Financial Aid & Grants For Single Mothers: The Definite Guide
The birth of a new child is a momentous occasion. It brings any family unspeakable and boundless joy. The mother’s heart is touched with a love that she will never know with anyone else and the family also experiences its fair share of happiness. However, the birth of a new child is also a sobering occasion as well. In the grand scheme of nature, a helpless human being has been committed to its parents to be loved, cherished, and nurtured. Each parent experiences the same concerns, anxiety, and doubts. How good of a parent will I be? Can I keep my child safe? How will I guarantee that my child never lack anything that it needs?
Single mothers face extra worries at the birth of their child. For many families, the child is a symbol of the mother’s behavior and they despise it even though it has never done any wrong to them. The family’s social pride forces them to displace the child and its mother from its living situation with her parents. Suddenly, the young mother must meet her own financial needs as well as those of her child. She has no one to turn to for financial support or advice on how to care for her child. She knows that she must get a job and a place to live in order to provide for her child, but finding a job that she has the skills for can be virtually impossible.
The mother also has self-respect and pride. She will not stoop to begging in order to provide for her child and she will endeavor to maintain a social appearance that is relatively close to the one that she enjoyed in her previous living situation. Consequently, many single mothers fail to research and take advantage of the resources that are available to help them get a firm financial footing. These opportunities for financial assistance are available from many private organizations as well as directly from the state and Federal governments.
For the purpose of this article, we will focus solely on the aid offered by the government. Both the Federal and the state governments offer programs known as grants. These grants are available to people who meet a certain set of qualifications. There are multiple opportunities for single mothers to obtain financial assistance from the government through grants that are specifically designed for them and grants that are for a broader range of individuals. For aid that is offered by state governments, these qualifications vary from state to state. Therefore, this article focuses solely on the grants offered by the United States Federal government.
Direct Government Grants
What is a grant? A grant is money or another form of financial assistance that is provided to qualifying individuals by an organization, a corporation, a foundation, an educational institution, or a trust. Each of these organizations has to meet a set of qualifications to qualify as a distributor of Federal grants. The primary advantage of a grant is that the recipient will never owe money to the distributor. That is right. You will never owe interest or other sums for the money that you receive through a grant. You also will not have to pay taxes on the money that you receive through a grant.
What can a grant do for me as a single mother? With the birth of your child, you are bound by an obligation to care for your offspring first before you pursue anything else. For many single mothers, affording nutritious food, obtaining a quality housing situation, and providing their children with quality medical care is a challenge. Other single mothers struggle to fulfill their personal dreams of going to college and obtaining a higher education that will enable to follow them the career path of their dreams or obtain a better job. Grants can provide you with the necessary financial assistance that will enable you to properly care for your child and pursue your own dreams.
How can I get a grant? The major drawback of grants is that they can be difficult to obtain. Do not despair! The difficulty in obtaining a grant is not due to the qualifications. Grants are limited by Federal law. Therefore, there are not as many grants available as there are scholarships or other forms of financial assistance. In order to obtain a grant, you must diligently search for them. Use the major search engines such as Google, Bing, and Yahoo to find grant opportunities. Once you have found one, you can apply online or sending the required documentation by mail. However, make sure that you meet all of the eligibility requirements before applying!
How many types of grants are offered? The number of individual grants that are offered by the US Federal government is very large. However, they can be divided into the following nine major categories: direct government grants, college grants, financial aid grants, housing grants, business grants, small business grants, minority grants, personal grants, and daycare grants. Each of these grants has its own specific set of eligibility requirements. We have done our best to provide an informative overview of these categories in sections below. However, our list is not exhaustive and your own unique circumstances will determine what you will qualify for in terms of grant assistance.
A General Overview of Grants
A direct government grant is administered directly by the United States Federal government and is funded by taxpayer dollars. Consequently, the government takes great pains to limit the amount of money that it makes available for these types of grants and it carefully screens whomever it gives the money to. These types of grants can be awarded to organizations or individuals, but the use of the money is carefully monitored by the government.
