Get The Help You Deserve: Top Ten Federal Assistance Programs

Food Stamps or Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (formerly Food Stamps) helps low-income people and families buy the food they need for good health. Benefits are provided on the Illinois Link Card - an electronic card that is accepted at most grocery stores.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (often known by the acronym TANF

TANF stands for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families. The TANF program, which is time limited, assists families with children when the parents or other responsible relatives cannot provide for the family's basic needs. The Federal government provides grants to States to run the TANF program.

Head Start Program

The Head Start Program is a program of the United States Department of Health and Human Services that provides comprehensive early childhood education, health, nutrition, and parent involvement services to low-income children and their families. The program's services and resources are designed to foster stable family relationships, enhance children's physical and emotional well-being, and establish an environment to develop strong cognitive skills. The transition from preschool to elementary school imposes diverse developmental challenges that include requiring the children to engage successfully with their peers outside of the family network, adjust to the space of a classroom, and meet the expectations the school setting provides.


Medicaid in the United States is a social health care program for families and individuals with low income and resources. The Health Insurance Association of America describes Medicaid as a "government insurance program for persons of all ages whose income and resources are insufficient to pay for health care." (America's Health Insurance Plans (HIAA), pg. 232). Medicaid is the largest source of funding for medical and health-related services for people with low income in the United States. It is a means-tested program that is jointly funded by the state and federal governments and managed by the states, with each state currently having broad leeway to determine who is eligible for its implementation of the program. States are not required to participate in the program, although all currently do. Medicaid recipients must be U.S. citizens or legal permanent residents, and may include low-income adults, their children, and people with certain disabilities. Poverty alone does not necessarily qualify someone for Medicaid.

Supplemental Security Income (often known by the acronym SSI)

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a United States government program that provides stipends to low-income people who are either aged (65 or older), blind, or disabled. Although administered by the Social Security Administration SSI is funded from the U.S. Treasury general funds, not the Social Security trust fund. SSI was created in 1974 to replace federal-state adult assistance programs that served the same purpose. The restructuring of these programs was intended to standardize the eligibility requirements and level of benefits. The new federal program was incorporated into Title XVI (Title 16) of the Social Security Act. Today the program provides benefits to approximately eight million Americans.

Health Benefit Coverage under Child Health Insurance Plan (often known by the acronym CHIP)

CHIP Is Available in Every State. In general, children in families with incomes up to $47,700/year (for a family of four) are likely to be eligible for coverage. In many states, families can have higher incomes and their children can still qualify.

The National School Lunch Program’s Free Lunch Program.

The National School Lunch Program is a federally assisted meal program operating in public and nonprofit private schools and residential child care institutions. It provides nutritionally balanced, low-cost or free lunches to children each school day.

Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (often known by the acronym LIHEAP)

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a United States federal social services program first established in 1981 and funded annually through Congressional appropriations.

Federal Public Housing Assistance (often known as Section 8)

“Section 8” is a common name for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, funded by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Home Forward administers the program throughout Multnomah County. Low-income residents apply through Home Forward to qualify for a rent assistance voucher.

FDPIR Program – Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations

The Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR) is a Federal program that provides USDA foods to low-income households, including the elderly, living on Indian reservations, and to Native American families residing in designated areas near reservations and in the State of Oklahoma.