The COVID-19 pandemic put government assistance programs into overdrive, as many people who never needed them before now had to use them. Here’s a descriptive list of major government assistance programs for individuals and businesses, with links to where and how to apply to them and applicable deadlines.
- The COVID-19 pandemic put government assistance programs into overdrive.
- Affected individuals and businesses can take advantage of one or more of these programs to help them get through the pandemic.
- There are eight general program categories: financial, home rental, homeownership, food, health care, retirement, taxes, and small business.
- Programs may be administered by the federal government alone or in partnership with states.
- Scammers often prey on individuals in need of assistance and should be reported to the Federal Trade Commission.
Financial Assistance for Individuals and Families
These programs provide benefits in the form of payments, goods, or services to help with basic living expenses if you qualify due to low wages.
Unemployment Insurance (UI) and COVID-19 Benefits
Unemployment insurance (UI) is a joint federal and state program that pays part of your wages when you lose your job through no fault of your own. UI benefits are based on a percentage of a year's earnings and last for a maximum of 26 weeks. Keep in mind UI benefits are also subject to federal taxes. If needed, you can apply for an extension but it's not guaranteed. Individual states run the program, each with its own eligibility and filing requirements. Many allow you to file online, by phone, or in person, though the COVID-19 pandemic has temporarily halted in-person applications in many places. Some states provide extended benefits when unemployment is high. But that doesn't necessarily mean you qualify for extended help.
The federal government provided relief for unemployed individuals during the pandemic through three special programs:
- Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC): This was an emergency program that extended an individual's UI benefits. Eligible individuals received unemployment benefits for a total of 53 weeks after exhausting traditional UI benefits.
- Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA): The PUA expanded unemployment benefits to include self-employed workers, freelancers, independent contractors, and part-time workers. Self-employed workers typically may not qualify for UI, and PUA helps to provide them with financial assistance if they were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020 and 2021.
- Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC): This special emergency form of UI applied to individuals who lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Eligible individuals received an additional $300 per week of federal benefits in addition to their regular unemployment benefits, paid after March 14, 2021.
All three of these programs officially expired on Sept. 5, 2021. Eligible individuals may still qualify for unemployment claims as long as they are still unemployed and are within the first 26 weeks of their UI benefits.
Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) Program
The Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, created Aug. 1, 2020, was a federal-state unemployment benefit that provided $300 to $400 in weekly compensation to eligible claimants. The federal government provided $300 per claimant from the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF), and states were asked to provide the remaining $100.
LWA was established in response to the expiration of the FPUC program on July 31, 2020, and designed to offer compensation through Dec. 27, 2020.
Pros of Unemployment Insurance
- Partial wages until you are rehired or find another job
- Time to explore new/better employment opportunities
- Opportunity to pursue education or training in a new career path
Cons of Unemployment Insurance
- Less income than when working (usually)
- Regular benefits only for 26 weeks
- No employer-provided healthcare benefits
- Unemployment benefits are subject to income tax
The table below compares eligibility requirements for regular UI and FPUC and the availability of certain benefits.
|Type of Unemployment||U.S. Citizen||Self-Employed, etc.||Job Loss Reason||Extra 13 Weeks||LWA $300 Bonus|
|Unemployment insurance (UI)||Yes||No||Not your fault||Maybe||Yes|
|Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC)||Yes||Yes||COVID-19||Yes||No|
Source: U.S. Department of Labor and FEMA
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as welfare, is another federally funded, state-run benefits program designed to help families achieve independence following temporary difficulty. Qualified recipients may receive help with food, housing, home energy, childcare, and job training. TANF recipients must engage in some type of work activity as defined by their state.
Each state runs its own TANF program and determines eligibility criteria. You can apply at your local county social services agency or call your state TANF office for local contact information to sign up for benefits. Qualifying for TANF does not disqualify you for other government benefits.
Pros of TANF
- Provides needed assistance for families
- Targets specific help for children
- Can supplement income if you are already working
- Provides job training to encourage independence
Cons of TANF
- Income to qualify is often too low
- Can create a negative social stigma
- Uneven coverage due to individual state rules
- May discourage job hunting
The Social Security Administration (SSA) Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool provides an excellent way to determine your eligibility for any benefit administered by the SSA.
Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits
Social Security Disability Insurance benefits are paid to people who cannot work for at least one year due to a medical condition or who are expected to die from that condition.
To be eligible, you must:
- Have worked in a job or jobs covered by Social Security
- Meet Social Security’s definition of disability
- Have worked long enough and recently enough to qualify for disability benefits
Additional information about SSDI can be found in the Social Security Disability Benefits brochure. The Social Security Disability Planner helps you determine if you are eligible. If you believe you qualify, you can apply online.
Pros of SSDI
- Increased monthly income
- Freezes Social Security earnings record
- Possibility of tax-free income
- Provides rehab and back-to-work incentives
Cons of SSDI
- Long time to process and approve SSDI claims
- Low income
- Eligibility will be reviewed, depending on the expectation of medical condition improvement/recovery, anywhere from six months to 7 years
- Can cause loss of Medicaid or SSI benefits
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal income program administered but not funded by Social Security. SSI is designed to meet the basic needs of older, blind, and/or disabled Americans who have little or no income. SSI consists of a monthly payment to help with the cost of food, clothing, and shelter and can let you qualify for Medicaid coverage as well as food stamps.
SSI qualification requirements generally require you to be 65 or older and blind or disabled. Among other things, you must also:
- Have limited income
- Have limited resources
- Be a U.S. citizen or national or "qualified alien"
Pros of SSI
- Benefits set at the federal level, not by your state
- Can qualify for Medicaid and food stamps on SSI
- No prior work history required
- May also qualify for concurrent Social Security
Cons of SSI
- Eligibility negatively affected by living arrangements
- Significant documentation needed to qualify
- Claims and appeals processes often slow
- Significant asset restriction rules
The table below compares TANF with both SSDI and SSI in regard to eligibility.
|Program||Low Income||Family||65 or Older, Blind, or Disabled||U.S. Citizen/Eligible Noncitizen||Work Requirement|
|TANF||Yes||Yes||None||Single adult/couple with no children: No.
Families with children: Yes
Source: Social Security Administration.
Student Financial Aid
The Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) is the government access point for all forms of student financial aid, including grants and scholarships, student loans, and work-study programs. These programs provide financial help to college students with demonstrated financial needs.
Eligibility is based on:
- Financial need
- Being a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen
- Maintaining good standing on your federal student loans
- Acceptance into an eligible degree program
- Maintaining adequate academic progress
Pros of Student Financial Aid
- Helps to pay for college
- Deferment for federal loans
- Opportunity to attend better colleges
- Creates good credit if loans paid on time
Cons of Student Financial Aid
- Loan repayment required
- Lifetime limits on Pell Grants
- Private loans are more expensive and restrictive
- Defaulting on loans hurts credit
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, student loan payments, including principal and interest, on federally held student loans were suspended through Sept. 30, 2021, and extended again through Jan. 31, 2022. On Dec. 22, 2021, the pause on federal student loan repayments was extended for an additional 90 days—through May 1, 2022. However, the suspension only applies to federal student loans held by the Department of Education.
The Department of Education also stopped the collection of defaulted federal student loans. This applies to loans in nonpayment. As a result, garnishment of wages and any offset of tax refunds and Social Security benefits have also been stopped through May 1, 2022.
The American Rescue Plan passed by Congress and signed by President Biden in March 2021 includes a provision that makes all student loan forgiveness from Jan. 1, 2021, to Dec. 31, 2025, tax-free.
Emergency Broadband Benefit (EBB) Program
The EBB opened for enrollment on May 12, 2021, and provides a monthly discount of $50 to $75 for households that qualify. The program also grants a one-time discount of up to $100 toward a new laptop, desktop, or tablet purchased from participating providers.
Your household is eligible if at least one member meets one of the following criteria:
- Has income at or below 135% of the current Federal Poverty Level (FPL) or participates in certain assistance programs, such as SNAP, Medicaid, or Lifeline.
