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Confessions of a Welfare Recipient - Assistance for Low-Income Families

Updated on December 19, 2012

 More and more families are facing financial hardships everyday.  The loss of a job, a cut in salary, an unexpected health problem leaving you unable to work, or anything else putting you in a position of financial uncertainty.  You may qualify for public assistance/welfare.  Please read the story below about a family facing similar situations that sound very familiar.  Also I have included information on public assistance in between the two parts of the family's story.

A Familiar Story

I am a husband, and a father. I am a hard worker and I have been my whole life. The life I have built for myself and my family has been very rewarding. My wife and I have three beautiful children, Hannah age 10, Cindy age 7, and John age 4. Our lives had been perfect, well at least up until last month. My company downsized because of the poor economy, and unfortunately my job was lost. I qualify for unemployment but it does not pay near as much as my weekly salary did. My wife has taken on a few extra hours here and there, but her part-time job just doesn't pay enough either. We are both looking every day and every night for jobs that will get our heads back above water. The winter is fast approaching and I don't know how we will put food on the table, and be able to heat our home at the same time. I am scared to death. How do I tell the kids they have to eat less or we will be forced to freeze? I am supposed to be able to take care of my family, but the truth is I don't think we can make it. My wife is thinking about applying for welfare. I am afraid we will be labeled "lazy" or be called "free loaders." I know it is there to help, but I am ashamed. My wife said she is going tomorrow to apply, I just hope she is making the right decision.

Facts and Misconceptions of Public Assistance

I will start with the misconceptions that many people have about public assistance/welfare. Alot of times people will be labeled as lazy, not wanting to work, wanting a free ride through life, having babies just to stay in the system, the list goes on and on. By others having these thoughts about welfare it makes it really hard for other people to gain the courage to get much needed assistance. I am not saying that everyone uses welfare as they should, I am aware that people do abuse the system, but what I am saying is that everyone who is receiving welfare are not lazy people. The majority of welfare recipients are good people who unexpectedly fell into hard times. No one should ever have to chose between freezing to death or starving to death. Public Assistance is available to anyone who meets the qualifications. If you meet the qualification you deserve to have the assistance without any judgement passed by others!!!!

Now for the facts that will help clear up some of those misconceptions. The welfare system began in the 1930s due to the Great Depression. The federal government started this program to assist families and individuals with little or no income. People did tend to abuse the system therefore giving welfare and anyone on it a bad reputation. In 1996 President Bill Clinton and the Republican Congress passed a welfare reform law, which gave the handling of assistance back into the states' hands. The passing of this law has made it much harder to abuse the system. You can no longer make it your life purpose to be "lazy". Now I am not naïve, I know people still find a glitch somewhere, but for the most case it is much harder to abuse the system.

States Receive Federal Grants

The Federal government provides assistance through TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). TANF is a grant given to each state to run their own welfare program. To help overcome the former problem of unemployment due to reliance on the welfare system, the TANF grant requires that all recipients of welfare aid must find work within two years of receiving aid, including single parents who are required to work at least 30 hours per week opposed to 35 or 55 required by two parent families. Failure to comply with work requirements could result in loss of benefits.

Eligibity of Assistance

Your eligibility for assistance relies on a few different factors. Eligibility is determined on household income size, and the size of the family. Crisis situations are also taken into consideration such as; medical emergencies, pregnancy, homelessness, or unemployment. You need to file an application for assistance, depending on your area you may be able to apply online, or you may have to visit your local Welfare Office.  Then you will be assigned a case worker. The case worker will gather all your information to determine the amount and type of benefits that you are eligible to receive.

If you must visit the office to file an application be sure to bring all necessary documents with you.  Most of the time you can meet with your case worker the same day, so it is beneficial to have everything you will need.  If you are unsure what paperwork is needed just call in advance for a list of documentation, or check the office's website.

