Help with Bills

Learn about government programs to help pay bills and other expenses.

Get Help Paying for Telephone Service

What help is available?

The Lifeline program from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) helps low-income individuals and families get discounted landline or cell (wireless) phone service. The program is run by the Universal Service Administrative Company (USAC)

Am I eligible?

You may qualify for this program if you or your family:

  • Have income at 135% or less than the federal poverty guidelines

  • Participate in Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps or SNAP), Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8) or Head Start (if you meet income eligibility criteria)

  • Live on tribal land and qualify for certain tribal programs

  • Receive a federal veterans pension

How do I apply?

Use the USAC map to find a company in your area that offers Lifeline. You must apply through a local participating company.

  • Ask the company for a Lifeline application. They will need the following information from you:
    • First and last name

    • Address

    • Date of birth

    • Last 4 digits of your Social Security number (or tribal identification number)

  • You will also need to show at least one of these items:
    • Unexpired ID such as a driver's license
    • Prior year's tax return
    • Social Security card
    • You may be asked for other documents to prove your identity.
  • You will need to prove your eligibility by:
    • Showing a pay stub or tax return to prove that your income is at or below 135% of the federal poverty guidelines
    • Showing a card or award letter to prove that you or your family participate in Medicaid, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance (food stamps or SNAP), Supplemental Security Income, Federal Public Housing Assistance (Section 8) or other qualifying programs

How do I complain/who do I contact for extra help?

Your local company is responsible for helping you apply for Lifeline and resolving any issues with your Lifeline service. To call them, look up your company's contact information.

If you need more help or your company isn’t responding, contact USAC.

USAC can

  • Find companies that offer Lifeline-supported service

  • Look up which company you are using

  • Help if your company refuses to help you or is unresponsive

  • Answer questions about how the program works

USAC cannot help you apply for Lifeline, buy more minutes, sort out your bill, replace lost or broken handsets, or get specific information about your service plan.

Is there anything else I need to know?

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Get Help with Your Home Energy Bill

What help is available?

The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) may be able to help with:

  • Assistance to pay your heating or cooling bills

  • Emergency services in cases of energy crisis, such as utility shutoffs

  • Low-cost home improvements, known as weatherization, that make your home more energy efficient and lower your utility bills.

LIHEAP funds may not be used to pay water and sewer bills.

Am I eligible?

This chart shows the average eligibility requirements. Actual requirements may vary by state, city or region. Each local LIHEAP office sets up its own eligibility requirements.

  • A person or family participating in certain other benefit programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF or welfare), or certain needs-tested veterans benefits may be automatically eligible.

  • Being qualified for LIHEAP does not guarantee that you will receive help. Whether or not you receive help depends on how much LIHEAP funding is available for the year.

  • On average, about 20% of households that are qualified for LIHEAP receive benefits. When LIHEAP funds run out for the year, no more benefits can be given until Congress makes more funds available.

How do I apply?

Each state has different rules about when you can apply, how you apply, and the criteria you have to meet to get help.

  • Contact your local LIHEAP office for application details.

  • Your state’s application may be online. Check the LIHEAP Clearinghouse for a list of state applications available to print out, read, or submit online.

How do I complain/who do I contact for extra help?

Is there anything else I need to know?

If your income is too high to qualify for LIHEAP but you need help paying for your energy bills, your local social services agency or a nonprofit organization may have funds to help. You can also contact your gas, oil, or electric company about budget billing programs or new payment options.

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Help with Medical Bills

Medicaid and CHIP (Health Care for Children)

What help is available?

Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) provides help with paying medical costs for children of families who cannot afford health insurance or don't get it through their work. Learn more about eligibility and how to sign up for Medicaid and CHIP

Social Security and Medicare

What help is available?

Local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices help those on Social Security and Medicare find help. People over 65, people with disabilities under 65, and people with end-stage kidney disease are eligible for Medicare. Learn more about how to apply for Medicare

Medicaid for Adults

What help is available?

You may qualify for Medicaid, a joint federal and state program that helps with medical costs for some people with limited income from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS).

Am I eligible?

Each state has different rules about eligibility and applying for Medicaid for adults. See if you qualify with this calculator.

How do I apply?

Each state has different application requirements for Medicaid for adults.  Call your state Medicaid program to see if you qualify and to learn how to apply.

Health Insurance Through the Health Insurance Marketplace

What help is available?

HealthCare.gov helps you find insurance options, compare care, learn about preventive services, and more. If your employer does not offer insurance, you are self-employed, or you prefer to purchase your own insurance, you and your family can get health, dental, and vision insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace.

Am I eligible?

Everyone is eligible for health insurance through the Marketplace. You may also qualify for subsidies to help pay your premiums. 2018 Open Enrollment runs from November 1, 2017 to December 15, 2017. If you’ve experienced certain life changes, like loss of a job or childbirth, you may be eligible to make changes to your health insurance in a Special Enrollment Period.

How do I apply?

How you apply for a plan in the Health Insurance Marketplace depends on what plan you choose. Learn more about applying.

How do I complain/where do I call for extra help?

Visit the Health Insurance Marketplace's top questions section for additional help with finding or applying for health care. To file a complaint, call 1-800-318-2596 (TTY: 1-855-889-4325).

Is there anything else I need to know?

If you need more help getting or paying for medical care, try these resources:

 

If you are uninsured or underinsured and must seek emergency medical treatment:

Under the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act (EMTALA), you're guaranteed access to an emergency medical evaluation, even if you can't pay. The act requires hospitals that receive Medicare funding and that provide emergency services to evaluate anyone who comes to their emergency room and requests treatment. If the evaluation confirms that you have an emergency medical condition, including active labor, they are then required to provide stabilizing treatment for you regardless of your ability to pay.

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Help with Prescription Drug Costs

What help is available?

Am I eligible?

The requirements for each program vary by state. Your state human services agency or your local health center will determine your eligibility.

How do I apply?

Your state human services agency or local health center will be able to help you with the application process. Applications and requirements vary in states and cities.

How do I complain/where do I call for extra help?

If you need additional help finding the right program for you, or you want to make a complaint about a program, contact RXAssist.

Is there anything else I need to know?

  • Contact the pharmaceutical companies that make your prescription drugs or devices, and ask for any low-cost options, samples, or discounts,

  • Learn more about finding generic drugs to lower your costs.

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Welfare or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), also known as welfare, is designed to help families recover from temporary difficulties and move forward.

What help is available?

Recipients may qualify for help with food, housing, home energy, child care, job training, and more.

Each state TANF program is operated differently, and has a different name.

Some tribal groups operate their own TANF programs.

Am I eligible?  

  • Each state or tribal territory decides the specific eligibility criteria for financial assistance or other benefits and services.
  • You must be a resident of the state where you are applying.

How do I apply?

  • To sign-up for temporary benefits, you can apply at your local or county social services agency. Call your state TANF office for your local contact information.

How do I report TANF benefit fraud?

If you suspect possible welfare fraud, contact your local TANF office or contact the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Inspector General’s Fraud Hotline.

What else do I need to know?

If you receive TANF, you may be eligible to receive other government benefits.

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Last Updated: October 10, 2017

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