Short-Term Disability: Federal and State Assistance Programs

After you have considered using, or have used, personal financial resources you may want to look into whether or not you, or your loved one, are eligible for additional sources of federal or state assistance programs. 

Social Security Disability Income (SSDI) 

SSDI provides monthly cash benefits to people who have previously worked jobs that have paid into Social Security and have a medical condition that meets the Social Security Administration’s definition of disability.  If approved, SSDI provides monthly cash benefits to people who are unable to work for a year or longer due to a disability, or until they are able to work again on a regular basis.   Click here for more information on SSDI, how it works, what you need to do in order to qualify and what it may pay out. 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) 

Supplemental Security Income (SSI) is a federal program that provides cash benefits to help aged, blind and disabled people who have little or not income meet their basic needs for food, clothing and shelter.  Some states also provide additional state SSI payments for qualifying individuals.  There are both financial and disability requirements that you will need to meet in order to quality for SSI.  For example, how much money you currently have and the extent of the “functional limitations” imposed on you by the disability are taken into consideration when you apply for SSI funds.  Click here to learn more about SSI and determine if you are eligible for SSI benefits.  To see if you qualify for SSI funding you can visit the Social Security Administration’s website or make an appointment at the nearest SSA office, or call the SSA toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 Monday through Friday between 7:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. (Eastern Time).  If you are deaf or hard of hearing you can contact the SSA on their toll-free TTY line at 1-800-325-0778.  Have your Social Security number on hand when you call. 

State Disability Insurance 

Many states offer some type of state disability insurance program or fund.  Benefits and eligibility to receive funds under the programs vary widely.  People meeting the criteria for funds may receive temporary financial assistance in the form of a weekly, or monthly, payout.  The payout is a percentage of a participant’s normal income, up to a maximum benefit, for a set period of time.  To learn about your state’s disability insurance program look under the Health & Human Services in the Government section of your phone book, call your Governor’s office (also in the Government section of your phone book) or look up your state’s website online.  If you’re unsure of your state’s website it is most often your state initials followed by “.gov”.  So, for example, California would be www.ca.gov.  Montana would be www.mt.gov.

Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) 

The Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) program provides cash payments, work opportunities and other services to eligible families with children.  The eligibility rules vary by state, but the most common and determining rules to receive assistance are:

  • Most adults are required to go to work after receiving TANF benefits for two years.  There are “good cause” exceptions, such as a mother caring for a child with a disability, but these vary by state. 
  • Your family is limited to receiving TANF benefits for five years maximum during your entire life.  There are “hardship” exceptions, such as certain states that extend benefits to families raising children with disabilities. 
  • Teen parents must live with an adult and must either attend school or a vocational training program to receive benefits.
  • Eligible applicants must sign an agreement that lets the state keep any child support that you may collect while also receiving TANF.  Your local child support enforcement agency is required to help you collect child support payments while you are receiving TANF benefits.

You can apply for TANF benefits at your local welfare office.  You can locate the contact information and address for your local welfare office through your state’s department of social services or human services.

Food Stamps 

The “Food Stamp” program provides monthly coupons to help low-income families buy food.  Eligibility is based on your household income and your resources (i.e. financial savings).  Generally you must have very limited resources (meaning no more than $2,000 in savings), although the limit is higher if one or more household members are 60 or older.  You can apply for food stamps through your State or local welfare or nearest Social Security Administration office.  Learn more about how to apply for Food Stamps. 

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

The WIC program provides free food, infant formula, nutrition counseling and health care provider referrals to eligible women and children.  In order to qualify you must be pregnant or have a newborn, demonstrate that you are at “nutritional risk” and that you have little income (income requirements varies by state).  Eligible children can get WIC from birth through age 5.  People receiving Food Stamps, Medicaid or TANF benefits can get WIC assistance.  You can apply for WIC assistance through a local nonprofit agency that runs the WIC program or by contacting your state or local human services or welfare department.  Find contact information and toll-free phone numbers for WIC assistance in your state. 

School Breakfast & Lunch Programs 

All participating public schools offer free or reduced-price breakfast and lunch to eligible school children.  Financial rules to participate in the program are based on household income and size.  Learn more about how to apply for the School Breakfast Program.