Public Benefits for Families

Public Benefits for Families

There are many public benefits available to families in need. This lists some of the most common benefits and how to access them.

Food Stamps

A family can apply for food stamps at their local Department of Social Services (DSS) where the family resides.  They receive benefits in the form of coupon allotments or an electronic benefits card (EBT) that they can use for food.  Eligibility is based on income, resources, work requirements (depending on the applicant's age and other criteria). The amount of food stamps provided varies depending on household income and size. The EBT card is replacing paper coupons through the use of a card similar to a bankcard.

If a family is denied benefits on a new application or benefits from an on-going application are suspended, reduced, or terminated, the applicant has appeal rights with specific deadlines. The appeal deadline for a new application is 90 days from the date of mailing on the agency notice. The appeal deadline for an on-going application is also 90 days from the date of mailing on the agency notice, but if the individual appeals within 10 days from the date of mailing on the agency notice, they will receive uninterrupted benefits until an appeal hearing decision. An individual can appeal by calling the agency or completing an appeal form (available at DSS).

TANF (Temporary Assistance to Families)

TANF provides a monthly cash assistance check based on income, resources, work, paternity requirements, and other criteria. The amount of TANF varies depending on household size and on the county where the family resides. The Virginia Initiative for Employment not Welfare (VIEW) is part of the work component of TANF. Appeal deadline is 30 days from the date of mailing on agency notice for new and on-going applications with a 10-day deadline for uninterrupted benefits for on-going applications.

General Relief (G.R.)

General relief can provide a monthly cash assistance check to no check but a payment of up to $100 monthly in medical bills. Eligibility is based on income, resources, and a completed medical form which states that the applicant cannot work for at least 30 days. The individual receives general relief funds for as long as a physician states the individual is disabled and unable to work. Application is made at the local DSS office where the individual resides. Appeal deadlines are the same as for TANF. Appeals must be in writing; forms are available at DSS. These funds are not available in all counties.

Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

Supplemental security income provides a monthly cash assistance with the maximum amount of $564 for an individual and $846 for a couple. Eligibility is based primarily on income, resources, and the requirement that the individual is determined to be disabled for at least one year. Applications are available at the Social Security Administration office.  ppeal deadline for a new application is 60 days and for on-going applications it is also 60 days with the 10-day appeal deadline for continuing benefits pending an appeal hearing decision. Appeals must be in writing and forms are available at the Social Security Administration offices.

Overpayment notices can be appealed, but can have deadlines of 10-60 days, and there are specific deadlines for appealing with continuing benefits in the interim.

Fuel Assistance

Fuel assistance can provide a vendor or direct payment for heating assistance, including electricity, gas, oil, wood, etc. Eligibility is based primarily on income. Applications are available at the local DSS office from November 1- March 15 unless funds are depleted earlier. Appeal deadline is 30 days from date of notice. Appeal forms are available at the local DSS.

Unemployment Insurance

An individual may be eligible for unemployment benefits if they have earned enough wages in a covered employment during a specified period and if the job separation was either a voluntary quit with good cause or termination not based on misconduct in connection with work. The individual is also required to participate in a weekly job search and be able, available and willing to work.

Twenty-six weeks is the maximum time limit a claimant can receive benefits and the maximum weekly amount is $368. If a client becomes employed part-time and the weekly wages are less than the $368 weekly unemployment insurance payments, he will still receive unemployment insurance but it will be reduced due to the income. If denied, there is a 30-day appeal deadline. Appeals can be made in person at the local Virginia Employment Commission or in writing to the Richmond Virginia Employment Commission office.

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI)

To receive Social Security disability income, an individual must be disabled for at least one year. There is no resource limit, but income is considered if an individual earns over a certain amount. The amount of the monthly check can vary as it is based on the individual's work earnings over a certain base period of time. Applications and appeals can be made through the local social security administration office.

Subsidized Housing (Section 8)

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provides rental housing for eligible low income families. Eligibility is based on income, other characteristics (elderly, disabled, family), and citizenship. Income limits vary by community. Families must apply by completing a written application. For eligible families, rent is capped at 30% of monthly adjusted gross income. In addition to providing public housing, HUD also operates several voucher programs, providing eligible families with housing choice vouchers to lease privately-owned rental housing.

Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Supplemental Nutrition Program

WIC is a federal program administered by the USDA which provides nutritious foods and nutritional counseling to low-income pregnant, postpartum and breastfeeding women, and infants and children up to age 5. Eligible families receive checks or vouchers to purchase specific foods each month to supplement their diets, including iron-fortified infant formula and infant cereal, iron-fortified adult cereal, vitamin C-rich fruit or vegetable juice, eggs, milk, cheese, peanut butter, dried beans/peas, tuna fish and carrots.