Hardship and welfare benefits are available through national, state and local governments as well as private organizations.
Federally funded and governed US welfare began in the 1930's during the Great Depression. The US government responded to the overwhelming number of families and individuals in need of aid by creating a welfare program that would give assistance to those who had little or no income.
The US welfare system stayed in the hands of the federal government for the next sixty-one years. Many Americans were unhappy with the welfare system, claiming that individuals were abusing the welfare program by not applying for jobs, having more children just to get more aid, and staying unmarried so as to qualify for greater benefits. Welfare system reform became a hot topic in the 1990's. Bill Clinton was elected as President with the intention of reforming the federally run US Welfare program. In 1996 the Republican Congress passed a reform law signed by President Clinton that gave the control of the welfare system back to the states.
The Federal government provides assistance through TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). TANF is a grant given to each state to run their own welfare program. To help overcome the former problem of unemployment due to reliance on the welfare system, the TANF grant requires that all recipients of welfare aid must find work within two years of receiving aid, including single parents who are required to work at least 30 hours per week opposed to 35 or 55 required by two parent families. Failure to comply with work requirements could result in loss of benefits.
The type and amount of aid available to individuals and dependent children varies from state to state. When the Federal Government gave control back to the states there was no longer one source and one set of requirements. Most states offer basic aid such as health care, food stamps, child care assistance, unemployment, cash aid, and housing assistance.
To apply for a welfare program, use the category search tool at the top of this page. Please read each program description carefully for the required documentation. Your process will always be smoother if you are well prepared. If you are going to meet in person, ask your case worker for a list of required documents needed at the appointment. Common documents asked for are proof of income, ID, and utility bills or other proof of residency.
Once an appointment is completed a case worker will review all required documents, applications and information provided at the meeting.