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How To

How To Get Help Paying the Bills

Life is unpredictable. Situations can happen that change your financial position in a moment, leaving you blindsided and entirely out of pocket.

A crisis can come in many forms. From unemployment to medical emergencies or losing a spouse, many situations can lead to financial stress.

During these times, it is important to know who to turn to for financial support or help with paying bills.

Unfortunately, in tough times many people don’t consider finding help until their financial situation is in a state of emergency.

There are multiple programs that will help cover bills for low-income families so they can get back on their feet.

What type of organization will help those who need help with bills? The following is a short list of groups that are ready with aid for those that qualify.

  • Government Agencies
  • Local Churches
  • Not For Profit Organizations
  • Community Initiatives

Assistance can be granted for almost anything including help with utility bills, food, clothing, medical bills, and housing.

Where Do I Start?

With all the programs available it can be difficult to find one that best fits your situation.

A great place to start is benefits.gov.

This government website will direct you to all the government programs in your state.

You can fill out the benefits finder information form, and it will advise you of all the benefits you may qualify for.

This website covers details on everything from financial assistance, and disaster relief to help with medical bills when uninsured.

Let’s look at some other programs that are available to support those who are struggling financially.

LIHEAP

Low Income Heat Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) assists with keeping families safe by providing federal assistance to manage the costs of home energy.

Section 8 Voucher Housing Voucher Program

The Section 8 housing program is a federal program helping low-income families get into a home. Both of these programs can be found on benefits.gov.

Community Action Agencies (CAA)

The Economic Opportunity Act was signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson in 1964. It created the nationwide Community Action Partnership.

This set the table for Community Action Agencies (CAA) which are local private and public non-profit organizations that carry out the Community Action Program founded by the Act.

These organizations aim to connect millions of children and families to more significant opportunities and a healthier future.

The CAA, through smaller organizations, can assist with short-term bill payments, food, shelter, and further job training for low-income families.

2-1-1 Program

2-1-1 is a confidential program that helps people in need find information about resources and services in their local community.

They have professional operators who are well trained in dealing with a broad range of emergencies and crises.

2-1-1 can be accessed through the internet or by telephone.

They provide information on all the following:

  • Food and nutrition programs
  • Housing options
  • Utility assistance
  • Emergency information and disaster relief
  • Employment opportunities
  • Education opportunities
  • Services for veterans
  • Health care, vaccination, and health epidemic information
  • Addiction prevention and rehabilitation programs
  • Reentry help for ex-offenders
  • Support for individuals with mental illnesses or special needs
  • Help to get out of emotional and or physical abuse

Both benefits.gov and the 2-1-1 program are good starting points when facing an emergency.

Loss Of Income

An unforeseen job loss and unemployment are quick ways to fall into a financial predicament. With a changing economy and the rapid growth of new markets employment is no longer as stable as it once was.

An act of God, such as flooding or fires, may lead to a loss of jobs, while an on-the-job injury may make it impossible to complete the duties of your position.

There are several programs available to those who find themselves in these situations.

Unemployment Insurance

If your job loss is through no fault of your own unemployment insurance will provide some financial cover until you find a new job.

Every state has an unemployment insurance program.

It is essential that you file your application with the state as soon as you become unemployed.

An early application will reduce the chance of missing a payment and will help with paying bills on time.

Workers Compensation

When you can’t work because of a work-related injury or illness, this program can provide you with a portion of your average weekly wage.

This program may also cover specific medical bills and long-term benefits if there has been a significant work accident, such as a loss of limb or death.

To apply for Workers Compensation, you must fill out a report related to the work-related incident within a designated time frame set by your state.

Certain types of employees are not covered by workers’ compensation, such as some farmworkers, casual and seasonal workers, or undocumented workers.

Social Security Disability Insurance

Social security disability insurance may provide a benefit for an adult who has a long-term illness or disability that will last longer than 12 months. The illness or disability does not have to be work-related.

Your residual functional capacity (RFC) will determine whether you qualify for disability insurance.

To apply for Social Security Disability Insurance, you can go to the website online, visit your local social security office, or call 800-772-1213 to see if you qualify.

Disability Benefits for the Blind

Disability benefits can help cover the cost of declining vision and loss of eyesight. While it can be a tedious process and a lot of paperwork but with the right guidance, you can apply on your own.

Under U.S. government rules, applicants must be legally blind which is defined by the following:

  • Central vision is 20/200 or worse when using a corrective lens
  • Peripheral vision (side-to-side field of view) is less than 20 degrees

Applicants can use the Social Security Administration (SSA) as a starting point and there are other programs available from local or state governments.

Applicants who have served in the U.S. military can contact the Department of Veterans Affairs to inquire about services for active-duty members or veterans with blindness or low vision.

Tax Credits

If your job is not entirely paying the bills and your income is below certain thresholds, you may qualify for tax credits.

The tax credit amount depends on your income and how many children you support. If you are eligible, then your tax credit is claimed when you file your income tax return.

Even if it is not money in the bank next week, it could provide relief. You can go online to EITC Assistant to see if you qualify for tax credits.

Help Paying Bills Short Term

If you have assets and own your own home but have lost your job, you may not qualify for specific programs. An alternative to consider is a short-term personal loan to help pay bills.

Caution must be applied, and knowledge of up-and-coming employment is advisable before borrowing.

If you do decide that a personal loan or HELOC may help with bills, make sure you are comparing issuers for the lowest APRs and best returns available.

The Financer.com online loan calculator can compare many loans instantly, with no effect on your credit.

Help with Medical Bills

Benefits.gov and 2-1-1 will provide a range of options within your community to help with medical bills. They can offer suggestions for low-cost treatment centers and programs specific to your needs.

They will also provide information on Medicaid if this is an option for you.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a federal and state-funded program for low-income, limited financial means individuals and families to help with health insurance that may cover medical bills.

You can apply for Medicaid at your local social security office or online.

Ask for a Discount

Many medical providers or other vendors spend hours chasing customers with unpaid bills. Understanding this reality, some service providers may be open to lowering the total invoice amount owed if you explain your precarious financial situation and offer to pay a portion of the bill.

Another alternative is to request a payment plan to help you pay the medical bills over time.

Oftentimes, medical providers will accept a payment plan. They would rather have someone come in to pay their bill than have to chase patients for payments.

Prevention is Better Than Cure

The best way to avoid a financial crisis is to prepare for it. Regularly setting money aside in an emergency fund can be the difference between a tough time and financial ruin.

The recommended amount of emergency savings is enough to cover three to six months of your household expenses.

There can easily be the temptation to reallocate such a large amount of savings to other things when you are not in a financial crisis.

However, creating a savings and investment plan while the waters of life are calm will ensure you and your household can weather the storms of life.

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AuthorKimberley Smyth

Kimberley is the US Country Manager for Financer.com. She has gained years of experience in small business management and has two successful start-ups under her belt. She now focuses her energy on helping others achieve financial freedom through smart money management and investment opportunities.

Financial information reviewed byRoss Loehr - CFP®, MBA
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Last Updated: August 22, 2022

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