It is true that single father households are still a minority in the United States, but the numbers are growing on a rapid pace. In fact, there has been a 900% increase in the number of single dads since 1960. It means 1 in 4 homes today are single father households. If you are also a single dad raising kids, you may have already gathered how difficult it is to manage everything at the same time. While financial assistance is available for single fathers, it is still difficult especially considering most non-profits and traditional organizations focus on helping single mother households. Does this mean you cannot find financial assistance to help raise your child with whatever little resources you have available?
Of course not! Let’s explore some options you can try.
Financial assistance is available in many forms. You just need to decide what works right for you. While you can find a number of options, you just cannot afford to be without medical insurance. It is crucial for you as well as your child. Medicaid is probably the most popular choice. This joint federal and state run program helps low-income families, but as it is run by the state, you may notice a difference in coverage from state to state.
In case Medicaid is not what you are looking for, you can definitely try the healthcare marketplace as well. While you will have to meet their guidelines, it is still possible to find low cost health insurance with some effort. It usually depends on your income and your family size. For instance, you can get find a marketplace insurance plan for lower premiums if there are only two people in your family and your income is between $15,730 and $62,920. However, you can qualify for lower premiums as well as lower out-of-pocket costs if your yearly income is between $15,730 and $39,325. Just bear in mind that you may not qualify for any insurance plan if your state is not expanding Medicaid and your yearly income is below $15,730. So, be sure to do your research considering your income and your family size.
Financial Assistance for Housing
Whether you are thinking about purchasing a new home or looking for a rental unit, you can find a number of options to try. There is enough help available from state, federal and local governments – several community organizations may also offer some financial assistance to single dads.
Government Assistance for Housing
If you are in an area where cost of living is too high to afford, go learn more about low-income housing programs available in that area. Several government assistance programs are now available in different states that may help you pay your rent. Here are a few options to consider:
- Income-Based Housing: By using this option, you can find accommodation in specific private and public apartment complexes and townhouses. You will be paying rent equivalent of 30% of your monthly income. The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) will take care of the rest of the rent amount. To qualify, it is important to show proof that you are in no position to pay the market rent rate. Once approved, you will be on their waiting list until a unit becomes available depending on your preferences. Check the HUD’s website to know if you qualify and, if yes then how to apply. Keep in mind that the income-based housing is available but should be used only when you truly need it because your rent will go up as your income increases substantially.
- Section 8 Housing: It is quite like income-based housing and requires you to pay a certain portion of your rent, but the option provides you with more flexibility to choose where you live. You will get a voucher after you complete the application and have it approved. Show this voucher to a landlord at a townhouse, apartment, or single family home that accepts Section 8 to save some money on rent. The process is a lot more rigorous though as compared to low-income housing. You can apply only when there is a waiting list available in your county, but you may have to wait up to 1-5 years to get a verdict in your favor. You will have to live in a home in your county for up to a year to become eligible to move out of the county – you can even move out of state and take your voucher with you to get financial assistance.
- USDA Rural Development Housing Assistance: Offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and Rural Development, the program helps single dads with low or moderate income. It allows you find a safe single-family home in a rural area. For approval, you need to be a U.S. citizen, get in touch with an approved lender, and meet other income eligibility requirements. Once approved, you will receive assistance to rehabilitate, build, or improve upon a house in an eligible rural area. You can use their “eligible address search” feature to find out if your preferred property qualifies for the program. Visit their website now to check eligibility requirements and understand how the program works.
Private Housing Assistance for Housing
It may take time to qualify for government housing assistance programs, so it makes great sense to have a backup plan. Luckily, you can find private assistance help to secure reasonably good housing.
- Transitional Housing: Usually funded by local churches and organizations, transitional housing is a great choice for singe dads currently facing homelessness. You can use this option to secure temporary housing if you are late on rent or have nowhere to go in case of eviction. It is different from a homeless shelter because you will get a chance to secure housing for up to a year or two. The program also provides you with some additional help, including funding your security deposit, moving assistance, finding a good job, and achieving more stability in life. Childcare services are also available for single parents. Your local churches and Catholic Charities organization will offer more details about these programs – you can also check Transitionalhousing.org for assistance.
- Stay with Someone Else: Staying with friends or a family member is always a good option for single dads with low income. Not everyone will have the option to move with parents or someone else at least for a few months until they can find a better alternative, but you should utilize this solid option whenever you can. This may save you some money that you would otherwise be paying as rent. You can lend a helping hand and volunteer services to your appreciation though – you can offer help with dog walking, babysitting, fixing things, cleaning, etc.
- Apply with Charities and Organizations: You can find many charities and organizations and take advantage of their community assistance programs. Many of them offer housing assistance options for single dads and low-income families. Some charities even offer emergency shelter programs, free legal advice, counseling services, utility assistance, and some help with food. Catholic Charities and the Salvation Army are two of the largest organization with rent assistance and additional housing help available for families. Other popular charity programs include Lutheran Services in America, Love in the Name of Christ, Jewish Federation of North America, American Red Cross, Operation Round Up, YMCA, and Saint Vincent de Paul.
Financial Assistance for Food
When you are a single dad with financial difficulties, it always makes sense to make use of whatever help available to provide food for your family. You may have to search a bit but you can find a number of programs offered by government and charitable organizations to provide food for your children.
- The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP): After qualifying for the program, you will get a debit card that the organization offering financial assistance will load weekly with a food stamp budget. You can use the card to save money when shopping for food at participating grocers – it does not cover cost of alcohol and some other goods. There are certain eligibility requirements that you will have to meet and will also have to offer info about the amounts of your earnings, child support, utility bills, mortgage, medical bills, social security payments, and child support payments.