Example of Income Guidelines for Food Stamp Eligibility

Household Size 
Maximum Gross Monthly Income 
Max. Monthly Income for house w/elderly or diabled member 
Each additional member add $499, or household with elderly or disabled member add $624 for each additional member

 Each benefit area has different income guidelines that will look similar to the above example.  These guidelines will help you to determine your eligibility.  You can receive the guidelines by contacting your local welfare office, the guidelines vary from state to state.


 WIC is a program that helps with the purchase of milk, formula, healthly cereals, fruits, and vegetables, etc. for pregnant women, infants, and children.  It will assist pregnant women and women who are nursing, and children from age birth - 5. 

Types of Assistance

Most states offer basic aid such as health care, food stamps, child care assistance,  cash assistance, unemployment, and housing assistance.  I will briefly explain each one.

  1. Medical Assistance - These programs offer different types of medical coverage which range from free to low cost.  The programs offered vary from state to state.  Most medical assistance programs will cover doctor visits, medical care, dental, vision, prescription drugs, and other services that your doctor thinks are necessary.  Any procedures that you can do without or not medically necessary, will not be covered. 
  2. Food Stamps- This program helps families to purchase their food without having to spend money from their income.  Food Stamps can only be used for the purchase of food items.  It also helps families eat nutritious foods that they may not have been able to afford otherwise.  The food stamps are usually placed on a card similar to a debit card and are placed on the card once each month.
  3. Cash Assistance (TANF)- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families provides cash benefits to families with very low income or no income at all.  The cash is supplies to help support children, elderly, or other dependents.  You must complete a job training and/or be actively looking for employment in most states to receive this type of assistance.
  4. Utility Assistance- Depending on your income you may qualify for assistance to help pay for utilities such as electric, water, gas, etc.  It depends on what is offered by your state, and depending on where you fall within the guidelines determines whether a portion or all of the utility will be paid for you.
  5. Housing Assistance- You may qualify for housing assistance which will help you afford a roof over your head.  You may qualify for rent free living, or you may need to pay a percentage of the cost of rent.  The rest is paid by the housing assistance benefit.  You can't just go out and pick where ever you wish to live, you will be given a list of properties that you can receive help with.  These properties may be referred to as Section 8 properties, meaning the landlord has a contract with the housing assistance program.
  6. Child Care Assistance - You can receive help with child care which is beneficial to working families or parents who are attending school.  The cost of child care can be almost as much as your weekly paycheck.  The amount you will receive depends on the amount you earn.  You may be able to receive free child care, or you may be required to pay a fraction of the cost.  You have the choice between day care centers, or private persons registered with the child care program. 
  7. Heating Assistance (Liheap) - Heating assistance offers you benefits during the winter months.  It will provide you with coal, oil, electric, etc. funds to keep your family warm.  Depending on your income determines the amount you can receive.  You can generally receive two payments from this program; one from the normal application, and one time in a crisis situation.  Crisis meaning you will run out of your heating source within 3 days and can not afford to purchase materials needed. 

Family on Welfare

Well my wife just returned from our local welfare office. She told me that we will qualify for food stamps, medical assistance, and heating assistance. What a relief! We will receive $400 a month for food, our children can have the medical care they need, and we will not have to freeze to death. I am glad she went to the welfare office.

2 years later....

I just got hired for a position that pays more than the job I lost two years ago. My wife is still at the same part-time job, and for the past two years I worked several part-time jobs. The assistance we received from the state helped us keep our heads above water. We were able to feed our children and ourselves, and through the long winters we stayed warm. I am on my way to the welfare office to update our information. We will no longer be qualified to receive the food stamps or heating assistance, but we will be covered for a time through the medical assistance until I am eligible for the companies health plan. We did not have an easy two years and it was anything but relaxing, but the fact of the matter is we received assistance and worked our butts off. So do we sound "lazy", because you can not survive on welfare alone, you do need some sort of income coming in or you are worse off than you were before getting assistance!!


