What Benefits Can I Sign Up for Through My Local Department of Social Services?

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The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) oversees numerous social services programs designed to improve the well-being of individuals, families and communities. Although the HHS is a federal agency, many of the services it funds are provided at the local level by state or county agencies, or through private sector grantees.

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The HHS has 11 operating divisions, including eight agencies in the U.S. Public Health Service and three human services agencies. These divisions administer a wide variety of health and human services and also conduct research that aims to protect and serve all Americans.

The Office of the Secretary (OS) is HHS’s chief policy officer (and general manager) and administers and oversees the organization, its programs, and its activities. The deputy secretary and a number of assistant secretaries and offices support the OS.

Here’s a list of some of the HHS benefits and services you can sign up for through your state or local Department of Social Services.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

TANF is overseen by the Office of Family Assistance and provides funding for programs that help low-income families with children achieve economic self-sufficiency. States and U.S. territories use TANF to fund monthly cash assistance payments to low-income families with children, as well as a wide range of other services. Learn more by visiting the TANF website.

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Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP, formerly known as food stamps, is a U.S. Department of Agriculture program that provides financial assistance to help low-income Americans buy food. The benefits are processed through the electronic benefit transfer (EBT) debit card system. You can learn about eligibility, benefits and other details at the SNAP website.

Head Start

The Head Start program helps pre-K children from low-income families prepare for school through various means. For more information on eligibility requirements and how to apply, contact the Head Start and Early Head Start programs serving your community — or visit the national Head Start site.

Child Care

HHS provides access to affordable early care and after-school programs through Child Care Financial Assistance programs that serve both the general public and members of the military. You can learn more by visiting Childcare.gov.

Home Energy Assistance (LIHEAP)

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is set up to help eligible families with energy costs. The program provides federally funded assistance in managing costs associated with home energy bills, energy crises, weatherization and energy-related minor home repairs. For more information on eligibility and benefits, visit the LIHEAP home page.

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Persons with Disabilities

Multiple HHS agencies offer a range of resources and programs to support persons with disabilities. Learn more about the different programs and benefits available by visiting the Programs for People with Disabilities page.

Programs for Seniors

A variety of programs are available through different HHS agencies to improve the well-being of older adults, ranging from location services and long-term care to health information. Learn more by visiting the Programs for Older Adults page.

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Military Family Support

The HHS and its operating divisions offer various resources and programs specifically designed to support military families, including programs geared toward jobs, healthcare and child support. For more information on benefits available, visit the HHS page titled How Does HHS Support Military Families?

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About the Author

Vance Cariaga is a London-based writer, editor and journalist who previously held staff positions at Investor’s Business Daily, The Charlotte Business Journal and The Charlotte Observer. His work also appeared in Charlotte Magazine, Street & Smith’s Sports Business Journal and Business North Carolina magazine. He holds a B.A. in English from Appalachian State University and studied journalism at the University of South Carolina. His reporting earned awards from the North Carolina Press Association, the Green Eyeshade Awards and AlterNet. In addition to journalism, he has worked in banking, accounting and restaurant management. A native of North Carolina who also writes fiction, Vance’s short story, “Saint Christopher,” placed second in the 2019 Writer’s Digest Short Short Story Competition. Two of his short stories appear in With One Eye on the Cows, an anthology published by Ad Hoc Fiction in 2019. His debut novel, Voodoo Hideaway, was published in 2021 by Atmosphere Press.
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