Facing the Future
If your family is in need of help, be aware that there are a number of government and charitable organizations available. Many resources exist at the state and local level, but here are a few that have national reach:
LIHEAP, or Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, helps low-income households, primarily in meeting their immediate home energy needs. For information about applying, contact your state's LIHEAP agency. For state-by-state contact information, visit www.acf.hhs.gov/programs/ocs/liheap/grantees/states.html or call 202-401-9351.
UtilityBillAssistance.com can help you find a multitude of ways to reduce utility expenses. Many utility companies offer aid, and you can find programs that will provide free energy-efficient products and upgrades.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) is the new name for the federal Food Stamp Program, which helps low-income families buy the food they need. You apply for benefits by completing a state application form. Benefits are provided on an electronic card that is used like an ATM card and accepted at most grocery stores. To apply, contact your state agency (click here for state-by-state contact information) or call 1-800-221-5689.
Feeding America is one of the nation's leading hunger-relief charities. Through a nationwide network of more than 200 food banks, it provides food assistance to more than 25 million low-income people facing hunger in all 50 states. The Feeding America network secures and distributes more than 2 billion pounds of donated food and grocery products annually. For help locating emergency food assistance services in your community, visit feedingamerica.org or call 1-800-771-2303.
Making Home Affordable is a program recently introduced by the Obama administration to try to ease the housing crisis. Part of the larger "Financial Stability Plan" this program has been set up to help 7 to 9 million people lower their home mortgage payments with a fixed 4.5% interest plan. Go to makinghomeaffordable.gov to see if you quality. If so, you'll be prompted to call your mortgage lender to ask about the Home Affordable Refinance application process.
Hope Now is another option if you don't want to deal directly with your mortgage company. Contact them via their website or call the Homeowner's Hope Hotline at 1-888-995-HOPE. The hotline is staffed by HUD-approved credit counselors who can guide you through possible options.
HSH Associates Financial Publishers is the nation's largest publisher of mortgage and consumer loan information. Their website is an excellent source for current and accurate loan information, including mortgage calculation tools and more. Because it is an independent source of information that doesn't make or broker mortgages, it can be a valuable resource.
How You Can Help
If your family is in a position to help others, consider volunteering. Some options include:
United Way is a national network of 1300 organizations. Local United Ways work toward community change by addressing the underlying causes of significant local issues. Common focus areas include helping children and youth achieve their potential, promoting financial stability and independence, and improving people's health. Whether it's reading to children, or leading financial literacy classes for hard-working families, or delivering meals to homebound seniors, there are hundreds of ways to volunteer available every day. To find opportunities in your area, click here or call 703-836-7112.
Volunteer Solutions is a volunteer matching application that helps volunteer centers connect individuals to volunteer opportunities in their community. Volunteer Solutions helps volunteers, nonprofit agencies, corporations, event organizers, and volunteer centers get connected. For more information, click here.
Catholic Charities agencies provide a wide range of services to help people meet their needs-mortgage and rent, utilities, food, clothing, medical supplies and prescription drugs, shelter, transportation, community information and referrals, and more. To find your local agency, which you can contact for information on getting help or on local programs and services and volunteer opportunities, click here and click on "Get Help" on the Catholic Charities page or call the national office at 703-549-1390.
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