- Is approved to receive benefits under the free and reduced-price school lunch program or the school breakfast program, including through the USDA Community Eligibility Provision in the 2020 to 2021 school year.
- Received a Federal Pell Grant during the current award year.
- Experienced a substantial loss of income due to job loss or furlough since Feb. 29, 2020, and the household had a total income in 2020 at or below $99,000 for single filers and $198,000 for joint filers.
- Meets the eligibility criteria for a participating provider's existing low-income or COVID-19 program.
To apply, do one of the following:
- Contact a participating broadband provider directly to learn about its application process.
- Go to GetEmergencyBroadband.org to apply online and to find participating providers near you.
- Call 833-511-0311 for a mail-in application and return it along with the required documents to the provided address.
The EBB program is scheduled to end six months after the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) declares an end to the pandemic, or if the program runs out of funds.
Pros of the EBB
- The EBB program attacks the high cost of broadband, one of the leading causes of the digital divide
- The $50 (or $75) discount can be used alongside other discount programs
- Your internet service provider must give you fair warning that your discount is about to run out
Cons of the EBB
- The program has limited funding ($3.2 billion) and may not last as long as the need for it exists
- Although the list of participating providers is long (more than 1,200 at last count), it's possible you may not find a provider in your area
- You could be tempted to upgrade to a faster plan and be responsible for payment when EBB funds run out
Subsidized Rental Housing
There are three forms of subsidized rental housing: privately owned subsidized housing, the housing choice voucher (HCV) program (formerly Section 8), and U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) public housing. With privately-owned housing, you find the housing you want and apply for it at the rental office. You can search for housing at Resources.HUD.gov. With HCV, you find your own apartment or house, and then the government pays the amount for which you qualify while you pay the difference.
HUD public housing, often used by people who don’t qualify for Section 8 housing, requires you to rent from a local public housing authority based on your income. Wait times for both HCV and public housing programs may be long, depending on where you are applying.
To be eligible for privately owned subsidized housing, you must:
- Be within the income limit for your location and the size of your family.
- Meet other requirements set by the property owner.
To be eligible for housing choice or HUD public housing, you must:
- Be a family, a senior citizen, or have a disability.
- Fall within program income limits.
- Be a U.S. citizen or eligible noncitizen.
As noted above, apply for privately owned housing at the rental office. For the other two programs:
- Contact your local Public Housing Agency.
- Complete an application (requiring information such as income, family size, employer, and bank).
- Provide documentation, such as a photo ID, birth certificates, and tax returns.
Pros of Subsidized Rental Housing
- Below-market rental rates
- The benefit of government oversight
- Opportunity to save for something better
- Programs allow for choice
Cons of Subsidized Rental Housing
- Can deplete city resources and services
- Some of the existing housing located in areas with high crime rates
- Difficult to qualify
- Long waiting lists
The table below compares all three housing programs and the requirements for each.
|Program||Low Income||Family/ Senior/ Disabled||U.S. Citizen/ Eligible Noncitizen||You Find|
|Housing choice voucher (HCV)||Yes||Yes||Yes||Yes|
HUD has several programs designed to help you purchase a home if you qualify for them.
One part of HUD, known as the Federal Housing Administration (FHA), insures mortgages, which makes it easier for buyers to become homeowners thanks to less strict eligibility requirements. The program is popular with first-time homebuyers but not limited to them.
Eligibility for an FHA loan depends in part on your ability to post a down payment of 3.5% of the purchase price and have a credit score of at least 580. You must also make sure the home is priced within the loan limit for an FHA home in its location.
To apply for an FHA loan, you must find an approved FHA lender because the FHA doesn’t actually lend the money. If you have good credit and the ability to pay 10% to 15% down, you may find a conventional loan is less expensive than an FHA-insured loan.
The HUD homeownership voucher program lets low-income families in the HCV program, including those in public housing, use their vouchers to meet monthly mortgage payments and other expenses when buying a home for the first time. Contact your local PHA to find out if your PHA offers this program.
