The Dos and Don’ts of Financial Assistance
Tips for Solo Moms seeking financial resources
DO start with 2-1-1. It’s a nationwide number with local call centers, staffed with people who know the resources that are available. Ask about gas vouchers, domestic-violence shelters, food stamps, and rental assistance. Ask about job centers, places that might have professional clothing for free, and résumé help. Ask about food banks and places that might have free furniture. They know who has funds and when.
DON’T stop there.
DO call the local state office, usually called some variation of the Department of Health Services. Better yet, go there. If you need something urgently, tell them. Bring proof of income, proof of residence, vehicle information, bank statements, child-support receipts, and proof of any properties you own. Bring it all in a neat folder, and fill out the application completely. Be polite and dress appropriately. Ask for food stamps, child-care assistance, cash assistance, and help with child support. Remember the agency’s caseload is larger than the staff can handle, but advocate for yourself and your family.
DON’T be daunted by the very overwhelming amount of paperwork. If you don’t have everything, fill out what you can, and they’ll ask for proof of something later. It can be especially hard if you’re self-employed, but don’t give up. It’s worth it to get some funding to stand on so you can work toward independence. It’s worth it not to have to worry.
DO find out if you are eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (known as WIC) by going to the local WIC office in your area. If you have a baby, you can also call the local health department, which often has countless resources, including car seats and nurses who might do home visits. Call the YWCA. Find out if your town has domestic-violence services if you need an advocate. See if you qualify for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which can help with heating costs and sometimes includes insulation for your windows and walls. Ask for a list of low-income housing properties. Ask about the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC), which could be offered through a local housing authority.
DON’T stop there.
DO call churches, friends, and family, if you can. Ask for help, even if it’s just to watch the kids so you can make a plan. Be honest. Ask for side work. Ask for trades. Ask for financial assistance or scholarships at day camps or dance classes or gymnastics. The YMCA often has fantastic financial assistance and a plethora of summer camps and family nights.
DON’T be ashamed, too full of pride, or embarrassed. This is not permanent.
DO advocate for your family.
DON’T listen to people who think you need drug tests or three jobs or a husband.
DO advocate for your kids.
DON’T feel pitied.
DO advocate for yourself and your basic needs to be met.
DON’T feel small.
DO find strength. Because you are strong. You’ll get through this. This does not define you.
Image via Shutterstock.com
Stephanie Land, has a bachelor’s degree in English and creative writing from the University of Montana. She and her two daughters live in Missoula, Montana. Read more of her story at stepville.com. You can follow her on Twitter at @stepville.
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