Many people find they need help paying bills at some point. Perhaps you’ve lost your job or had an unexpected medical bill — whatever the emergency, you’ve likely had trouble paying your debts if you’ve experienced one.
Free Money to Help With Rent
Homelessness is a very real threat for many Americans, so being unable to pay your rent on time is frightening. Here are four programs and organizations can help:
1. Section 8 Programs
The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development provides assistance to individuals and families who struggle to find affordable housing in their communities. The Section 8 Rental Certificate program provides vouchers that cover the difference between 30 percent of a household’s income and the market-rate rent for that family.
For example, if a family makes $20,000 a year it would be expected to pay $6,000 per year — or $500 a month — for rent and utilities. If the market rate for an apartment in the family’s community is $750 a month, that family would be eligible for a $250 Section 8 voucher per month.
The Project-Based Rental Assistance Program is similar, but it provides housing in HUD-contracted buildings. The tenant pays 30 percent of his income to the landlord and HUD pays the balance of the market-rate rent.
Find Out: Proven Ways to Negotiate Cheaper Rent
2. Salvation Army
The Salvation Army provides assistance to those who are struggling to stay in their homes. That assistance comes in the form of budget counseling, referrals and emotional support. In some cases, the Salvation Army might provide temporary or transitional housing for families.
3. Public Housing
The U.S. has 1.3 million units of public housing, according to the HUD, which are available to low-income individuals and families, elderly people and those with disabilities. Public housing consists of apartment buildings or complexes and single-family homes. Contact your state or local housing authority for more information.
4. Community Services Block Grant
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Community Services administers the Community Services Block Grant. The program provides federal grants to assist with rent, intervention with landlords, and utility shutoff prevention.
Help With Your Mortgage
People get behind on their mortgage for many reasons, often through no fault of their own. Here are five programs available to help homeowners stay in their houses.
1. HFA Mortgage Assistance Programs
Your state Housing Finance Agency offers programs to help homeowners manage their monthly mortgage payments if they’ve been affected by unemployment, a natural disaster or other crisis. The agency might provide temporary mortgage assistance, a one-time payment to bring your mortgage current or help with modifying your mortgage to make it more affordable.
2. Home Affordable Refinance Program
A government program, HARP helps homeowners refinance their mortgages and lower their monthly payments. The program has provided assistance to millions of American homeowners who struggled to pay their mortgages during the housing crisis.
3. Gradient Gives Back Foundation
The Gradient Gives Back Foundation is a private charitable organization that provides grants to needy families. The grants typically cover a year’s mortgage or rent payments and are awarded based on need. You can apply for assistance or you can nominate a family to receive a grant.
4. United Way 2-1-1
Through its 2-1-1 referral service, The United Way can connect those who are in financial distress with resources and agencies that can help. You can dial 2-1-1 from any cell phone or landline and get information and referrals to agencies that provide emergency assistance in many areas, including health, human services, unemployment, children and families and elder care. The service is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
5. USA Cares
The USA Cares Housing Assistance program protects military families from foreclosure or eviction. You must go through a free credit counseling program prior to receiving aid in the form of grants to bring loan or mortgage payments current.
Help With Paying Utility Bills
Even if you are able to keep up with your rent or your mortgage, paying your utility bills might be a hardship, especially if you live an area where extreme weather makes it difficult to keep your home and family comfortable. Here are three organizations that provide financial help for utility expenses:
1. American Water
American Water provides water and wastewater services in 15 states and gives financial assistance to families that need help paying their bills. Contact American Water in your state — different states have different criteria for qualifying and receiving help.
How to Get Free Stuff Online: The Best Websites to Score Free Stuff
A federal program that provides a discount on cellular phone or internet service to low-income households, Lifeline is administered by the Universal Service Administrative Company. If you’re eligible, you get a discount through your cell phone or internet provider. Contact USAC to see if you qualify.
Visit this website to find out about your state’s government grants to help with energy bills, like the Office of Community Services’ Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program. LIHEAP provides grants to help with home energy bills, energy crises and weatherproofing or other minor home repairs that increase energy efficiency.
Help to Get Out of Debt
Student loan debt, credit card debt, medical bills and other debt can get overwhelming. If you’re having trouble making your minimum monthly payments, there are places that can help. Beware of scammers who ask for money to try to resolve your debt — use only reputable companies.
1. American Consumer Credit Counseling
This nonprofit organization provides free consultation on debt consolidation and budgeting. They do not charge for the consultation, but if you set up a bill payment program there might be a small set-up fee, typically $40, and a maintenance fee of $5 a month. You might be able to have these fees waived depending on your financial situation.
2. InCharge Debt Solutions
InCharge Debt Solutions is a nonprofit organization that analyzes your debt and your situation and makes suggestions on how to fix things. The company provides debt consolidation services for a fee — compare these fees with other options and make sure you’re saving enough to justify the fee.
3. National Foundation for Credit Counseling
The National Foundation for Credit Counseling relies on a network of certified consumer credit counselors, so some might charge fees for some services. The organization provides counseling on all kinds of debt including credit cards, student loans, mortgages and more.
4. The Sunshine Lady Foundation
Warren Buffet’s sister runs a charitable organization that gives grants to people in need. Buffet donates shares from his conglomerate Berkshire Hathaway to fund the programs.
The Sunshine Lady Foundation evaluates requests from individuals who are seeking help and provides grants to those it deems worthy. You won’t become a millionaire with this free cash, though — the average grant is $4,800. The foundation provides help for a wide variety of needs from paying off personal, school or medical debt to granting businesses loans and more.
Next Up: 30 Ways to Dig Yourself Out of Debt