Programs for Active-Duty Service Members and Veterans
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) offers home loan programs to active-duty service members, surviving spouses, and veterans. VA loans are provided by private lenders, with the VA guaranteeing a significant portion of the loan. A certificate of eligibility (COE) is required and can be applied for through the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Mortgage lending discrimination is illegal. If you think you've been discriminated against based on race, religion, sex, marital status, use of public assistance, national origin, disability, or age, there are steps you can take. One such step is to file a report to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau or with HUD.
HUD also funds counseling agencies nationwide that give advice on topics related to housing, including buying a home.
|Program||FICO Credit Score||Debt-to-Income Ratio||Primary Residence|
|FHA||500 or higher||50% or less||Yes|
|Housing choice voucher (HCV)||PHA (Public Housing Agency) decision||PHA decision||Yes|
|Active-duty/veterans||620 by lender||41%||Yes|
Source: U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.
Pros of Government Homeownership Programs
- Low or no down payment
- Lower credit score to qualify
- No mortgage insurance (VA)
- Especially helpful for first-time buyers
Cons of Government Homeownership Programs
- Higher mortgage insurance costs (except VA)
- Restrictive government property standards
- Limited to primary residence
- Not competitive with multiple offers
On Aug. 26, 2021, the Supreme court struck down the latest Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) eviction moratorium set to expire Oct. 3, 2021. Pending further action by Congress, COVID-related eviction protection on a national level has ended.
Foreclosure or eviction
If you are facing eviction as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, help in the form of rental assistance is available provided you can obtain it in time now that the federal eviction moratorium has ended.
Homeowners facing foreclosure can get help as well. Some programs, such as those established through the American Rescue Plan Act, are specific to the coronavirus emergency. Others have been around, including many available at state and local levels.
If your mortgage is backed by a government program, a moratorium on foreclosures and evictions has been put into place for those impacted by COVID-19.
For those who are looking to request forbearance, HUD, the VA, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) have extended the date for which borrowers can request forbearance. The mortgage payment forbearance enrollment window closed on June 30, 2021. The Biden administration extended this window one more time until Sept. 30, 2021.
Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac Loans
For mortgage loans backed by Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA) has extended the foreclosure moratorium on real estate owned (REO) evictions until Sept 30, 2021. REO properties are bank-owned properties that were seized as a result of default.
Meanwhile, the Secretaries of USDA, HUD, VA, Treasury, and FHFA Acting Director extended foreclosure moratoriums for those agencies through Sept. 30, 2021.
For mortgage loans backed by the USDA, the USDA extended the foreclosure moratorium for its Single-Family Housing Direct and Guaranteed loan program for the final time through Sept. 30, 2021.
HUD loans insured by the FHA or guaranteed by the Office of Native American Programs (Section 184 and 184A loan guarantee programs) were extended for the final time through Sept. 30, 2021.
The expiration date for the foreclosure moratorium of VA loans from the Department of Veterans Affairs was also extended once more through Sept. 30, 2021.
From emergency food needs to ongoing nutrition assistance, the federal government, in partnership with states, offers free and low-cost food programs for families and individuals. Some programs have changed the rules during the coronavirus emergency.
If you need food quickly, the USDA maintains a National Hunger Hotline—866-3-HUNGRY (866-348-6479)—with information and eligibility requirements available in English and Spanish. The hotline, which will connect you with emergency food providers, government programs, and social service agencies, operates Monday through Friday from 7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Eastern Time.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
SNAP (no longer officially called food stamps) helps needy families supplement their food budget in order to move toward self-sufficiency. Eligibility is determined by individual states that administer the program. You apply in the state where you live by contacting your state agency.
Some states allow online applications, while others require your physical presence. See further information in the special COVID-19 Food Program Waivers section below.
In 2021, the USDA increased the average SNAP benefit nationwide by an average of $28 per person per month.
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
WIC provides low-income women and their young children with healthy food, nutrition counseling, and referral to health, welfare, and social services agencies. WIC is a federal grant program administered by the government through 90 WIC agencies and approximately 47,000 WIC retailers.