These grants can also be awarded to communities. Grants that are awarded to communities normally go to child care centers and religious organizations such as Catholic charities. The Small Business Administration is responsible for distributing these grants so you may want to research that avenue further. We do not cover it fully in this article because we are focusing on specific grants. We have also avoided the discussion of Federal grants for education since that we could not do it full justice in this article.
In 1974, Congress implemented the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) to help communities to develop better living situations. It is administered by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and is one of the oldest Federal grant programs. In order to be eligible for the program, each applicant must demonstrate that he or she has low to moderate income based on the levels set by HUD.
Block grants are normally distributed to organizations that must use at least seventy percent of it to run supporting activities to help individuals who have a low income. There is no specific amount that is awarded. The Department of Housing and Urban Development will decide how much money to award based on its data regarding the community. Some statistics that factor into the decision include the poverty level, the population, the amount of overcrowded housing, how old the housing is, and the project population growth. These statistics are then compared with other areas across the country to determine how much grant money HUD will allocate to this area.
The grant money that partnering organizations will be able to distribute offers an excellent way for single mothers to obtain financial assistance for their housing needs. If you are in an area that experiences overcrowded housing and has outdated housing facilities, there is a good chance that you will be able to qualify for housing assistance through this program.
For more information on how the block grant program works, please visit the following link: www.hud.gov/cdbg
The Workforce Investment Act (WIA)
Congress passed the Workforce Investment Act in 1998 to support workforce development activities. Unlike many Federal programs, the WIA program partners with state and local governments to help individuals prepare themselves better in the job market by offering classes, technical training, and assistance in searching for jobs. In order to qualify, you must be at least 18 years old. While there are no other “hard” requirements, these programs are normally for laid-off workers who will be switching industries, displaced homemakers (i.e., single mothers), and individuals who had been self-employed.
The amount of funding distributed to the job centers that will provide the actual services depends on the needs of the community that it serves. The more unemployment that exists in the community, the more grant money it will receive. Depending on the amount of funding that is received, job centers may offer some or all of the following services:
- Core Services: Core services provide the job center users with labor market information, skill level assessments, and help in searching for a job.
- Intensive Services: Intensive services are normally based on the skill assessments contained in the core services package. Once you have completed a core service program, you will be given a chance to obtain employment. If you cannot obtain and maintain employment, you are moved to the intensive services program. In the intensive services program, you will be given training in self-sufficiency, which will increase your chances of being able to obtain and maintain jobs.
- Training Services: If you cannot obtain a job after the intensive program, you will be moved to the training program where you will learn new technical skills to help you find a job. Each trainee receives a personalized Individual Training Account to use for the training process.
For single mothers who were forced to drop out of high school or college due to the birth of their child, the WIA act represents a good opportunity to gain work-related training that will enable them to find a better job to support their children. However, it is important to note that this program varies in what it offers in each state. For more information on where to obtain the services offered under the WIA program, please visit the following link:
Temporary Assistance for Needy Family (TANF)
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program offers financial relief to families who can demonstrate their needs. The Federal government distributes block grants to each state who then determines the thresholds that have to be met in order for a family to receive the services and money offered in the program. While requirements vary from state to state, each state requires that each applicant must have dependent children or are in their last three months of pregnancy. Each applicant must a resident of the state in which they are applying for financial assistance. They also must provide sufficient documentation that they are US citizens or non-US citizens who are eligible to receive financial aid.
