“I never thought it would happen to me.”
I can still hear the voice of the older man at one of our local fast food restaurants telling my wife and I this when we were there grabbing something to eat. He told us how he always had money, but life happened and now he doesn’t have anything.
He didn’t ask for money, food or anything else. He just seemed to be in disbelief that life happened in a bad way for him, and he didn’t know what to do.
We were the only people there around 10:00 that night, so he just needed someone to talk to about his life. Instead of taking our food to go, we handed our meals over to him, and he thanked us.
Before we left, our conversation with him was only moments of silence cut by a cracking voice of someone who could not believe how their life was.
That was tough to listen to, but I knew it was tougher to live through. He told my wife and me that he’d be heading to talk to people about benefits in the morning so that he could try and start getting his life back on track.
While this situation might not be your situation or someone you know, there are thousands of people across the state who are one paycheck away from something like this happening.
If you or someone you know might need some assistance, here are some places that offer benefits and assistance in Louisiana for low-income families. We’ve also included a link to each resource to make it easy for you!
LIHEAP helps low-income households with their home energy bills. They might be able to provide assistance with bill payments or during a home heating or cooling crisis.
If you live in an apartment in a new or existing Rural Rental Housing or Farm Labor Housing-financed property, this program will make payments on your behalf. Low or very low-income households may qualify for this program.
This program provides loans and grants to very low-income homeowners to help them better their current living situation. The loans and grants can be used for repairs, improvements or to remove safety and health hazards in their homes.
Under this program, the government pays a portion, or subsidizes, the rent of a housing unit—think single-family homes, townhouses and apartments. This allows for families to afford a place to live.
SNAP provides monthly benefits for low-income households to buy food they need to survive. There are maximum income levels allowed for each household size, and there are requirements when it comes to the amount of money in your checking and savings accounts.
SNAP does not provide enough money to last an entire month; these benefits only account for part of these household food budgets. Households must also use their own funds to buy enough food throughout the month.
Under the Louisiana Medicaid Program, a federally-funded program, Louisiana residents that meet certain income and resource criteria set by Congress are able to receive medical coverage for their families.
Mandatory services that Medicaid includes are: physician services, inpatient/outpatient hospital services, lab and x-ray services, long-term care, family planning and more.
Louisiana Unemployment Insurance provides temporary financial help to workers who are unemployed through situations that are not their fault.
In order to receive the benefits, you must be able and available to work while collecting benefits, and you must have worked in the state during the past 12-18 months.
LaCHIP, or the Louisiana Children’s Health Insurance Program, provides coverage to families with incomes too high to qualify for Medicaid but can’t afford medical coverage. The program serves uninsured children up to the age of 19, and there are maximum income levels required for each household size.
Benefits covered through LaCHIP include routine check-ups, immunizations, doctor visits, prescriptions, dental, vision care and more.
This program offers meal reimbursements for students in public and non-public schools. This can cause school breakfast and lunch programs to be free or reduced price for students. There are household income limits for this program for each household size.
With the Louisiana Head Start Program, children from birth to age five from low-income families are eligible to receive free learning and development services. There is also an Early Head Start Program for children under the age of three.
Both of these programs welcome children with disabilities. Children in foster care, homeless children and families receiving public assistance, such as Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), are eligible regardless of income.
Some programs are also able to provide prenatal services for pregnant women.
FITAP gives cash assistance to low and very low-income families with children when they are unable to continually meet their needs. This program aims to decrease families’ long-term dependency on welfare assistance by promoting work and preparation for re-entering the workforce.
WIC provides foods, nutrition education and health care referrals to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to the age of five who are determined as being at nutritional risk. Nutritional risk is determined by a health professional at no cost.
There are maximum income level requirements for each household size. Any family that participates in other benefits, such as SNAP, Medicaid or TANF, automatically meets the income requirement for WIC.
Louisiana’s Summer Food Service Program ensures that children in low-income families receive free nutritious meals and snacks when school is not in session. There are maximum income level requirements for each household size.
The Weatherization Assistance Program is funded through the Department of Energy and provides grants to the state, who help improve low- and very low-income households with help making home energy upgrades. There are maximum income level requirements for each household size.
The ADHC Waiver Program serves as an alternative to a nursing home for those individuals who do not need 24/7 care. They provide supervised care at an ADHC Center to adults in a supportive and safe setting for part of the day. Many of these centers provide transportation to and from the center.
ADHC provides services such as assistance with daily living activities, health and nutrition counseling, hot meals and exercise programs. This program does not provide 24-hour per day support.
The Child Care Assistance Program provides financial assistance to low and very low-income families, allowing them access to high quality child care while they work or attend school. Households are able to select a child care option as determined by their program.
CFS provides a variety of services for Louisiana families of children and adults with disabilities, including services for citizens with developmental disabilities, behavioral health, aging and adult services, and more.
They may be able to allow monthly stipends, supported living, waivers and other resources to allow families to access the services they need to stay in their own homes and avoid out-of-home placement.
Louisiana’s Workforce Re-entry System, named HiRE (Helping Individuals Reach Employment), provides employment services for Louisiana residents. You are able to search for work, get vocational rehabilitation, file federal and state taxes for free (low-income filers only), and research unemployment assistance here.
The HiRE program’s Vocational Rehabilitation program helps individuals who have physical or mental disabilities with career development. This offers individuals with disabilities access to services that will provide resources and teach skills that are needed at each step of the interview and employment process.
Everybody has a story, but not everyone is willing to tell theirs. Before you or a family member says “I never thought it would happen to me,” remember that there is assistance available.
There are several programs available to Louisiana residents that need assistance including housing, senior living and care communities, HIV/AIDS services, and much, much more. You can visit the link above to search by zip code to find an office near you.
Feeding America is a nationwide network of food banks, where you can go to get food for your pantry or a hot meal. Visit the link above to search by zip code to find a food bank near you. There are five Feeding America-affiliated food banks across the state of Louisiana.