One of the most difficult times in anyone’s life comes when the money you have available just does not match your needs. Life creates an infinite variety of crises that can sink even the best-crafted budget and leave a family in dire and unexpected need. While it is rare to find assistance for these types of situations, government grants, and charitable organizations exist that can help those in need cover those kinds of expenses.
Finding these grants can be difficult. In most cases, both government agencies and charitable organizations have very specific requirements for who deserves and receives emergency financial aid. For the federal government, in particular, this aid is often only available in very specific situations, such as after an environmental crisis. For non-profit charities, many focus on who they target with their financial giving, making it often difficult for many people to find aid in some situations.
That said, when looking for government programs and charitable organizations that deliver help for unexpected situations, consider all of the following:
What is your current financial status? Can you verify this information with certified financial records, such as bank statements, unemployment documentation, tax documents or other information?
Do you or your family fit into any potential sub-groups that may be a target for special circumstance aid, such as poverty status, rare medical conditions, or having a family with small children?
Have you applied for this kind of support before? In some cases, you may not qualify if you’ve utilized such services in the past, or have a history of using such services too regularly.
Do you have the time needed to commit to searching and applying? At times, the application process can take days or weeks. Depending on your situation, this may not be fast enough.
Below, we’ll discuss different federal grants and non-profit charity options you may want to consider for various circumstances. Each of these programs is a reputable source covering a variety of different urgent needs.
Emergency Expenses (All Kinds)
Aunt Bertha is a good first stop for anyone looking for emergency expenses. Aunt Bertha is a web search tool for local charity organizations that provide assistance for food, housing, transit, goods, health, money, general care, education, work, and legal expenses. For example, anyone living in Washington, DC who needs emergency medical help can use Aunt Bertha to find free medical clinics or clinics that will take those without the ability to pay for high-cost medical expenses.
TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families)
The federal TANF program provides temporary emergency assistance to needy families. This program is administered on a state-level, with funds delivered from the federal government. Only those who are either pregnant or responsible for a child under the age of 19 can qualify, as well as only those who have very little income. TANF may include childcare assistance, work assistance, cash assistance for basic needs such as food and clothing, and others, depending on your state.
The Salvation Army provides emergency aid to families to help cover all kinds of expenses, including food, clothing, rent, drug prescriptions, and utility bills. This program focuses on those who have low incomes, although it may help those who have more modest incomes but who have an emergency situation.
The United Way is an international organization that operates locally in many cities around the country. Local United Way branches often provide emergency funding for expenses and housing. The key program is 2-1-1, which helps connect those with urgent needs and in crises. United Way provides food, shelter and medical expenses, as well as assistance for physical and emotional abuse. This program focuses on low-income families or individuals.
This non-profit charity was set up to help families who need emergency financial assistance for a short term. Modest Needs will provide money to help cover a wide variety of expenses, but does have limitations. The program only serves those who have a low income.
Remote Area Medical
For those living in significantly rural areas without access to proper medical care, RAM may help provide you with emergency medical services. You can find a list of mobile clinics operated by RAM on their website.
A crowdfunding site devoted to charity, individuals may use this website to set up a page seeking assistance for their emergency needs of all kinds. YouCaring allows you to categorize your aid request to help others more easily find and provide aid.
Pet Medical Emergencies
ISF Emergency Medical Care Grant for Animals
Although this program is designed more for non-profits, the ISF does provide exceptions for those who need emergency medical care for rescue animals. If your rescue pet needs medical attention that you cannot afford, consider this a viable option to explore.
RedRover provides grants for urgently needed pet medical care, such as surgeries. The organization also operates food assistance programs and other financial assistance programs for those who have pets but cannot afford needed care. Typical grants range from $150 to $200.
Your local HUD may provide emergency housing assistance. While HUD is a federal department, it operates differently at the local level, serving the needs of each state as necessary. HUD may help if you are currently homeless or on the verge of homelessness due to a desperate situation with your finances.
Section 504 Housing Repair Program
For rural families in single-family homes, the government provides both grants and loans to help make urgently needed home repairs that will contribute to remove hazards. Grants are available for those over the age of 62 with an inability to pay, while loans are available for those who make 50% below the area median income.
How to Apply for Grants and Assistance
While all applications are different, you should make sure you follow a few, key steps to make yourself more likely to secure a grant.
Gather and organize all legal, financial and personal documents. Include birth certificates, social security cards, tax documents such as W-2s, rent bills, proof of insurance, medical bills, bank statements, and any other document that will help verify your income status, legal status, and financial situation.
Ask friends or families to become references. In some cases, your word may not be enough, and some organizations or government grants may require verification from third parties regarding your status or needs.
Ensure you have thoroughly read over the requirements for each grant program before you apply. Make a checklist to be certain that you meet the requirements for the program.
Double check your application before submitting it. Make sure that you have photocopied all of your documents. Never send original documents with an application. Have a friend, or family member read over your application to help look for errors.
Be proactive. Search for new grants regularly, and check the status of your grant applications regularly as well.
Make follow-up calls, emails or visits. If you are applying in person, return to the office a few days after to check on the status. Do not let your application sit unchecked, keeping in mind that you may be one of many applicants. In some cases, the applicants who are the most persistent will be perceived as having the most urgent need and will be given preference.
It’s not easy to find emergency assistance, but it is possible in some cases, and it’s certainly worth trying. Good luck!