Do Not Be Ashamed

 If you find yourself in need of public assistance/welfare, do not be ashamed.  The help is there for those who are in need of it.  You should just view assistance as a temporary crutch to help you through a rough patch of your financial situation.  You can and are expected to work while receiving assistance, so don't let someone call you lazy!!!  If they do just ignore them, you know how hard you are working and you have to take care of your family.  So in all reality someone else's opinion means CRAP!!!  By taking help that is offered to you will benefit you in the long run, it will not make you rich, but it will help you keep your head just above water, buying you time to get back on your feet!!


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    • obsexed profile image

      Katie Butler 

      15 months ago from Sensual, USA

      This is a wonderful article. It is humiliating to have to accept state assistance. But, sometimes we have no choice. Better to be humbled and survive, than be proud and homeless. :)

    • profile image

      Victoria Manton 

      3 years ago

      I was laid off from my job and i need assistance paying my bills

    • urstrulee profile image


      4 years ago from Midwest USA

      Awesome good for you, encouraging others and bravely telling of your experience! Brave!

    • kimztkz profile image

      Kim Thompson 

      4 years ago from Easy Street

      Don't be ashamed to ask for help once in a while. Life can mess you up sometimes. I have a metal bar in my leg, graphite in my arm, and bits of metal and ceramic in my mouth. Without welfare, I wouldn't be typing this today. I wish for everyone to get a helping hand when life knocks them down.

    • LucyLiu12 profile image

      Robin Young 

      6 years ago from Boise

      Very informative and comprehensive article! Voted Up and Useful. I especially liked the part about not being ashamed - that is hard to get a grasp on.

    • renegadetory profile image

      Carolyn Dahl 

      7 years ago from Ottawa, Ontario

      A fantastic Hub! Well done! I was once a single mother on Social Assistance and I know first hand how difficult it is. I'm so glad your Hub was chosen!

    • Ddraigcoch profile image


      7 years ago from UK

      Fantastic article. And a great ending to a bad time for you. I hope times change for all soon. x

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      RexWallace - Thank you for mentioning that, many people can benefit from the phone services that are offered to them.

    • profile image


      7 years ago from Arizona

      This is a great article. People who need help should get it but that is not always the case Some people do abuse it and they should be stopped so the system can do what it was designed to do Help people up

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      WannaB Writer - Thank you for commenting. My main purpose for this article was to both, help people locate assistance they may need, and also show others that a person is not "lazy or useless" just because assistance is needed. We are a family of six, my fiancé works for a nonprofit agency and I am a stay-at-home mom, our youngest child had major health issues which required me to stay home with him much longer than I did with the other children. If it wasn't for help with heating and also food stamps we would be cold and hungry. I am grateful for these programs along with countless other families. Not everyone is looking for the "easy way" of living...and not every person is a drug addict either. So I hope this can open the eyes of anyone who has one thought regarding the "lazy" people, because I can say that we are not a "lazy" family!!

      Thanks again for stopping by and also for letting me know my purpose showed through my writing!

    • WannaB Writer profile image

      Barbara Radisavljevic 

      7 years ago from Templeton, CA

      Congratulations on winning the contest. you did a great job of presenting this topic, and I hope it helps those who need the information and also helps those who don't to have more compassion for those who do.

    • KimberlyAnn26 profile image


      7 years ago

      Congrats on your win! You have some great information and tips.

    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Very Informative. Thank you for sharing the info.

    • Jan Fowler profile image

      Jan Fowler 

      7 years ago from Santa Clarita, California

      Congratulations on your win! This is a fantastic hub. Well thought out with lots of great information. Nice looking hub as well. Great job!

    • SweetiePie profile image


      7 years ago from Southern California, USA

      In this bad economy people should not feel bad about applying for public assistance. I believe we should stop financing foreign wars and focus on our own people. Just think of all the money we have wasted overseas getting involved in other countries affairs, which wins us few friends abroad. That money could have been better spent at home. That is why I never judge when I hear about the numbers of public assistance programs here.

    • profile image


      7 years ago


    • profile image


      7 years ago

      Great article. congrats on your win

    • Sinea Pies profile image

      Sinea Pies 

      7 years ago from Northeastern United States

      Great article. So well thought out and written. Congratulations on winning the contest!!!