The services that are available in the TANF include job training, counseling, education, and emergency funding. While each state offers different amounts of funding and it also varies on a case by case basis, the national average of funding is $694 per month. For single mothers, this amount of funding can be the difference between struggling to make ends meet each month and providing a comfortable future for their children.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as the Food Stamp program) is a partnership with state agencies and community organizations to help low-income families afford nutritious food. Unlike the other forms of government aid listed in this article, the qualifications for food stamps are much more stringent. In order to qualify, you must prove that your countable resources (i.e., bank account) do not exceed $2000. As a single mother you must prove that your gross income is 200% of the federal poverty level. The amount of assistance is determined by multiplying your net monthly income by 0.3 and subtracting the maximum allotment amount for the size of your household.
WIC (Women, Infants, and Children)
WIC is also known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. It is a federal program that provides grant money to states to help women who are pregnant or have a child younger than five buy health foods, find affordable health care, and attend classes regarding nutrition.
In order to qualify for aid, the woman must prove that she is pregnant or has a child who is younger than five years old and is at the risk of nutritional deficiency. The total household income must be below 185 percent of the federal poverty line. Pregnant women can receive assistance during their pregnancy and six weeks after their child is born. If the child is breastfed, the mother can receive assistance up to their child’s first birthday. Children older than 1 can receive assistance up to their fifth birthday. There is no set amount of assistance awarded. Each person receives assistance based on their need and the amount of funding the state has available.
Housing Grants for Single Mothers
There are not many housing programs that offer grants directly for single mothers. However, there are a few that are run by the US Department of Urban Development that offer modest sums of grant money to individuals that meet the eligibility requirements. Of the programs that are available, single mothers would probably be best suited by looking for programs that assisted them with a certain aspect of housing such as assistance in paying their electric or heating bills.
Since the programs to help single mothers are sparse in this area, we have not listed many of them in this article. However, the ones that we do list should give you a decent idea of what to expect if you decided to go searching for a grant in this area.
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance program helps families who need assistance in paying their heating, cooling, and electricity bills. Like the grants discussed in the previous sections, this program is a partnership between the Federal, state, and local governments. The money that is distributed to the state and local governments can be used for home energy needs, energy crises, weatherization, and home repairs to decrease energy costs.
In order to qualify for assistance through the LIHEAP program, individuals must demonstrate that they have an income that is 150 percent of the poverty line. However, an exception can be made when the median income in the state is 60 percent higher. The amount of funding depends on the financial need of the individual and the amount of his or her bills.
You can find out more about this program through your local social service agency or at the US Department of Health and Human Services website: www.acf.hhs.gov
Business Grants for Single Mothers
At first glance, it does not seem that most single mothers have any use for a business grant. After all, they need assistance in finding a job or paying their bills, not starting a business. However, some interesting alternatives are available in the area of business grants. If a single mother has a skill such as housecleaning or babysitting, she may be able to turn it into a full-time business even if she does not view her skill as a significant source of income. Starting a business means taking a risk, which is something that single mothers cannot do. By obtaining a grant, they will mitigate the risk they will incur and possibly open a new horizon for themselves.
The Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI)
The Community Development Financial Institution is a Federal program that helps low income earners by providing financial products and services. The grant money is issued to financial institutions such as banks or credit unions. There are no specific set of guidelines to qualify for assistance from this grant, but it is reasonable to assume that the applicants must prove that they have a skill that will enable them to successfully start and run a business through hard work.
Awards are determined based on the number of people in the community who need financial assistance. The amount of funding that you will be eligible to receive will be determined on an individual basis. To find institutions in your area that offer funding from this grant program, please visit the following link: https://www.cdfifund.gov
The PeaChic Grant
The PeaChic grant is for women who are currently running their own business or wish to start their own business. This Federal program helps women to launch and expand their businesses. In addition to the funding available through this program, applicants are directed to business coaches who can help them grow their businesses from startups to well-established organizations in their specific market niche. The only eligibility requirement is that the applicant must be a woman who is running a business or is intending to start one. Successful applicants will receive five hundred dollars to help with marketing expenses, supplies, and other business related expenses.
For single mothers who have a skill such as house-cleaning or daycare, this grant can help them get their business off the ground successfully.
