Economic times are tough, but with some patience and perseverance, there are free resources available to families in Florida. First off, please do not feel ashamed or guilty for reaching out for help. These programs are in place to help you. Friends and family will not know that you have received help, unless you tell them.
Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing Program
Unfortunately, one in five Florida families is currently one or more months behind in their mortgage payments. Florida has the second highest foreclosure rate in the nation. Home values have dropped, leaving those who are able to keep their homes often owing more than their home is worth. However, the Emergency Financial Assistance for Housing Program (EFAHP), provides a cash grant payment up to $400, one time per year to families that face the loss of their home due or are totally without a home because of an inability to pay their rent or mortgage. It will also help families that have experienced household disasters, such as flood, fires, hurricanes or other accidents. Application guidelines advise the household must have at least one child under 18 years of age living there full time, the application must be filled out completely including social security numbers for all household members.
Visit http://tinyurl.com/27rvrhh for more information and access to their online application.
Florida provides many housing resources for rent assistance through programs such as those provided by HUD. HUD Housing subsidized apartments helps apartment owners provide reduced rents to low-income tenants. To apply, contact or visit the management office of each apartment building that interests you.
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development offers a free search for subsidized apartments.
Hundreds of carriers in the Florida Association of Coordinated Transportation Systems offer safe, cost-effective transportation to the elderly, disabled and other persons who cannot purchase or provide their own transportation.
The Food Stamp Program helps low-income Florida households to buy nutritious food. Households can use food stamp benefits to buy breads, cereals, fruits, vegetables, meats, fish, poultry, dairy, and plants and seeds to grow food for your household to eat. Households cannot use food stamp benefits to buy nonfood items such as pet foods, soaps, paper products, household supplies, grooming items, alcoholic beverages, tobacco, vitamins, medicines, food to eat in the store, or hot foods. Eligibility requirements include:
• Identity – Individuals must show proof they are the person they claim to be. Applicants must provide proof of their identity.
• Work Rules – Healthy adults, 18 to 50 years of age, who do not have dependent children or are not pregnant, can only get food stamp benefits for 3 months in a 3-year period, if they are not working or participating in a work or workfare program.
• Income and Deductions – Households must have total monthly gross income less than or equal to 130% of the federal poverty level and net income less than or equal to 100% of the federal poverty level. Households with people who are, age 60 or older or disabled must only meet the net monthly income limit. Some household expenses may be subtracted from the total monthly income in the food stamp budget. The budget may subtract for shelter expenses, dependent care, medical, child support paid, standard deductions, and earnings.
• Residency – Individuals must live in the state of Florida.
• Citizenship – Individuals must be a U.S. citizen or have a qualified noncitizen status.
• SSN – Individuals must provide a Social Security Number or proof they have applied for one.
• Child Support Cooperation – Certain individuals must cooperate with the state’s child support enforcement agency to prove a child’s legal relationship to their parent and to get the court to order child support payments.
• Assets – A food stamp household may have assets, such as bank accounts or property other than their home, worth up to $2000. If at least one person is age 60 or older or disabled, their household may have up to $3000 in assets.
The SUNCAP assistance program is a special Food Stamp Program that is for individuals who currently receive Supplemental Security Income.
The Medicaid program will provide medical coverage and grants to lower income families and individuals. The Department of Children and Families determines eligibility for low income families with children, pregnant women, children only, non-citizens with medical emergencies and bills, and aged or disabled families or individuals not currently receiving Supplemental Security Income. The state of Florida and federal government both share the expenses and costs of the Medicaid program.
Florida KidCare is Florida’s low cost health insurance plan for children under age 19 and who are not insured or under insured. There is no charge for Medicaid for children (KidCare Medicaid). For other Florida KidCare programs, monthly premiums depend on your household’s size and income. Most families pay $15 or $20 a month. If you need to pay more, Florida KidCare will let you know.
The Florida Health Care Access Program makes quality, affordable health insurance and full access to health care available to Florida’s uninsured residents. The six health insurance carriers that are in this plan currently offer over 20 health insurance products to Florida residents and each health insurer offers at least two benefit options. They include a catastrophic plan with hospital coverage and a preventive care plan.
Apply for Florida’s FASFA program, a free application for federal financial aid for students. You can complete the application electronically by using FAFSA on the Web, or you can fill out and mail a copy. Each method is available in both an English and a Spanish version. Money received through this program is a grant and does not need to be paid back to the state.
In addition to FASFA, most schools also offer additional scholarships, financial aid or even work study programs. You can also check for scholarships available through local organizations.
Non-profit law firms provide free civil legal services for low to moderate income families throughout the state. The Florida Bar offers an online directory for legal aid and pro bono lawyers.
The Florida Lifeline Assistance Program provides either a $13.50 credit per month on a phone land line bill or it will provide approximately 60 free cellphone minutes per month. Safelink offers this service in Florida. Almost 600,000 families participate in the program.