Paying the Bills as a Solo Mom
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Ways to get help when we need it the most
After my divorce, the hardest thing I had to deal with was figuring out how to pay all the bills and maintain my credit score. I had moved into a small three-bedroom apartment in another state, and had rent, a sky-high electric bill, a car payment, and car insurance; the fact that I hadn’t yet added the Internet and health-insurance costs to the mix sometimes kept me up at night. I did my best to hide our poor financial situation from the kids, picked up odd jobs during my off-hours, and started researching local social services that could help us. During that time, I also found many of the programs that could help me had a national presence.
After speaking with many older people in my field about my situation, they reassured me that, even though they have been financially stable for a long time, they, too, had gone through periods when they were financially insecure. They told me I would come out on top, and my situation would be short-lived. If you find yourself in need after going through a tough situation, such as divorce or losing your job, the last thing you should feel is shame about your circumstances. The resources described below might be able to help you.
State-funded social programs. No matter where you live in the United States, each state has its own state or federal-funded social programs to help families that are currently experiencing economic hardships. Unfortunately, it can take time to go through the process, especially in states where there is a shortage of caseworkers, so it is important to start the process as soon as you realize your family is struggling. There is no shame in getting help from state-funded programs to help you get back on your feet, especially for the Solo Moms who lose their health insurance as a result of divorce. Most states also have other programs to help you with cash and food assistance if you qualify, and qualifications typically are based on your household size and income.
WIC. The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, helps supply pregnant women and families with children up to age five with food, milk, and formula. Eligibility in the program is based on income, and you typically have a “checkup” that may involve you and your baby getting weighed and checking your vitals, such as your iron levels; however, for families with young children getting back on their feet, help with expensive items, such as milk, formula, and produce, can be vital, as a gallon of milk typically costs more than $3 no matter where you live in the United States. For families that consume three gallons or more of milk per week, being able to put $40 toward something else, such as the Internet (especially since many children and parents attend school and/or work online), could be a complete game changer for a low-income family.
Food banks. Many of the food banks across the nation are not run by national programs, but most cities and towns do have food banks or programs that hand out food to families in need. Though these programs can be an immense help when you’re waiting for food assistance through the state, there can be downsides. Food banks typically operate on a smaller budget and often work with donations only, so you may end up with food that your family doesn’t care for. It is best to call these places ahead of time to ask about their hours and any other important details, such as whether you need to bring income verification, as policies vary among food banks so they can help the people in their respective communities most effectively.
Community-action programs. Many areas across the United States also have their own community-action programs, which carry out their mission of empowering hardworking, low-income families through their programs. Their overall goal is to help eradicate poverty and enable families to become self-sufficient. They have Head Start programs for early education; general education development, or GED, programs for adult education; housing programs that help with weatherization of homes; energy-assistance programs and programs that help with costly home repairs; economic financial counseling and emergency assistance; and even employment assistance.
The YWCA. The YWCA focuses its resources on helping women, their children, and single parents by providing affordable day care, job training, transitional job care, and other services, such as programs for victims of domestic violence or female veterans. By providing these programs, the overall goal of the YWCA is to empower women and help them become self-sufficient.
Other national charities. Thankfully for Solo Moms, plenty of national charities also help families get back on their feet. The Red Cross does more than disaster relief and aiding military families—it will also help with electric and heating costs, provide classes, and may offer other local programs based on the needs of the community it is serving. Catholic Charities and the Society of St. Vincent de Paul can also help with emergency-crisis expenses, regardless of religious affiliation. Operation School Bell is a program run by the national Assistance League that strives to help families meet the cost of education by providing students with school supplies. The Salvation Army also helps those struggling to pay utility bills, and its Family Emergency Services unit helps support basic human needs, such as clothing, food, and counseling services.
Tara Glenn is a Solo Mom of four who currently resides in Pensacola, Florida. She has a background in public affairs, writing, and photography. Tara spent five years in the Navy and now volunteers with the Civil Air Patrol as a public affairs officer. She enjoys working with small businesses as a ghostwriter as well as encouraging her children’s love for aviation in her free time—the running joke being that she only creates pilots, as all of her children love to fly!
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