    • maudiojazz profile image


      7 years ago from MS

      Here are some things you partially described and missed out entirely. I am still active in what I talk about.

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      chaz cecil - Thank you!!! After reading a lot of negative articles across the internet about welfare I decided to write one that was on a positive note. I wanted readers to be able to relate to the welfare recipient, that is why I chose to include a family that can take the place of anyone you may know. Thanks again for stopping by!!!

    • chaz cecil profile image

      chaz cecil 

      7 years ago

      Very informative without being degrading. I love the approach and the info. I try to not do profile read-abouts so I can keep from profiling the writers, but I can tell by the info you are a friendly person with respect for others! Well done writter!

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      I just want to thank everyone for stopping by and leaving such wonderful comments. It really means a lot to me!!!!

    • Ralph Deeds profile image

      Ralph Deeds 

      7 years ago from Birmingham, Michigan

      Well done!

    • albc profile image


      7 years ago

      congratulation, welfare assistance is not part of dictionary in my country, still we live quite well. in US, the govt and people are generous and welfare assistance is one aspect of good American culture..

    • john.jackson profile image


      7 years ago from London, England

      Great article! Congratulations on winning the Grand Prize

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 

      7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Congratulations on your win. There is a certain justice in this hub winning the cash.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      7 years ago from Sunny Florida

      Congratulations on your win and a well deserved win it is. This is an excellent, well-written hub with an important message. I learned a lot that I didn't know about the welfare system.

    • BRIAN SLATER profile image

      Brian Slater 

      7 years ago from England

      Congratulations - well deserved.

    • barryrutherford profile image

      Barry Rutherford 

      7 years ago from Queensland Australia

      Congratulations on your great hub. Hope it brings prosperity to you !

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      oceansnsunsets - Thanks again, I really appreciate your kind words.

      Patty Inglish, MS - Receiving assistance does indeed help in many ways as you have pointed out. A lot of people do not realize it is more than just free money, food, etc., it helps people to gain the knowledge and experiences that they need to help them succeed through the rest of their lives. Also, as you mentioned it helps to keep families together, and to me that is most important!!! Thank you for commenting.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile image

      Patty Inglish MS 

      7 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Congratulations on this informative Hub and its multiple wins!

      I worked 11 yrs with students that were single moms and single dads receiving public assistance and it was not easy for them in my state. Th ebenefits helped many to complete a GED or High School Diploma, attend additional trianing, and find good jobs. Some went on to collee and others started there own businesses. Some were caring grandparents with custody of grandchildren. Without the nemefits, the kids would have ended in the foster care system. Not everyone succeeded in the sytem, but many did.

      Rated Up and useful. See you around HubPages.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image


      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Hi Jill, I wanted to stop by again, to say congratulations on being the Grand Prize winner for the contest! I think that is awesome! :) Way to go!

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      naturegirl7 - Thank you for commenting. I wanted to let others know what assistance is available. And also to never be ashamed if you find yourself in need of assistance.

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Adrienne.Miss - Thank you! It was tough to write, but I am glad I gave it a try!!!

    • naturegirl7 profile image

      Yvonne L. B. 

      7 years ago from South Louisiana

      Congratulations. I'm sure that you will reach many families that need this information.

    • Adrienne.Miss profile image


      7 years ago from New York State

      Congrats on winning the contest!! Great, informative hub about serious issues :)

    • shazwellyn profile image


      7 years ago from Great Britain

      Great stuff and congrats on winning best hub!

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      K9 - Thank you very much...I think the fact that I have been on both sides of it really help me to write it this way. I know how if feels to receive assistance, and I know what others think of those who receive assistance. It is not always positive, so I thought by writing about a family that could represent just about anyone , it would help others to understand.

    • K9keystrokes profile image

      India Arnold 

      7 years ago from Northern, California

      Real tough topic you have chosen here Jill. This is one of the best presented hubs on a sensative subject I have read. Your a master at unconditional acceptance and your information is priceless. Congrats on your staff pick!


    • Magdelene profile image


      7 years ago from Okotoks

      Very well told, helpful, compassionate and non judgmental.

