Where to Turn for Help Paying Your Bills

Did you know that LIHEAP and other government programs can help you with financial relief, so you can pay your bills?

Whether you are facing expensive health conditions, unemployment or other challenges, federal assistance programs may be able to help.

Depending on your needs and circumstances, you may qualify for energy assistance, money for medical costs or even a free cell phone. 

For more information on how to get help with bills, continue on to the sections outlined below. 

Learn About Government Programs That Can Help With Bills

LIHEAP and other government assistance programs are designed to cover some of your most critical bills during times of need.

While there is no single program that can meet all your needs, it is easy to “braid” funding from several programs to build the comprehensive support you require to get back on your feet. 

In addition to LIHEAP, Americans in need can benefit strongly from applying for Medicaid to help handle their medical bills and to the Lifeline Program to get a free smartphone and airtime.

Together, these programs tackle some of families’ most expensive bills, and keep them connected to the services they can least afford to lose during troubled or stressful times. 

Not only can you apply for and receive services from all of these programs at once, you can also combine them with other forms of public assistance. Examples include:

  • SNAP.
  • Unemployment.
  • SSI.
  • Veterans’ benefits.

Once you apply for any public assistance program, you can easily identity other programs you may benefit from by asking the representatives assisting you to refer you to any, and all, other assistance programs for which you may qualify.  

How to Receive Help for Medical Bills with Medicaid

Perhaps the single biggest category in which families find they need help with bills is medical expenses.

With care for a broken leg tallying up at more than $7,000 and even short hospital stays averaging more than $30,000, it is easy for unexpected accidents and illnesses to overrun families’ budgets quickly, leaving them stressed and struggling.

This is particularly true for adults with chronic diseases, such as diabetes, or the elderly, who regularly face medical expenses four or fives times higher than those of younger people.

Fortunately, financial help for families in need in this area is available. Medicaid coverage is available to:

  • Low-income adults and families. 
  • Children. 
  • Pregnant women.
  • The elderly.
  • Individuals with disabilities. 

Exact eligibility requirements for Medicaid can vary, as Medicaid is administered by individual states who have some flexibility in setting enrollment rules.

However, since there is more than one way to qualify for coverage (e.g. age, income, disability), the likelihood that you will qualify for assistance is high, regardless of your state’s individual rules. 

You can apply for Medicaid coverage at any time using one of two ways. These include:

  • Directly through your state. Medicaid is managed by individual states. If you contact your state government by phone, online or in person, a representative will be able to connect you with the correct office for assistance in submitting your application.
  • Via the Health Insurance Marketplace. You can apply for assistance online, at the Health Insurance Marketplace website. The online eligibility checker will help you find, and enter, the necessary information to begin. It will then forward your information to your state agency, which will contact you to complete the application process. 

How to Reduce Utility Bills With LIHEAP

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) can help you manage high energy costs, and keep your home safe and livable, even in times of financial stress.

The program offers energy assistance in the forms of:

  • Help in paying your home’s energy bills. 
  • Managing and accessing heating and cooling during energy crises. 
  • Funds to pay for weatherization improvements and home repair projects that will make your home more energy efficient and reduce your energy costs.

To qualify for assistance, you must meet your state’s low-income guidelines. You may be eligible for priority assistance if you or members of your household are: 

  • Elderly.
  • Disabled.
  • Young children. 

Apply directly to your state government for help with energy bills under this program.

The federal government encourages interested applicants to apply as soon as they know they may need assistance, even if you are not sure you will qualify.

Program funds are limited, and families who delay in applying may find themselves on long waitlists, if there are no funds left by the time they apply.

How to Get a Free Phone With the Lifeline Program

Lifeline phone service is a federal program that provides families with free smartphones and monthly minutes. The program was launched after government agencies recognized the vital role cell phones play in:

  • Connecting families to emergency services, when needed.
  • Helping workers obtain and keep jobs. 
  • Enabling recipients to access and utilize their government assistance and benefits. 

Under the program, qualifying families receive a government cell phone and a set number of free minutes each month.

Eligibility is determined solely by household income, and you must be able to document your income from all sources in order to apply.   

Generally, you will qualify for Lifeline assistance if you are eligible for, or already receive, certain benefits. These include:

  • Medicaid.
  • SNAP.
  • SSI.
  • Section 8.
  • HEAP.
  • Veterans and Survivors Pension Benefits. 

Lifeline internet services may be included in your program assistance package, depending on which services bundle you select.

Program benefits and Lifeline cell phone providers vary from state to state, creating minor variations in recipient experiences.

You can apply for Lifeline phone service in one of several ways. These include:

  • Apply online through the government’s Lifeline website.
  • Visit any phone carrier outlet in person. Nearly all phone service providers can assist you in applying for the Lifeline program.
  • Ask your public assistance representative. If you already receive benefits through another public assistance program such as LIHEAP or SNAP, ask the representative(s) assisting you with those programs to help you start a Lifeline application. 
  • Apply by phone. Call Lifeline’s customer service line or your state’s social services hotline more for information on the program, or to start an application. 

As with all public assistance programs, eligibility can be difficult to estimate on your own. Therefore, authorities strongly recommend that you apply, even if you are not sure you will qualify.