If you are facing the possibility of being a single mother, you probably have many fears, doubts, and questions. No doubt, the number one concern you have is how you will support your child or children. If this is a fear for you or your family, you may be better off than you think because there are many benefits for single mothers available.
What are benefits to single mothers? In many areas, the local governments (either local or federal, and often both) will offer monetary, food, housing, and even daycare benefits for single mothers to help them take care of your children.
You may not think you qualify for benefits for single mothers, but you may be surprised to learn that many single mothers do qualify. If you want to know what is available to you and if you meet the criteria to get these benefits, read on for more information.
Government Benefits for Single Mothers
Government benefits for single mothers vary by state, but there are several federal programs that are offered across all states. One such benefit is WIC, or The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. This is a federal assistance program that allows families to purchase needed food and formula for their young children.
The basic requirement is that a household’s income must be below 185 percent of the federal poverty level, however, most states allow automatic income eligibility if a family is already receiving other benefits, like Medicaid. WIC is currently utilized by 53 percent of all infants born in the United States.
Other benefits for single mothers include:
TANF- provides cash assistance, and it is run through each individual states’ governments
SNAP- This program allows needy families to purchase food and it is run through state governments
LIHEAP- This program provides energy bill help to those in need. The National Energy Assistance Referral hotline can help you find out how to apply in your state
Head Start- this federally funded child care program serves children ages 0 to 5 years old. It is run through individual state programs, even though it is offered through federal grants
NSLP- this program provides free or low cost school lunches to children in low income families and is applied for through your child’s school
Housing Benefits for Single Mothers
There are many benefits for single mothers who need assistance with housing. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) works with property owners to offer reduced rent to those in need. The government gives money to apartment owners or landlords, and they then decrease the amount of rent charged to low-income tenants. To be eligible, you must not earn more than HUD's current income limit, which varies by state and changes each year.
If you do not qualify for traditional HUD housing, you may qualify for Section 8. This program consists of coupons for rent given directly to low-income renters. Landlords submit the vouchers directly to HUD. To qualify, your income cannot exceed 50 percent of the median income for your area so it will vary from location to location.
State-Sponsored Housing Programs
State housing assistance for single mothers and their children is run by individual states and gives single mothers an opportunity to find safe and secure housing.
Public HousingHUD also offers public housing to families in need. This is not always a first choice, though, as it is often not safe.
While HUD does give low-income families and single mothers the chance to secure affordable housing, many of the areas where HUD housing is offered are riddled with crime and the housing itself can be of very low standard. If at all possible, working with local organizations to secure housing is preferred and recommended.
Tax Benefits for Single Mothers
You may get various tax benefits for single mothers, as well. These often include:
File as "Head of Household"- when you file "head of household" you will pay fewer taxes overall and you can claim a higher deduction.
The Dependent Exemption- Single mothers who file as "head of household" can claim an exemption for themselves and each qualifying child so that part of your income will not be taxed.
Child Tax Credit- this credit is different from an exemption because it is subtracted from the total amount of taxes you owe.
Child Care Credit- if you hire a daycare or sitter, and pay them you may be eligible for child and dependent care expenses if your child was under the age of 13 for at least part of the tax year.
Earned Income Tax Credit- This credit helps low-income working families who do not earn enough money to owe taxes so that they can still qualify for a tax return.
When you file taxes, utilize all of these to get the most out of your return, and file the appropriate tax forms ahead of time so that you don’t have too much withheld from your paychecks. Both will help you get and keep more money.
Benefits for Single Mothers Going to College
If you are a single mother, furthering your education is one of the best things you can do to give you and your child or children a better future. A college education can help you get a better job, and it sets a good example for your child. But what if you need help to go back to school? There are benefits for single mothers that help specifically with college!
Grants and Scholarships
Grants and scholarships are often used to help single mothers pay for college. These are better than financial aid loans because they are not to be repaid. Grants are awarded based on financial need, while scholarships are usually tied to performance, like grades.
Grants for single mothers come from many places, so don’t leave any stone unturned. Sources for these grants include:
- The Government
- Colleges and Universities
- Private organizations
- Women’s advocacy groups
- Small local businesses
While there are many places to go for a grant, it is important to note that the Federal Government issues more grants than any other entity.
