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Child care subsidies help low-income parents afford the child care needed to go to work or school. The primarily federal funding stream is the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), but many states also use funding from the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and the TANF block grant. Eligibility levels are set by states, but federal funding is so limited that, nationally, only about one in seven eligible children receives subsidies. Subsidies may be paid directly to child care providers or through reimbursements to parents.
Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP, also called SCHIP) provides health insurance to children in low- and moderate-income families. Eligibility levels vary by state, but are generally higher than under Medicaid.
FAFSA, or the Free Application for Student Aid, is the single most important financial aid gateway. It seeks information about the student’s (and, if the student is under age 24, the parents’) income and savings to estimate how much aid the student needs. FAFSA information is used to award federal grants, state grants, and numerous scholarships from colleges, foundations, and companies.
Housing Choice Voucher program, or Section 8, provides vouchers to subsidize rent in private apartments and dwellings.
Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a federal block grant to states which aids with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization, and minor home repairs to help with energy-related issues. Many states pass on the responsibility of managing LIHEAP to local nonprofit organizations such as Community Action Agencies and Area Agencies on Aging.
Medicaid is a joint program between the federal government and states that provides health care to low-income individuals and families. Eligibility and exact medical benefits vary across states, with some states offering more robust health care access than others. There are multiple eligibility categories for Medicaid, including low-income seniors, persons with disabilities, pregnant women, and general income eligibility.
Pell Grant is a federal subsidy, administered by the U.S. Department of Education, that provides financial support for students with demonstrated financial need who have not earned their first bachelor’s degree. It is generally considered the foundation of a student’s financial aid package, to which other forms of aid are added. In 1994, Congress revoked Pell Grant funding to individuals incarcerated in federal or state penal institutions. As the principal design of the Pell Grant was to help low-income individuals attain postsecondary education, including prisoners was consistent with the goal, and there is growing advocacy for reinstating Pell for all who would qualify.
Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) – Formerly known as Food Stamps, this program provides a monthly benefit that can be used to purchase groceries. Households with net incomes below the federal poverty level, after considering work expenses and other deductions, are eligible. SNAP benefits are fully federally funded, and the federal government sets the benefit levels and eligibility rules, although the states conduct applications and eligibility determinations. Special rules limit the availability of SNAP benefits for college students unless they are working, caring for children, or qualify for another exemption.
SNAP Employment and training: (SNAP E&T): SNAP E&T is a funding category within SNAP that provides supports for employment, training, and related supportive services to those receiving SNAP benefits. Recipients cannot receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families ((TANF) supports while getting SNAP E&T training. “Children, parents of young children, seniors, people with disabilities and those already working are exempt from E&T, though youth (ages 16-18) may participate in employment and training services if they are members of a SNAP household.” SNAP E&T funds can support operating costs of job search, work experience, education and training programs, support services for participants, and job-retention services for up to 90 days.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) is a federally funded block grant that states use to provide cash assistance and a range of other programs and services for low-income families with children. TANF replaced the Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC). A limited number of states use TANF monies to fund work-study positions. Cash assistance eligibility rules vary by state, but are typically very stringent. To qualify for cash assistance, individuals must have very low incomes, have dependent children, and demonstrate that they are working or in work-related activities or qualify for an exemption. States control whether attending school can count as a work-related activity. The amount provided by cash assistance is less than half the federal poverty level in all states.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) serves low-income pregnant women and their children up through age 5 with supplemental nutrition supports, nutrition education and counseling, and referrals and screening to other health, welfare, and social services. States determine eligibility, which can be set between 100 percent and 185 percent of the federal poverty level. Some participants are categorically eligible based on their participation in other services, including SNAP benefits, Medicaid, and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Other categorical eligibility options are available in some states.