To be eligible, the mother must be pregnant, nursing, or postpartum (up to six months after birth) with infants (up to a year old) or children (under the age of five). There are additional income requirements posted on the WIC FAQ webpage.
Programs for school-age children include the National School Lunch Program (NSLP), the School Breakfast Program (SBP), and the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP). Eligibility requirements for all three programs are the same. If your family income falls below 130% of the federal poverty guidelines, your child is entitled to free food. If income is between 130% and 185% of guidelines, prices for meals are reduced.
The federal government sponsors two programs designed to get food to low-income seniors. The Senior Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program (SFMNP) offers coupons to purchase fresh fruits, vegetables, honey, and herbs at farmers' markets, roadside stands, and farms.
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides healthy food on a monthly basis. You must be 60 years of age or older and live in an area that offers either program in order to apply. Both programs have income limits. For more information, use the USDA's state contacts list.
Pros of Government Food Programs
- Nutritious food at no cost
- Improved dietary intake for vulnerable populations
- Reduced food insecurity for schoolchildren
- Reduced medical costs for adults, children, and seniors
Cons of Government Food Programs
- Social stigma for recipients
- Consistency and quality of state-run programs vary
- Limitations on what products can be purchased
- Mandated work requirements difficult for adults with children
The table below lists eligibility requirements for federal food programs.
|SNAP||Must meet state guidelines|
|WIC||Women: Pregnant, breastfeeding, or postpartum Children: Under five years old. Must meet additional WIC requirements|
|NSLP, SBP, and SFSP||Less than 130% of poverty guidelines = free meals 130% to 185% of poverty guidelines = reduced-price meals|
|Seniors||60 or older and must meet state guidelines|
COVID-19 Food Program Waivers
The USDA has granted states flexibility with the administration of several food programs during the coronavirus emergency. This flexibility includes:
- Allowing parents or guardians to pick up and deliver meals to their children (as opposed to the child needing to be present to receive the meal)
- Letting states waive meal pattern requirements for seniors and individuals with disabilities (so operators can create meals with available foods)
- Permitting schools closed due to the coronavirus to delay certain administrative deadlines
- Waiving meal times requirements to make pickup easier
- Waiving the requirement that meals be served in group settings
- Waiving the requirement that after-school meals and snacks are accompanied by educational activities
Additional coronavirus-related steps taken by the USDA include:
- Launching a new coronavirus webpage to inform the public about USDA’s efforts
- Investing in a public-private partnership to feed rural children
- Allowing states to issue Pandemic Electronic Benefits Transfer (P-EBT) for families of school-age children
- Providing administrative flexibilities in SNAP and WIC programs to allow for social distancing
- Allowing states to issue emergency supplemental SNAP benefits
Six major government health care programs provide medical coverage for low-income and older Americans, children, veterans, and those who have recently lost their jobs.
Medicare is the main health insurance plan for those 65 and older. If you are still working and covered by employer health insurance when you are three months away from your 65th birthday, discuss your Medicare options and requirements with your human resources office. You can also consult "How To Apply Online For Just Medicare" on the Social Security website.
Medicare Part A, which pays for inpatient hospital stays and nursing care, has an annual deductible of $1,484 for 2021 and $1,556 for 2022. Most people usually don't pay a monthly premium for Part A, and there are no coinsurance costs for hospital stays of 60 days or less.
Medicare Part B covers doctor's visits, tests, flu shots, physical therapy, and chemotherapy. The monthly premium for many Part B participants is $148.50 for 2021 and $170.10 for 2022. The Part B deductible is $203 for 2021 and $233 for 2022.
Medicare Part D is Medicare's prescription drug benefit program, which is an optional benefit administered by private insurance companies. The average monthly premium for Medicare for Part D coverage will be $31.47 in 2021 and $33 in 2022.
ACA Health Insurance Marketplace
Healthcare.gov is home to the Health Insurance Marketplace, created by the Affordable Care Act (ACA), an Obama administration program designed to provide affordable health insurance to uninsured Americans. Anyone who doesn’t have health insurance can obtain coverage through the Marketplace. Those who fall below certain income limits can receive subsidies that lower the cost of coverage.