Types Of Grants for Single Mothers
There are many types of grants for single mothers. All of these are offered by the Federal Government:
Pell Grant – Criteria to determine awarded amount includes financial need, total cost of attending school, and enrollment status.
Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) - This program distributes up to $750 to qualified first-year college students and $1300 for second-year students. Eligibility considers both financial need and high school GPA.
National SMART (Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent) Grants - This is a merit based grant program that promotes excellence in STEM education for third and fourth year candidates.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) – This is a need-based grant for students with high levels of financial hardship related to college expenses.
It is important to note that each state offers its own type of grant, specific for students from that state attending school in that state. Corporations and even local businesses will offer scholarships and grants, too, so check all your options.
Federal AidIf you don’t qualify for any grants or scholarships, you can always apply for the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). The FAFSA requests specific information, including income, number of family members, and your proposed college plan, but it is almost always granted. This is a loan, and you will have to repay it. Most people have to be a certain age to apply for the FAFSA alone, but one benefit of being a single mother is that you will not have to rely on your parents’ information to apply for a FAFSA.
Benefits for Single Mothers with A Mortgage
If you have a mortgage, or if you are trying to buy a home, there are many mortgage programs available to single mothers to help them out.
When you apply for a loan, you must show you have a favorable debt to income ratio, which can be hard for households where there is only one income. Most mortgages want to see a DTI ratio of no more than 41 percent. If you need help with a budget to get you there, many local organizations offer free budgeting and financial classes.
While many mortgages require a down payment of 10 to 20 percent, there are programs available that do not require a down payment at all, or require a very low down payment. Rural development or USDA loans do not require a down payment, at all, and First-time home buyer loans (or FHA) require a down payment of just 3.5 percent of the purchase price. On these loans, you can have the down payment gifted to you via friends and family, or you can apply for local and federal loans and grants to help you with the down payment amount. Often, these programs require a 500 credit score with a 10 percent down payment.
Assume you are buying a house worth $200,000 and are eligible for a FHA loan. You will need to pay $7,000 down. Now assume that you qualify for a down payment assistance grant or loan. You now only need to pay $700 down to purchase a home for you and your children.
Benefits for Low Income Single Mothers
All of the benefits for single mothers listed here are for low-income earners, but the amount of income needed to be eligible for these programs will vary by each program, and even by state.
For example, if you live in NYC, you may qualify for assistance if you earn just $32,000 a year. For that area of the country, a $32,000 annual salary is considered below the poverty line.
However, if you live in Louisiana, you will need to make less than $25,000 a year to qualify for many programs offered in the state. Additionally, the number of children you have can also affect how much assistance you will qualify for based on your income.
For example, a mother with one child may not get as much help as a woman with three children. This is not to say that you can have as many children as you want and get help for each one, though. Many states limit the number of children you can claim for assistance. If you live in a state that only allows you to get benefits for four children, and you have six children, two of your children will not be eligible for assistance.
If you do not meet the income requirements for specific programs, do not give up. There are other non-government programs that exist to help single mothers who make too much money to qualify for state and federal help, but still need assistance. Your local Medicaid, WIC, and even SNAP office can help you determine what local organizations and programs would be right for you and your family.
It is important to note that all of the programs offered are designed to assist you in getting to a better place. College grants, purchasing a stable home in a good area, daycare assistance, and even school lunch programs are all available to help families get out of poverty, and for that reason, your eligibility for these programs will be re-evaluated, often.
One year, you may qualify, and the next you may not, either because your income changed or because state laws changed. Getting married, having more children, changing jobs, moving one city over- all of this can impact your eligibility for benefits.
Do I have to go through government programs for help? No. There are many other programs that offer benefits for single mothers. Businesses and local churches, for example, often hold fundraisers and give out assistance for those in need, particularly single mothers.
Are transportation benefits available? There are benefits for single mothers who need transportation. Usually, this will depend on you city, but there are programs available to help you get to and from work, doctor’s appointments, and school at no cost to you.
Can I get help with medical insurance? If you need insurance for your child, you will most likely qualify for Medicaid. In many states, Medicaid will extend to mothers for up to a year after giving birth. You should fill out all appropriate paperwork to ensure you get this benefit and make sure the doctors you are using accept Medicaid.