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How Do I Apply For Emergency Assistance?

Everyone needs a helping hand from time to time, and sometimes, we need that help in a hurry. So, you ask, how do I apply for emergency assistance when things become difficult? Whether you are in need of emergency housing, food, home energy, or cash assistance, we have you covered. 

How Do I Apply For Emergency Assistance: Housing

During the Coronavirus pandemic, many folks have faced obstacles to paying their rent or mortgage. The federal government responded by distributing funding for state and local governments to distribute to renters and homeowners. 

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To apply for rental assistance, you must apply through your local rental assistance program. The application procedure varies by state and/or locality, with some programs allowing renters to apply directly, and others requiring landlords to apply on behalf of their tenants. Emergency rental assistance can be used to cover rent, utilities, and home energy costs. 

Homeowners can apply for mortgage forbearance, which allows for a temporary pause in mortgage payments without penalty. To apply for mortgage forbearance, you must contact your loan servicer, or you may face foreclosure for non-payment. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers extensive information on how to apply for forbearance

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Coronavirus-related emergency assistance is not the only type of help available if you are at risk of homelessness. This Department of Housing and Urban Development directory lists agencies in each state who can help connect you with housing resources in an emergency. 

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How Do I Apply For Emergency Assistance: Food

When you and your family are in need of food assistance, it can’t wait. Most food stamps (SNAP) applications take up to a month to process, which is not helpful in an emergency. However, you may be eligible for expedited or emergency food stamps if you meet the requirements in your state. If you are approved for emergency food stamps, it is possible to receive your benefits within just a few days. 

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Because requirements for emergency food stamps vary by state, you will need to contact the SNAP office in your state. Please note that New York City has its own office. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s interactive map can help you connect with your state’s SNAP office. In most states, it is possible to apply online. 

If even emergency food stamps can’t come soon enough, or you find that you are not eligible, there are options. You can contact the USDA National Hunger Hotline, and a representative can connect you with resources in your area. 

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How Do I Apply For Emergency Assistance: Water & Electricity

If you are struggling to pay your water and electricity bills and are in danger of having them turned off, you may be able to apply for emergency assistance from two federal programs, known as LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) and LIHWAP (Low Income Household Water Assistance Program). 

LIHEAP was established 40 years ago, and has been a lifeline for low income households. LIHWAP is a new program, established just this year, to help low income households keep their water turned on and paid for. 

LIHEAP applications are processed at the state level. To apply, you can call the National Energy Assistance Referral (NEAR) hotline at 1-866-674-6327, or use this interactive map to apply through your state or local office. 

LIHWAP applications are also processed at the state level, but because this is a much newer program than LIHEAP, not all states are accepting applications yet. Low Income Relief’s guide to LIHWAP has information on the status of LIHWAP in each state. 

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How Do I Apply For Emergency Assistance: Cash (TANF)

If you and your family are in need of assistance meeting your basic needs like food, clothing, shelter, childcare, and transportation, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families might be right for you. You might have heard this program referred to as cash assistance or welfare. 

Although this program is funded by the federal government, applications are processed through each state. You can find your state’s application through this interactive map. Eligibility requirements vary somewhat by state, but generally, the program is intended for parents with children under the age of 18, pregnant women, and children 18 and under who serve as heads of household. 

To find out if you may be eligible, you can use this eligibility calculator on benefits.gov. Just be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom, as the calculator is not prominently displayed.  

There are many reasons why you and your family could need emergency assistance, and these are just a few ways to get help. Check out more from Low Income Relief for more information and ideas. 

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