Government Help for Single Parents with Little Income

Government assistance is often crucial for single mothers and fathers. Providing food, clothing, and shelter to your children is especially challenging with little or no income because of caretaking duties.

You have two ways of attacking the problem: replacing lost earnings, so you have an extra check coming in periodically, and reducing everyday living expenses.

The federal government funds many of these benefits but state and county agencies administer the programs.

Therefore, we compiled an extensive list of the primary resources, organized by category, with links to the local entity. We hope it makes things easier to find the help you need. 

Government Money for Single Parents

Government money to replace a portion of lost earnings is a critical program for single parents when they have no income. Having a small check to cash each week puts you in control of which bills to pay.


Government grants for single mothers and fathers with meager income do not exist outside the realm of student financial aid. Typically, federal funding flows to universities, states, and non-profit organizations rather than to individuals for personal use.

Therefore, if you want the free grant money, you have to identify the local agency or non-profit and apply for benefits with that entity. What follows in this section and the next are links to each of these endpoint resources.

Needy Families

The Department of Health and Human Services funds the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program, which provides cash payments to low-income single moms and dads, and other services.

The federal agency does not provide a state-based directory of local offices. Therefore, you will have to follow the appropriate state link to find TANF resources quickly.

NebraskaNevadaNew Hampshire
New JerseyNew MexicoNew York
North CarolinaNorth DakotaOhio
Rhode IslandSouth CarolinaSouth Dakota
West VirginiaWisconsinWyoming

Tax Credit

One parent families might be able to get an Internal Revenue Service (IRS) refund check by taking the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). A credit is much better than a deduction because you get a refund even if you do not pay any federal taxes.

Low-income workers with qualifying children may be eligible to claim the (EITC), and the size of your check could be substantial. Therefore, it pays to take advantage if you qualify. Hire a tax preparer if you need help completing the forms.

  • 1 qualifying child: $3,618
  • 2 qualifying children: $5,980
  • 3 or more qualifying children: $6,728


Unemployment compensation is a temporary government benefit for single mothers and fathers when they do not work due to economic downturns or layoffs. In most cases, you are eligible to file a claim for up to 26 weeks after losing your job through no fault of your own.

However, every rule has an exception.

Disability Benefits

Three different government-related disability programs could provide a periodic benefit check to single moms and dads who are physically unable to work and earn money for their families.

State Temporary

State-mandated temporary disability can help solo parents who cannot work because of an off-the-job accident or illness.

However, only seven states have a program that might send weekly checks: California, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington.

Workers Compensation

Workers compensation is a state-mandated program that could help parents raising children alone replace a portion of income if an on-the-job (occupational) accident or illness prevents them from working.

File a claim with the private insurance company chosen by your employer.

Social Security

Social Security disability is a government benefit that replaces a portion of income for solo parents who cannot work because of a permanent non-occupational medical condition.

Apply for two Social Security disability programs by completing the online form hosted at the federal website.

  1. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) covers workers who paid into the system via FICA taxes payroll deducted by employers
  2. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) addresses the needs of adults and children who have limited earnings and resources

Afterward, your county office will review your case and decide if you qualify. However, it could prove challenging to survive while waiting for approval, as only about 40% of applicants ultimately prevail.

Paid Leave

Paid leave is a possible state government benefit that could help one-parent families to receive a check they can cash and spend how they see fit.

  • Paid family leave laws require partial compensation to parents who cannot work after giving birth or when they need to care for a sick child at home. However, only six states have a program: California, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island, and Washington.
  • Paid sick leave laws often apply at the state or county level and allow parents to receive compensation from their employer when caring for a child at home or taking time off for a medical reason.

Government Cost Reduction for Single Parents

A much more comprehensive array of government assistance programs can help single parents reduce everyday expenses, which add up quickly when you have little or no income.


In cooperation with each state, the federal government helps to pay for healthcare for single mothers and fathers and other low-income households. Regular care from doctors and hospitals is critical to the well-being of your family.

Apply for coverage through the site to see which of the three programs fit your profile. You might be able to enroll any time of year.


Medicaid covers healthcare for low-income households, including solo parents. Each state determines the medical benefits to include and the eligibility rules expressed as a percentage of the federal poverty level.

Qualified applicants can enroll at any time during the year. Plus, Medicaid may cover medical bills for three months retroactively.


Children’s Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) provides low-cost medical coverage to children in one-parent families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, CHIP covers pregnant women.

You can enroll in CHIP any time during the year, and coverage begins immediately – if qualified.