The Small Business Administration (SBA)
The Small Business Administration is an official program of the United States Federal government. Its sole purpose is to help people who are small business owners or who hope to start one. It offers a wide variety of business counselling resources as well as financial assistance programs. Like the PeaChic grant, there are no special eligibility requirements. You simply have to own your own business or demonstrate a desire to run one (e.g., have a business plan written). There is no set amount of funds as the amount varies on a case-by-case basis. To learn more about the opportunities that are available from the Small Business Administration, please visit the following website: https://www.sba.gov
Personal Grants for Single Mothers
In certain cases of extreme financial need, the Federal government provides programs that help families with incomes near the poverty line to afford basic necessities such as food and medical care. These programs can make a huge difference in any single mother’s life and they should definitely research as many of these programs as possible.
The Children Health Insurance Program (CHIP)
The Children Health Insurance Program is a government run program that provides low cost or free health insurance to the children across the United States. Most young adults do not need major health care coverage, but a young child needs significant medical attention, especially during the first several months after their birth. They must receive regular checkups to ensure that they have no health problems and they must also receive their vaccinations. While these things may seem insignificant at the first glance, the costs of obtaining these services add up in a hurry. Consequently, single mothers would do well to research this program.
To qualify for health insurance under the CHIP program, a family must have an income that is 100 percent of the poverty line. If you qualify, all of your child’s health expenses will be covered under the program. To find out more about this program, please visit the following website: www.chipmedicaid.org
Daycare Grants for Single Mothers
A single mother who is trying to finish high school or obtain her college degree will often need to work at the same time in order to meet some of her expenses. Consequently, she cannot care for her child constantly. However, daycare can be expensive when she is struggling to make ends meet on a tight budget. No person should be denied the opportunity to finish their education for something as simple as child care.
Therefore, there are numerous Federal and state programs that can help single mothers pay for child care while they attempt to finish their education. Finding these programs can be challenge, but we have provided some of them below.
The Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
The Child Care Assistance Program is a Federal program that helps low income families to find affordable child care while the parents finish their educations. In order to qualify for this program, you must be working and have an income within the parameters set by the government for your specific circumstances. If you are under 18 years old, you must be seeking a high school degree. If you are not in high school, you must be pursuing an education for better job opportunities (this can be technical education or a college education).
The amount of funding that you will be eligible for through this program depends on how much your local child care centers who participate in the program charge. Because the grant is awarded locally, the charges vary from state to state as does the funding. However, this assistance can prove very valuable to a single mother who needs assistance in obtaining affordable day care.
The Child Care Development Fund (CCDF)
The Child Care Development Fund helps communities by funding the development of child care centers and afterschool programs for working adults. This grant follows somewhat of a complicated process as a child care center must first obtain the grant by writing a proposal showing how it would like to improve its facilities and the care that it can provide with the money awarded through the grant. Then the applicant must prove that they need financial assistance. This can normally be accomplished through the proof of low income.
The amount that you can obtain via this grant varies for individuals and child care centers. It also depends on your location and the relevant population statistics for your area. For more information on the funding that you may be able to obtain for child care through this grant, please visit the following website: www.acf.hhs.gov
Dependent Care Assistant Programs & Child Care Credit
This is the one section in this article where we will not talk about a grant. Why? Most single mothers do not have the resources to hire a professional to do their taxes each year. Consequently, they often go several years before they discover the tricks that they can use to save money on their taxes by making certain claims on their tax filings and allocating money directly from their paychecks. For single mothers have a job that provides them with a small income, these tricks can mean the difference between making ends meet each month and slaving extra work hours just to stay even.