- The National School Lunch Program: You can opt for the NSLP if you are not in a position to provide nutritious meals for your children. It is necessary to have your child admitted to participating schools to get free or very low cost meals. These meals will be according to meal pattern and nutrition standards explained by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Families with incomes below 130% of the poverty level can expect free meals for their children through this program, whereas children from families with incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level can get reduced-price meals.
Financial Assistance for Daycare
Even if you are making good money to make ends meet, you may have to deal with some additional expenses when raising a child on your own. Getting daycare help can sometimes become a real battle for single dads. Childcare can be so expensive that it can offset your budget completely and even defeat the whole purpose of you working. If you think childcare cost is taking up more than half of your paycheck, it is time to look for some financial help. Thankfully, you definitely have some options to consider. For instance, you can always start with public assistance programs through your state department of Health and Human Services. This way, you can find grants for free or low-cost daycare services. You will have to meet certain requirements and need to ensure that you have a certified childcare provider in your area.
There are some other options as well. For instance:
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF): Single parents with no or a low monthly income can receive some financial assistance by qualifying for TANF. You can receive cash assistance for up to three years to cover your basic expenses. Once you qualify for TANF, it will be easier for you to find childcare assistance as well. To qualify, you should provide evidence that you are a family of three and have a monthly income below $784 with countable assets no greater than $1,000.
- Head Start Programs: If you are a single dad with children under five, you may consider taking advantage of a Head Start program. This federal program offers educational readiness for your young kids and provides them with both education and social experience. Essentially, the program helps prepare children from low-income families for school by promoting and supporting social, mental, and emotional development. You can expect quality care and education for your little one since the programs last for 2.5-6 hours each weekday. It is possible to ask for an extended day slot if you require care for a longer timeframe. These programs are free of charge but you need to provide evidence of your income – you are more likely to qualify if you are below the poverty level or receive benefits like TANF.
- Dependent Care Assistance Program: If you are a state employee with children under the age of13, the Dependent Care Assistance Program will help you pay for daycare expenses. You can get financial assistance for daycare with access to some after-school programs. By using this program, you will be able to save some money when paying for the childcare expenses. It also helps you take advantage of tax breaks for both State and Federal taxes as per the contributions throughout the year.
Financial Assistance for School (aka Financial Aid)
IF you are looking to go back to school or attend a post secondary institution (trade school, college, university), there are quite a few financial assistance options available to you. In addition, single dads can also find scholarship and grant programs that may be tailored just for single parents.
Federal Student Aid
The federal student aid program is by far the largest assistance program for students of all ages. It consists of a number of assistance programs that all come together to help students afford to go to school. The aid is a combination of loans (repayable), grants (non repayable), and scholarships. The funds are administered by the federal and state governments with your school also giving out some of the aid.
Here are some of the more popular government student aid programs.
- Federal Student Loans
- The Pell Grant
- Federal Work Study Program
If you want access to federal aid, you need to apply with the FAFSA application. This puts you in for federal assistance for school, and gives you access to loans, grants, and potential scholarships. Even if you just want to apply for scholarships, you still will need to fill out the FAFSA because many non-profits and schools use the FAFSA application to determine whether you are qualified for scholarship and grant aid.
Scholarships are merit-based aid. That is, you must ‘qualify’ to win a scholarship based on academic performance or some other measurement (sports prowess or simply having fulfilled some specialty activity such as being a veteran, being a single mother, or some such). Scholarships are typically competitive, especially for the high value ones. While they are usually based on academic performance in high school or university, this is NOT always the case. For some specialty scholarships, simply being part of a racial group, an organization, or having participated in some specialized activity may qualify you for some scholarships.
Scholarships are given out by educational institutions such as your own school, non-profit foundations, and businesses. Typically you will need to a) fill out the FAFSA to qualify for scholarship aid as it’s used by organizations to vet your financial situation b) fill out and apply for specific scholarships c) meet the scholarship qualifications
Unlike scholarships, grants are offered as need based, not merit based. Grants are given out by the federal government (Pell Grant) which you may qualify for solely on financial need based on your FAFSA application (which uses your income or if you are under a certain age, your parent’s income) to calculate your level of need.
There are quite a few grants for school offered outside of the federal government, however. These are given out by academic institutions (your school you are attending for example) or non-profit groups. You will likely need to apply for the grant, however, to qualify.
You can apply for federal student loans (no interest or deferred interest while going to school). This is by far the best student loan to get. However, it is possible to apply for private student loans from banks. These loans will typically charge you interest, however, though the exacts depend on the bank. You will likely need to have decent to good credit to qualify for a private student loan. Federal student loans, on the other hand, don’t require a credit check.
Why get a private Student Loan? Because sometimes there is a shortfall between what federal student aid (loans and grants) give you and what you need to fully pay for your education. The difference needs to be made up through part time / full time work and / or private loan assistance.
The Final Word
We’ve given you a detailed overview of the various categories of assistance you can apply for as a single father. Most of these programs are general assistance programs, however, and not catered specifically for single dads.
The truth is that the ‘single dad’ seems to have been passed over by government and private legislation. While there are specific government assistance programs that target women and children, there is few or no such programs that target single dads. The assumption seems to be that single moms and women need help but struggling single dads don’t.
As such, you’ll have to put in extra work trying to find appropriate solutions. The truth is that you might need to supplement any outside assistance with your own work efforts (i.e. working more, getting a better job, etc). We strongly feel that the best way for a single dad to improve their lot and provide a better future for their children IS through education. While it may take a lot of money and effort to go back to school and get additional education or vocational training, this is ultimately the best path to making more money.
The goal is ultimately to be self sufficient.