Private health insurance includes government subsidies for parents raising children alone that earn too much money to qualify for Medicaid and CHIP.

  1. Advance Premium Tax Credits lower the upfront monthly costs
    1. Cost Sharing Reductions lower unreimbursed medical expenses

You can enroll in a private plan any time during the year if you have a qualifying life event. Otherwise, you might have to wait until January 1 of the next year for coverage to start.

Dental Work

The federal government collaborates with each state to provide help with dental work expenses for single moms and dads with nominal income. The Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services sets basic parameters, and each state decides what oral care benefits to support.

Medicaid sometimes covers dental work for adults and more consistently for children. However, the types of treatments supported vary widely by your residence state.

Treatment# of States
Oral Surgery24
Root Canal18


The federal and state governments combine forces to provide one-parent families with financial help for grocery store charges. The Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service (DOAFNS) manages various benefits with slightly different qualifying criteria.

Many DOAFNS initiatives require enrollment at education centers.

  • School Lunch
  • Fresh Fruits and Vegetables
  • School Breakfast
  • Special Milk

Meanwhile, two programs require you to sign up with a local agency.

Food Stamps

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), better known as Food Stamps, can help solo parents stretch their grocery budget. One-income households frequently meet the criteria set by DOAFNS.

  • $2,250 limit in countable resources
  • Gross monthly income under 130% of the poverty level
  • Net monthly income under 100% of the poverty level

Find a local SNAP agency by starting at this DOAFNS webpage.

Women Infants & Children (WIC)

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) can help single moms with groceries if they are pregnant, breastfeeding, or care for offspring up to age five – and they are at nutritional risk.

Find a local WIC provider by starting at this DOAFNS webpage.

Heating & Cooling

The federal government also collaborates with state and county agencies to provide financial help with heating and cooling expenses. Single moms and dads with little income often qualify for these benefits.

Energy Assistance

Solo parents often qualify for the Low-Income Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) run by the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). LIHEAP seeks to lower home heating and cooling costs through bill payment help and energy-saving home repairs.

To qualify for LIHEAP, your annual income before taxes must be below specific limits based on the number of dependent children.

Find a local LIHEAP provider by starting at this DHHS webpage.

Weatherization Assistance

Parents raising children alone also frequently qualify for the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) run by the Department of Energy (DOE). WAP helps low-income families reduce heating and cooling costs by improving the energy efficiency of their homes.

Households save an average of $283 annually after upgrades. Every penny counts, so apply for WAP benefits by taking these four steps.

  1. Determine eligibility
  2. Identify local provider
  3. Complete the application
  4. Prepare for services

Child Care

Single mothers and fathers can get financial help to pay for child care through several federal government programs. Reliable daycare is crucial for parents to become self-reliant through work.

As before, many initiatives favor families with meager incomes, and state or local agencies are your point of contact. However, other channels offer help to more people in this arena.

Assistance Programs

The Administration for Children and Families (ACF) runs various programs that fall under the Child Care Assistance Program umbrella. The federal money flows to state and county agencies that dole out the benefits to solo parents and others.

Find the local state resources on the ACF website.

  • Childcare subsidies or vouchers
  • Early Head Start
  • State-funded Prekindergarten
  • Military fee assistance

Tax Credit

The Child Care Tax Credit (CCTC) can help one-parent households with lower incomes to reduce their costs for daycare, preschool, nannies, etc. Under Internal Revenue Service rules, a credit is better than a deduction because you get the refund check even if you do not pay any income taxes.

The size of the CCTC check varies by income and number of children with qualifying expenses.

One ChildTwo Children
< $15,000$700$1,400
> $43,000$400$800

Flexible Spending

A Dependent Care Flexible Spending Account (DCFSA) can further help solo parents reduce child care costs. The Internal Revenue Service rules force you to choose between the flexible spending and the CCTC, so it pays to know which option works better for your situation.

1 Child Limit$5,000$3,000
2 Child Limit$5,000$6,000
FICA Savings (7.65%)YesNo
State Income Tax SavingsYesNo
% Saved10% to 37%20% to 35%


Government housing assistance for single mothers and fathers with low income is perhaps the most critical benefit and most challenging to cover in detail. The cost of a rental apartment can easily consume most of the monthly budget when only one wage-earner supports the entire household.

The Department of Housing and Urban Development runs several initiatives that require a separate article to cover completely. As before, the money flows to state and county agencies – which serve as your best starting point.

Good luck!