The Marketplace normally has an annual enrollment period to obtain or change coverage. However, as part of President Biden's response to the coronavirus pandemic, there was a special enrollment period from Feb. 15, 2021, to May 15, 2021, during which any individual could obtain coverage through the Marketplace. Furthermore, they may be able to receive a special tax credit, which would lower the plan's premium.
Medicaid and CHIP
Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) are related but have slightly different requirements. Medicaid is for low-income families and individuals. CHIP is for dependents under age 19 whose parents earn too much to qualify for Medicaid but not enough to pay for private health insurance coverage.
Both programs are federally funded in part and run at the state level. Each state has its own rules but must follow federal guidelines. You can apply for Medicaid and CHIP through the ACA Health Insurance Marketplace or through your state Medicaid agency.
Veterans Administration Health Care
The primary criteria to receive VA health care benefits require that you be a military veteran or former member of the National Guard or Reserve who served on active duty and was not dishonorably discharged. Specific eligibility depends on when you served and for how long. The rules are complicated but well explained on the VA's eligibility webpage.
Coverage under the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA) is mandated by federal law for employees (and their dependents) when they lose their job or experience a reduction in work hours. One huge downside to COBRA coverage is the cost. When you lose your job, whatever your employer paid for your health insurance goes away, and you have to pay the entire amount.
However, thanks to the passage of the American Rescue Plan Act, if you lost your coverage during the coronavirus pandemic, you can qualify for up to six months of free COBRA coverage. After Sept. 30, 2021, however, you need to pay the full premium to keep the COBRA plan.
Pros of Government Health Care Programs
- Improve public health
- Stop medical bankruptcies for vulnerable populations
- Boost the economy due to savings
- Human rights issue
Cons of Government Health Care Programs
- Increases government debt
- Potential for abuse
- Reduces competition
- Long wait times for service
State Health Department Programs
State health departments offer programs in addition to those available at the federal level. Use the USA.gov state health departments link to find out what is offered in your state, information about eligibility requirements, and how to apply.
The primary government retirement programs are Social Security for most citizens 65 and over who qualify through their work history and the Federal Employee Retirement System (FERS) for certain government employees who are not covered by Social Security.
Most people are familiar with Social Security and the fact that you apply for benefits at a certain age depending on when you were born and whether you want to receive partial or full benefits. You can apply for benefits for yourself or as a spouse if you meet the following four requirements:
- You are at least 61 years and 9 months old.
- You are not currently receiving Social Security on your work record.
- You have not already applied for benefits.
- You want benefits to start no more than four months in the future.
You can also apply for Medicare when you apply for Social Security if you are within three months of age 65.
Federal Employees Retirement System (FERS)
FERS, which replaced the Civil Service Retirement System (CSRS) in 1987, provides benefits to civilian government workers through three programs: a Basic Benefit Plan, Social Security, and the Thrift Savings Plan (TSP).
Eligibility for FERS benefits is determined by your age and number of years of service. The CSRS and FERS planning and applying websites provide complete information depending on how close you are to retirement.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) sponsors several tax-assistance programs to make federal and—in some cases—state tax filing easier and free.
If your adjusted gross income (AGI) is $66,000 or below, you can file federal, and in many cases, state returns, online at no cost. The process and what you need to have in order to file are all explained in this Free File infographic. Get help choosing a product using the Free File Online Lookup Tool.
With income above $66,000, you can still use the Free File Fillable Forms tool to prepare your taxes as long as you are comfortable doing your own taxes and don’t require assistance. The fillable forms tool lets you file electronically but does not include state forms.
VITA and TCE Tax Filing Assistance Programs
The IRS has two in-person tax assistance programs: the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program and Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE). Both offer free tax-preparation assistance to qualified individuals. VITA generally applies to you if your income is $57,000 or less, you are disabled, or you have limited English-speaking skills. TCE is for citizens aged 60 or older.