Dependent Care Assistant Programs
In the Federal tax code, several exemptions exist for allocating your wages so that your child care payment is taken out of your paycheck before it is taxed. At first glance, it seems that you are decreasing your income by doing this. However, you are also decreasing your expenses. You will still pay the same amount for child care from each paycheck; however, you will pay fewer taxes because you will not receive as much money directly from each paycheck that you earn. In order to take advantage of this tax break, your wages must be exempt from the FICA provision. The maximum amount that you can deduct on your tax return is five thousand dollars, but you must be prepared to prove the use of each dollar. To learn more about how to employ this trick, please visit the following website: hr.uw.edu
Child Care Credit
Just like the Dependent Care Assistant Programs, the Child Care Credit is a program that allows you to gain a tax credit on the amount of money that you spent on child care throughout the year. However, this program has a different set of requirements. Your child must be younger than thirteen and, if he or she is mentally or physically disabled, you can be eligible for even more of a tax break than an ordinary parent would gain on their tax filings. To learn more about how this credit works, you will need to research the tax filing documents that you use each year. If necessary, get some professional help to understand it since it will save you more money in the long run.
As a single mother, your child will be a source of great happiness and comfort to you. Even if you are forced from your social position and turned out on your own, your love for your child will bring you through every difficulty that you may face. However, you should never make the process harder for yourself than it already is. Do not scorn to seek help. There is no shame in admitting that you need help to support your child. Not every member of society has a heart of stone and will frown on you. Consequently, research your options.
You are the first line of support for your child and you owe it to that innocent being to provide him with the best possible care at all times. In order to do that, you will need to find a job that pays well. However, you may not have the education or the trained skills to obtain a job that will keep both of you in comfort. There is no need to despair. Finding job training and opportunities to further your education is very easy and, with a little bit of patience and hard research, you will be able to find a way to carve your own career path.
Dealing with the government is a daunting task. You often feel confused about what you need to do when you have to obtain anything from the government. However, obtaining a government grant is far easier than obtaining a lot of things from the government. So do not let a fear of bureaucracy hinder you from obtaining the help that you and your child need.
Obtaining quality housing is the biggest issue facing many single mothers in modern society. Housing is the most expensive amenity in any family’s budget and presents a myriad of challenges. However, the United States Federal government partners with state and local governments to offer you the assistance that you need to obtain a quality living situation for yourself and your child. Do your research and see what you qualify for!
Does my education stop at the birth of my child? For many single mothers, the sad answer is yes. Caring for their child is their number one priority as it should be. Unfortunately, it means that they must put their dreams of a successful and fulfilling career path aside as they will be unable to afford the expense of obtaining the necessary education to pursue it in addition to the expense of supporting their children. Therefore, if you are a single mother, do not give up hope on your dreams. You owe it to your child and yourself to obtain a well-paying job that will give you a sense of fulfillment. While we did not address grants for education in this article, there are countless opportunities to obtain Federal or state assistance in continuing your education.
Of all the topics that were covered in this article, the one that we find the most interesting and the one that you probably find the most confusing is the section on business grants. If a single mother must care for her child, where will she find time to start a business and ensure that it runs successfully? In addition, where will she find the resources to launch such an enterprise? If you dream big, you just might be able to achieve the impossible. With a little help, of course. There are numerous government and private programs that will provide assistance to small businesses owners or individuals who wish to start a small business. Research these opportunities and work hard to grow your business. Who knows? You just might reach complete financial independence by fulfilling your dream.
Finally, do not neglect the tax breaks that you can obtain by filing your taxes correctly. The last thing you want to do is to send more of your hard earned wages to the government than you have to when you desperately need them to support yourself and your child. Do not let your inability to hire a tax professional hinder you from taking advantage of the tax breaks!
In conclusion, do not isolate one of the forms of financial aid mentioned in this article and depend on it solely for help. In all likelihood, you will come up short on several of the applications that you make. Even if you succeed in every application that you make, you will need as much help as possible. Be diligent and search out the opportunities that you qualify for. Raising a child by yourself is hard work and can cause you a lot of stress. Hopefully, this article has provided you with some answers that can help you gain a solid financial footing. Good luck!