How to Apply for Social Services Programs
With the recent news of more jobs being lost, the unemployment rate still high, and the potential for another recession, things still aren’t looking up for many Americans. Where do you turn if you’ve lost your job, had a medical emergency or simply have a paycheck that doesn’t cover your essential expenses, there are social services programs that can help you make ends meet. These include programs that can temporarily or permanently assist you with:
- Living expenses (often known as welfare
- Healthcare costs (often through state Medicaid programs, though many states have other programs that help with specific health issues)
- Purchasing food (often known as food stamps, though these days most come in the form of an electronic debit card)
- Rent assistance programs
- Utility assistance programs
Typically, you’ll have to apply for each social services program separately. Just because you qualify for welfare, for example, does not mean you’ll automatically get utility assistance.
You can now apply for many programs online, but some will still require you to mail an application or apply in person.
In addition to submitting an application, you will probably have to submit evidence that helps demonstrate you need assistance. This documentation may include copies of:
- Recent bank statements
- Recent paycheck stubs or unemployment compensation
- Your lease or mortgage statement
- Recent tax returns
- Utility bills
- Child support agreements
- Outstanding medical bills or a doctor’s diagnosis and treatment plan
For your application to be successful, it’s essential to provide all of the information the agency requests. If you’re unable to submit certain pieces of information, include a written statement explaining why you’re omitting the information.
You also want to ensure that you answer every question on the application. Provide a thorough answer, but don’t include unnecessary information. The people (or computers) who review applications are looking for certain key pieces of information – anything that’s unnecessary may delay your application and could lead to your application being rejected.
Some applications will require someone else—such as your landlord, your doctor or your employer—to submit information on your behalf. Try to make it as easy as possible for them: Put your request in writing, and make sure it’s clear what you’re asking them to do, how they’re supposed to do it and how quickly they need to do it.
Follow up to make sure the information has been submitted. And take a minute to thank the person once they’ve submitted the information. After all, they’re doing you a favor and helping you out.
If Your Application Is Rejected
It’s not uncommon for an application to be rejected. In fact, your application will almost certainly be turned down if it’s incomplete or supporting information is missing. And some agencies seem to routinely deny all applications, only to approve those who appeal their denial.
If your application gets rejected, find out what appeals processes are in place. In some instances, you can simply resubmit your application with the information that was missing. You may be able to request that your application be reviewed by a human. In other cases, you may have to go to the agency for a hearing or in-person interview.
Don’t be discouraged if your application is initially denied; there’s a good chance it will be approved on appeal.
Remember that there are penalties for abusing the system as well. Making a fraudulent claim for benefits or using these benefits for reasons they weren’t intended is illegal, and you’ll have to pay back the benefits, get fined, or even go to jail.
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