Civic Resources

Here’s How To Get Financial Assistance For Food, Utilities, Car Seats, And Other Emergencies

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If you are one of the many people living in the U.S. struggling with rent and utility costs, financial assistance is available. Whether you were impacted financially by COVID-19 or are dealing with a sudden emergency, help is not just available through the government, but also through some religious organizations, and non-profit agencies. Here’s what you need to know:

Every state in the US has a 2-1-1 line where you can call in to speak with someone and get information about what resources are available in your city. This is similar to 9-1-1 for emergencies. Many states you can speak to someone in Spanish and can help you figure out which agency can really help you- with a gas card, a bus ticket, groceries, etc.  

Before you get behind on your utility bill, you should know that help is available through your utility company directly. To prevent getting your electricity turned off, contact your utility company and they will work with you to come up with a payment plan that is right for you. 

Nearly every city in the United States has food pantries to provide free food for those in need. If your family needs some basic items to cook at home you can find a local site by using this super helpful Spanish search tool. Just type your zip code and you will find details and locations of a food pantry near you.

Another great resource is for expecting families, free car seats for infants! Many police stations have a certified trainer to assist new parents to learn how to install and use their carseat and some also give away new car seats for families who are low-income. Another great option is to speak with you OBGYN or to the hospital where you will deliver your baby. They have case workers on site who can help you find a free carseat and sometimes are able to help you find one. 

If you are a U.S. citizen or a lawful permanent resident, you may qualify for the government’s Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and receive cash to pay your utility bill.  

Here are some other programs that offer financial assistance for utilities and other emergencies:

The Heating System Repair and Replacement Program (HEARTWAP)

Helps with: repairing or replacing heating and cooling systems and water heaters


  • Income cannot exceed 60% of the Estimated State Median Income
  • Must be a homeowner, not a landlord
  • Repairs or replacements of heating systems are done in winter and must be an emergency 

How to apply: contact the Fuel Assistance agency in your city 

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

Helps with: necessary home repairs for weatherproofing


  • Households at or below 200% of the poverty income guidelines
  • Prioritizes people over the age of 60, families with one or more members with a disability, and families with children or high energy users
  • Repairs must make the home more energy-efficient and reduce energy bills

How to apply: click here for steps

Emergency Assistance for Adults (EAA)

Helps with: emergencies such as help with rent, electric and other utilities, housing, moving expenses


  • Varies by state, but most often an individual or family member will have to qualify for SSI

How to apply: search “emergency assistance for adults” online and browse for information from your state

Emergency Assistance to Families (EAF)

Helps with: financial, physical, or family emergencies such as with rent, childcare, heating fuel, evictions, utilities, and safe housing for domestic violence


  • Presence of a minor child(ren)
  • Income must be at or below 200% of the federal poverty level for household size
  • Assistance is necessary to avoid destitution of the child

How to apply: search “emergency assistance to families” online and browse for information from your state. In many states  you can apply at your county job assistance center 

Energy Crisis Interventions Programs (name varies from state to state)

Helps with: preventing utility disconnections and reconnection of services

Qualifications vary from state to state but are usually:

  • Have a current, pre-approved HEAP application
  • Have exhausted all payment options with your electric company

How to apply: search “Energy Crisis Interventions Programs + your state” online and browse for information from your state

Charities like Modest Needs and Salvation Army offer many of their own assistance programs that are not limited to utility help and housing. 

Here are a few more resources: 

Medical Debt Assistance

Free Internet and Smartphone Benefit

10 Catholic Charities Assistance Programs

Government Grants for Low-Income Families

Thalia Carrillo is a writer based in Austin, TX. She moved from her hometown of El Paso, TX to pursue a journalism degree at The University of Texas at Austin. She enjoys covering politics and pop culture and has a passion for social justice, digital storytelling, plants, and specialty coffee!