Emergency Financial Help for Single Mothers: A Resource Guide

The information in this article is current as of 11/8/21.

Almost a quarter of U.S. children live in single-parent households, and the majority of these households are headed by women. If you are a single mother, you may find it challenging to make ends meet in some circumstances. If you wonder about the availability of emergency financial help for single mothers, then this article will provide helpful information. 

There are several different resources for single mothers who need emergency financial help. From long-term programs like WIC and SNAP to more local programs such as food banks, housing, and rent assistance, help to pay utilities, and even transportation subsidies, financial help is out there if you know where to look. 

Read on to learn more about what options are available to you. 

Help with Utility Bills

Utilities can be a significant expense, taking up a large portion of your monthly expenses, especially if you live in an area with extreme weather. For example, in the south, you may face high electricity bills in the summertime, as you try to cool your home. In northern states, your gas bill may be high during the winter months as you heat your home.  

Electricity & Heating Bills

One of the most significant sources of financial assistance for energy bills is the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), funded by the federal government through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Each state administers LIHEAP funds, so you will need to determine what community agency in your state handles the program using this list.

LIHEAP provides assistance for low income people, including single mothers, to pay their energy bills. LIHEAP also provides resources for weatherization of homes to help offset the cost of energy usage, as well as crisis programs for times when residents are facing shut-offs or have already had their utilities turned off. 

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) assists low-income families in reducing energy bills by making their homes more energy-efficient. Priority is often given to the elderly and those families with children.  

Water Bills 

There are different options for assistance with your water bill, depending on where you live. At the federal level, the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP), part of the LIHEAP programs, provides grants to local community agencies that distribute them to their residents. 

American Water is a large company providing water services in several states, including California, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kentucky, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, West Virginia, and Virginia.

American Water operates an H2O Help to Others program that assists those who cannot pay their bill. In addition, there is a grant option, which allows customers to get a grant of up to $500 to pay indoor water bills or a service charge discount, which can reduce or remove the fixed monthly service charger that all customers must pay. 

Other water bill assistance programs are provided by local branches of large agencies, such as the United Way, Catholic Charities, and the Salvation Army. In addition, many local churches and community organizations may also provide this type of assistance, so check your local area for specific programs.

Help with Housing 

The primary source of housing assistance is the federally funded Housing Choice Voucher Program, commonly known as Section 8. This program is funded by the federal government but administered by local housing authorities. If you qualify for a voucher, you may use it towards renting a home of your choice, as long as it meets specific requirements. 

Use our guide to find affordable housing that accepts your voucher. 

To qualify for the Housing Choice Voucher Program, you must apply and submit your total annual gross income and family size. In general, your income cannot exceed 50% of the median income for the county or metropolitan area where you live. This means that the income limits will vary from city to city based on the median income for that area. 

If you are eligible and your application is approved, you will be placed on a waiting list in most cases until a spot opens up in the voucher program. Once your name is selected from the waiting list, you will receive a voucher to use to pay rent at the home of your choice. The rent must be considered reasonable, and the home must meet specific safety requirements.  

Food Assistance

There are many different programs to assist with food for you and your family. Like many of the programs mentioned above, these programs are typically funded by the federal government and administered by each state. 


Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, is meant to provide supplemental food assistance, healthcare referrals, and nutrition education to low-income women who are pregnant, breastfeeding, and/or post-partum and to infants and children up to 5 years of age, if they are found to be at nutritional risk. 

The WIC program is often used as a supplement to the SNAP program, which is also detailed below. WIC provides a benefit for certain foods, including: 

  • Infant cereal 
  • Infant formula
  • Iron-fortified adult cereal
  • Fruit or vegetable juice rich in vitamin C
  • Eggs
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Peanut butter
  • Dried and canned beans and peas
  • Canned fish
  • Soy-based beverages (such as milk or infant formula)
  • Tofu
  • Fruits and vegetables
  • Baby food
  • Whole-wheat bread
  • Whole-gran foods, such as pasta 

WIC is distributed to eligible women and children through an electronic card, called an electronic benefit transfer (EBT), that can be used on eligible items at stores that participate in WIC. Most grocery stores participate, so if you are approved you will probably be able to use this benefit anywhere you do your grocery shopping.


The SNAP program is what some people still know as food stamps. It stands for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and provides food subsidies to low-income individuals and families. Your monthly benefit is determined based on your family size, so if you have children under 18 in your household, they will be considered in your family size and will receive benefits. 

SNAP can be used for many grocery items for your household but does not cover alcohol, tobacco, foods sold hot at the time of purchase, vitamins, supplements, medications, and household items (like paper towels, cleaning supplies, etc.).  


Temporary Aid to Needy Families, or TANF, provides temporary financial support to families for things such as job training, childcare, and help to find a job. You are eligible for TANF if you meet the following requirements: 

  • Have a child that is 18 years of age or younger, or 
  • Are pregnant, or 
  • Are the head of your household and are under the age of 18 

Additional requirements are that you are unemployed or underemployed and have limited income. Each state administers its TANF funds and dictates the requirements. 

Food Banks and Other Local Agencies

Your local community also likely has a food bank that has food available for crises. In addition, many organizations, such as social service agencies and churches, also provide holiday baskets for low-income families at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Check out your local area to find specific food providers in your community. 

Childcare Assistance 

One of the most significant expenses that young mothers face is childcare. Finding a job can be difficult if you work to pay for childcare or can’t afford quality, safe care. 

Each state receives funds from the federal government to subsidize childcare programs. Based on your income, you may get a voucher to use at a childcare facility that accepts it. The requirements are different in each state. 

Head Start and Early Head Start programs provide young (preschool-aged) children with quality preschool. These programs provide for social, mental, and emotional development and prepare them for school. 

Many states, like Florida, also have voluntary pre-kindergarten programs funded by the state. These programs provide a state-funding pre-k program for all children, so they are prepared for kindergarten.  

Health Care Services 

Finally, there are also state and federal programs to pay for healthcare. For example, low-income families can apply for Medicaid, which provides health care services. If your family makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid, but you still cannot afford health insurance, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP, provides low-cost health insurance for children (and in some states, pregnant women). 

Miscellaneous Items

There are also quite a few programs available for miscellaneous items that you may need for babies and children, including diapers and wipes, cribs, car seats, toys, and other baby equipment.

Since so many of these assistance programs are local, it’s essential to learn more about your local area and what they may offer. Getting emergency financial assistance is probably much more of a possibility with a local agency. 

You can always search for “emergency assistance near me” or similar and review your local results. There are very likely support organizations, crisis centers, and/or religious organizations near you that can help.

A Helpful Guide to Emergency Financial Help for Single Mothers 

Emergency financial help for single mothers is available if you know where to look. Regular financial help such as SNAP, TANF, and other programs may take several weeks or months to access, but the results can be well worth the time investment necessary to apply. For immediate needs, look locally and don’t be afraid to ask for help. You can do this, and you are stronger than you know.

Save Money on Your Wireless Phone Service

If you qualify for SNAP benefits, you also qualify for Lifeline service. Lifeline is a federal benefit program that makes it possible for low-income consumers to receive access to free or heavily discounted communication services. Click here to find out more and apply for this valuable benefit.

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