to your local Area Agency on Aging for advice and resources.