Imagine being in an ocean or a lake and suddenly finding yourself unable to get to the shore. Thankfully, someone comes to your rescue and throws you a life-saving line, and you grab on and head safely back to land. No one would criticize you for taking hold of that lifeline.
Government assistance works the same way. It provides programs to help you get back on your feet the same way a life-saving line helps you get back on solid ground.
You wouldn’t be embarrassed to reach for the life-saving line, and you shouldn’t be embarrassed to accept assistance when you really need help.
There’s some worry that accepting help in government assistance programs marks us as lazy, unwilling to work, or trying to get something for nothing. It creates a stigma that prevents people from getting the help they truly need to get on the road to financial wellness. There will always be misinformed people who view those who receive government assistance in a negative light.
The US economy, battered by the pandemic, has made it very clear how quickly things can change. Unemployment is at more than 12% and many of those who are still fortunate enough to have jobs have been forced to take a pay cut.
In 2017, more than 400,000 Philadelphia residents lived below the poverty line. In neighboring Southern New Jersey, more than 882,000 were living below the poverty line in 2018. Yet, in 2016, only 73% of those eligible for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) were enrolled.
It’s not just the program benefits people are missing. Research shows that living in poverty can also impact health outcomes, employment prospects, exposure to crime, and access to quality schools.
Several programs are available to help people live better, healthier lives:
- EITC (Earned Income Tax Credit)
Federal tax credit for low to moderate-income working individuals.
- LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)
Cash grants for low income households to help with heating bills and crisis grants for households in immediate danger of losing their heat.
- LIS (Low Income Subsidy or Medicare Extra Help)
A federal benefit designed to lower prescription copays for low-income individuals receiving Medicare.
Free or low-cost health coverage for low-income Americans.
- PACE (Pharmaceutical Assistance Contract for the Elderly)
Low cost prescription medication to qualified Pennsylvania residents over age 65.
Help to buy food at grocery stores, supermarkets, and farmers’ markets.
- WIC (Women and Infant Children)
A federal program that provides nutrition services for children under five years of age and their caregiver for low-income families.
There are over 20 public benefits available, and by answering a few simple questions about your household and income, Benefits Launch from CWF and BDT will let you know which programs you can receive. A Campaign for Working Families Resource Specialist can help you find the benefits you need.
Don’t let the opinion of others—or your pride—get in the way of getting help to feed your family, getting the healthcare services you need, or keeping your family warm this winter. It only means that you need a lifeline to reach the shore—reach out and take it.