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Where to Turn When a Single Dad Needs Money

Where to Turn When a Single Dad Needs Money

When you’re a single parent, it can be difficult to know where to turn when money is tight. If you are a single dad who needs money, there are resources at your disposal. This article focuses on a few government programs for parents and families, non-profit and community organizations where you can find free stuff for babies and toddlers, and a government resource designed specifically for times when a single dad needs money and support. 

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

One of the first places a single dad should turn when he needs money is a government program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. In most states, TANF recipients receive cash benefits on an EBT card, which operates like a debit card. 

The amount of money families can receive through TANF varies a lot from state to state. Some states’ maximum monthly payment is under $300, while other states offer up to $1,000/month. The only way to find out how much your family is eligible for is to apply for the program. 

TANF is funded by grants from the federal government, and while there are basic eligibility requirements set by the federal government, the exact requirements vary by state. To find out if you may be eligible, you can use this eligibility calculator on Just be sure to scroll all the way to the bottom, as the calculator is not prominently displayed.  

TANF is intended for:

  • Parents, including dads, with children under the age of 18
  • Pregnant women
  • Children 18 and under who serve as heads of household

In every state, it is required that TANF recipients are engaged in “work activities” for a certain number of hours per week. Activities like vocational training, job search and job readiness assistance, and community service usually count as well.

TANF recipients can continue to collect their benefit for up to two consecutive years. Families can spend up to five years on TANF, total, throughout their lifetime.

To apply for TANF, you must contact the TANF office in your state. A full listing of contact information for each U.S. state can be found on the Department of Health and Human Services website

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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides a monthly payment on an EBT card, which can be used to purchase certain nutritious foods for all members of a household. The SNAP benefit amount that a family receives each month is dependent on their income and the number of people living in the household. As an example, the estimated average monthly SNAP benefit for a family of three is $586. 

Eligibility requirements vary somewhat depending on what state you live in, but generally, if the income you report to the IRS is less than 130% of the poverty line for your household size, you would be eligible for at least partial assistance. 

SNAP is administered on the state level, meaning that in order to find out if you qualify and apply, you will need to contact your state’s SNAP office. Each state’s contact information is available through this interactive map

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Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

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 and LIHWAP 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. 

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Mutual Aid Organizations

Mutual Aid networks are informal collectives of community members who come together and support one another. Mutual Aid networks became more popular during the COVID-19 pandemic and more and more groups have organized across the United States. The great thing about Mutual Aid networks is that they are typically not means-testing. In other words, if you say you need assistance, they take your word for it. Mutual Aid organizations are not run by the government. They are simply groups of neighbors who organize to help one another. 

Mutual Aid groups offer a lot of different types of assistance from paying bills, to connecting families with childcare, and helping families with food and clothing. Mutual Aid isn’t just about receiving help either. If there’s something you have to offer, such as volunteer time, you can help out as well, and gain community in the process. You can find a Mutual Aid network in your area here

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Non-Profit Organizations

The National Diaper Network can help you find free diapers in your area. Just call 211 and a specialist will help you identify local resources. You can also check the National Diaper Network directory to see which organizations in your area are part of their network. 

United Way is also a great resource for getting free stuff for babies, often sponsoring “community baby showers” for parents-to-be. To find out whether your local branch of the United Way is currently offering free baby stuff, visit their website and reach out to the United Way near you. 

Cribs for Kids is an organization that helps distribute safe cribs for babies. Though based in PA, their website allows you to search for Cribs for Kids distributors in your area. If there is not a distributor in your area, you can use the organization’s product discount to purchase a lower cost cribette for your baby. has a comprehensive listing of where to get a free car seat in all 50 states.

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National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse

Finally, the National Responsible Fatherhood Clearinghouse is a great resource for single dads. includes resources on economic stability and employment, and other topics like child support, custody, and visitation, and co-parenting. Better yet, many regions of the U.S. have local offices that can help out when a single dad needs money or support.  

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Catherine Hall, LMSW is a therapist at a small group practice in New York City. She earned her master of social work degree at New York University.