Due to the coronavirus pandemic, all TCE sites and many VITA sites are closed until further notice. Use the VITA locator tool to find out if a site near you is open.
Financial Assistance for Small Business
Small businesses are the beneficiaries of several long-standing government assistance loan programs, most of them originating from the Small Business Administration (SBA). In addition to the historical help these programs have provided, many also now offer special coronavirus-related assistance.
Small Business Administration (SBA)
Many owners of SMBs know about the main SBA loan programs, especially considering all the publicity the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) programs have received.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
The SBA, in consultation with the U.S. Treasury Department, announced on Jan. 11, 2021, that it reopened the PPP. The PPP was created to provide funds to companies with the financial hardship that resulted from the coronavirus pandemic. Typically, the loans must be paid back within two to five years. PPP loans can be forgiven if employee retention criteria have been met.
President Biden injected an additional $7.25 billion for the PPP with his signature on the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. PPP loans will be entirely forgiven as long as 60% of the loan is used to support payroll expenses and the remainder goes to mortgage interest, rent, utilities, personal protective equipment, or certain other business expenses.
The deadline to apply for a PPP loan was extended to May 31, 2021, and financial institutions had an additional month, until June 30, 2021, to finish processing, with the passage and signing of the PPP Extension Act on March 30, 2021, extending the covered period for PPP loans until June 30, 2021.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)
The deadline to apply for the EIDL program as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic has been extended to Dec. 31, 2021. EIDL loans are designed to meet the financial obligations and operating expenses of small businesses with a payment schedule that can last as long as 30 years. Unlike PPP loans, the EIDL funds must be paid back and are not forgiven.
The program's ability to offer loans is also subject to the availability of funds. In other words, when the money that was allocated to the program runs out, there will be no more loans.
Some of the program’s benefits include:
- Affordable terms: a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and a 2.75% interest rate for nonprofit organizations
- A loan maturity of 30 years
- An automatic deferment of 18 months before monthly payments begin
However, the SBA has much more to offer than coronavirus relief. Other SBA loan programs include the SBA Express Bridge Loan, SBA Debt Relief, and more, including access to funding to launch, manage, and grow your business. Full details, including eligibility, can be found on the SBA website.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)
The USDA offers a number of programs aimed at all sectors of the agricultural community. Programs include farm loans, housing assistance, loans and grants for rural economic development, loans for beginning farmers and ranchers, livestock insurance, and more. Detailed information on all USDA programs, including how to apply, can be found on the USDA Grants and Loans program webpage.
Small Business Lending Fund
The Small Business Lending Fund (SMLF), created as part of the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010, is a dedicated fund that provides capital to community banks and community development loan funds (CDLFs) to encourage those organizations to lend to small businesses. Information about this fund, including the location of lending institutions near you, can be found on the U.S. Treasury Small Business Lending Fund website.
Pros of Government Business Programs
- Lower interest rates
- Favorable repayment terms
- Less collateral needed
- Low or no down payments
Cons of Government Business Programs
- Loan amount may be small
- Long approval process
- Personal guarantee often required
Watch Out for Scams
People looking for government assistance sometimes come across ads for free government grants. However, the government does not award grants to individuals, only to states, universities, and other organizations. Anyone who suggests otherwise is probably running a scam. If you receive such an offer, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests the following dos and don'ts:
- Write down the phone number.
- Register at the National Do Not Call Registry.
- File a complaint with the FTC.
- Don’t give out bank account information.
- Don’t pay out any money.
- Don’t believe a caller or an email just because it claims to be from the government.