      Best wishes to you.

    • stephhicks68 profile image

      Stephanie Hicks 

      7 years ago from Bend, Oregon

      Great hub!! Congratulations on being a finalist. This is so helpful for people in need and with the economy the way it is....

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      oceansnsunset - Thank you, I know there are many people who need help and are unsure where to go, or even ashamed to receive help....I just hope it offers assistance to those who are in need.

    • oceansnsunsets profile image


      7 years ago from The Midwest, USA

      Thanks for sharing this information, and I think its good for people that really need it, to be able to get the help. I am sure your hub will help people. Congratulations on your win as well, in the financial contest!

    • chspublish profile image


      7 years ago from Ireland

      Very clear and well outlined passages of information. I find it interesting because I don't live in the US and I can make comparisons with our system here.

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Sweetsusieg - Thanks so much for commenting. I agree that going to school is more important, especially now a days. If someone is trying to better themselves they should not be penalized...going to school would help to obtain a higher paying position, then that person may not need the assistance near as long compared to working minimum wage and trying to raise a child. The system was changed to make it harder to abuse the system, but it has also made it difficult for people who are extremely in need to obtain the assistance.

      I guess in all there needs to be a middle ground somewhere. I am sure over time the government will figure it out.

    • Sweetsusieg profile image


      7 years ago from Michigan

      Very nice job Jill! Yes, Welfare is there for those who need it! You've presented it in a terrific way...

      In our State things have changed drastically, now the hoops you have to jump through are higher and smaller than ever. For a single mother who is going to school, it doesn't count on the 40 hour per week program called Work First... In order to meet the eligibility requirements you have to attend Work First, put in applications online and at locations that add up to 40 hours per week. No child care is provided, and school hours don't count. I think they've got it a little backwards here in Michigan.... One would think going to school would count for something!!

      It's getting rough all over so I can sort of understand the high restrictions being put on the system.

      Great article, and lots of Great information!! No one should EVER be ashamed to ask for help!

    • Purple Perl profile image

      Purple Perl 

      7 years ago from Bangalore,India

      Congrats,and thanks for the info.

    • Michael Jay profile image

      Michael Jay 

      7 years ago

      Wonderful hub, Jill! Thank you very much for sharing this very informative hub. Congratulations on your win. :)

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Les Trois Chenes - Thanks again!! I did come across a link that provided information regarding assistance world wide. If I can find it again I will add it to my hub.

    • Les Trois Chenes profile image

      Les Trois Chenes 

      7 years ago from Videix, Limousin, South West France

      Guides like these are invaluable because it's so often hard for the average person to find out what they are entitled to. I could do with a version of this for France. Congrats on the win.

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      sagebrush_mama - Thank you.. I wanted to make others aware of the different types of assistance programs that are offered.

    • sagebrush_mama profile image


      7 years ago from The Shadow of Death Valley...Snow Covered Mountain Views Abound!

      Outstanding hub...very helpful analysis of the different types of assistance.

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      akirchner - Thanks, congrats to you also on your wins!!!!

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      Simone Smith - Thank you very much! I put a lot of thought into this one, I just wanted to cover it in a positive manner. Also, I wanted it to hit close to home with the readers with what could happen to any of us unexpectedly.

    • akirchner profile image

      Audrey Kirchner 

      7 years ago from Washington

      Very nicely presented and great info! Congrats on the win!!

    • Simone Smith profile image

      Simone Haruko Smith 

      7 years ago from San Francisco

      This is a great Hub - I appreciate how you've mixed personal stories with classifications and numbers. Welfare is a tough issue to address, and you've done it very well!

    • JillKostow profile imageAUTHOR

      Jill Kostowskie 

      7 years ago from Pennsylvania

      lilibees - Thanks for commenting. You are right with saying no one is immune to having to get help. I know a lot of people do not have a good opinion on welfare, but it is better to get help than to struggle and not eat!!!

    • lilibees profile image


      7 years ago

      Great Info. In this tough economy no one is immune to having to get a little help!


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