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration. "About Unemployment Insurance," Download, "Unemployment Insurance Fact Sheet." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Congress. "H.R.748 - CARES Act." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Congress. "H.R.1319 - American Rescue Plan Act of 2021." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
New York State Department of Labor. "Expiration of Federal Unemployment and Pandemic Benefits." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
FEMA. "Lost Wages Assistance Program." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration. "Unemployment Insurance Extended Benefits." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Labor, Employment & Training Administration. "Unemployment Insurance Topics." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. Administration for Children and Families. "About TANF." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Disability Benefits | How You Qualify." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Cost-of-Living Adjustment (COLA) Information for 2022." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "The Disability Insurance Program – Securing Today and Tomorrow for 60 Years." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Internal Revenue Service. "I Retired Last Year and Started Receiving Social Security Payments. Do I Have to Pay Taxes on My Social Security Benefits?" Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Vocational Rehabilitation Cost Reimbursement Plan." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Your Continuing Eligibility." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Health Insurance Marketplace. "Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) & Medicare Coverage." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Overview." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Eligibility Requirements." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "SSI Monthly Federal Benefit Rates (FBRs) and Living Arrangements." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Documents You May Need When You Apply for Supplemental Security Income (SSI)." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Supplemental Security Income (SSI) Resources." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Federal Student Aid. "Eligibility Requirements." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Federal Student Aid. "Is There a Limit to How Long I Can Receive Federal Pell Grant Funds?" Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
The White House. “Statement by President Joe Biden Extending the Pause on Student Loan Repayment an Additional 90 Days.” Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Education. "Biden Administration Extends Student Loan Pause Until January 31, 2022." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
The White House. "Statement by President Joe Biden on the 2021 Special Health Insurance Enrollment Period Through HealthCare.gov." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Federal Student Aid. "Student Loan Delinquency and Default." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Federal Communications Commission. "Emergency Broadband Benefit." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Federal Communications Commission. "Emergency Broadband Benefit Providers." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "HUD's Public Housing Program." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Federal Housing Administration. "203(b) Mortgage Insurance Program," Pages 21-22. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. "Purchase Loan." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Supreme Court of the U.S. "Alabama Association of Realtors, et al. v. Department of Health and Human Services, et Al," Page 8. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Dept. of the Treasury. "Emergency Rental Assistance Program." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Whitehouse.gov. "Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces Extension of COVID-19 Forbearance and Foreclosure Protections for Homeowners." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Whitehouse.gov. "Fact Sheet: Biden Administration Announces Additional Actions to Prevent Foreclosures." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Federal Housing Finance Agency. "FHFA Extends COVID-19 REO Eviction Moratorium Through September 30, 2021." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Biden-Harris Administration Extends Eviction Moratorium for Homeowners." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. "Foreclosure and Eviction Extension," Page 3. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S Department of Veteran Affairs. "Extended Eviction Relief for Borrowers Affected by Covid-19." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "USDA National Hunger Hotline." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "American Rescue Plan Fact Sheet," Page 1. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "About WIC - WIC at a Glance." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
United States Department of Agriculture. "Food-Related Time Use: Changes and Demographic Differences," Page 5. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
USA.gov. "Food Assistance." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Seniors Farmers' Market Nutrition Program." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "Commodity Supplemental Food Program." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "USDA Announces Feeding Program Partnership in Response to COVID-19." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. "FNS Responds to COVID-19." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security. "Medicare Benefits." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. “Fact Sheet, 2022 Medicare Parts A & B Premiums and Deductibles 2022 Medicare Part D Income-Related Monthly Adjustment Amounts.” Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "CMS Releases 2022 Projected Medicare Part D Average Premium." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services. "Eligibility." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Department of Labor. "Continuation of Health Coverage (COBRA)." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Apply for Social Security Benefits." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Social Security Administration. "Apply for Retirement Benefits." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Office of Personnel Management. "FERS Information." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
United States Office of Personnel Management. "Eligibility Information." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Benefits.gov. "Free File." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Internal Revenue Service. "Free Tax Return Preparation for Qualifying Taxpayers." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Small Business Administration. "SBA Re-Opens PPP to Community Financial Institutions First." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Congress. "H.R.1799 - PPP Extension Act of 2021." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
U.S. Small Business Administration. "COVID EIDL Loans FAQs," Pages 1-2. Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Congress.gov. "H.R. 5297 - 111th Congress (2009 - 2010): Small Business Jobs Act of 2010." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.
Federal Trade Commission. "Phone Scams." Accessed Jan. 10, 2022.