Millions of Americans are struggling amid the fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic, and single parents are finding the new normal particularly challenging. For instance, when the household budget relies upon a single income to get by and that income disappears amid pandemic-related job loss or dwindles due to reduced hours, making ends meet can become impossible. Managing childcare as a single parent while schools are shuttered is another daily challenge, not to mention handling homeschooling without another adult to pitch in. And with social distancing the norm for 2020, there's also a lack of playdates and social outlets for kids, meaning many single parents have become the primary source of entertainment for their children.
Under normal times, any one of these issues might be daunting. Combine them all at once, and you have a much more harried existence. The reality is that the social safety nets that long helped to keep single-parent households afloat have been largely removed. Here are some resources that may be able to help such families during these trying times. Not all were specifically created with single parents in mind, but their resources may help with some of the key issues single parents face.
Financial Help for Single Mothers
A comprehensive compendium of programs and organizations that offer support to single mothers, the Financial Help for Single Mothers website covers everything from national rental assistance options to state by state specific support programs that provide grants and financial assistance. The site is a great first stop on a search for help.
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
Though not single-parent specific, many single parents point to this program as one that can be very helpful. Temporary Assistance for Needy Families provides, as its name indicates, temporary financial help. The funds are available to those who have one or more dependent children under the age of 19. Pregnant women are also eligible. Though it's a federal program, states receive grant funds to provide these benefits on the local level, so you must find your state-specific program. To qualify, participants must have very low income and be under-employed or unemployed.
Paying rent or housing costs on your own can be a challenge as a single mom, and CoAbode was designed to help. A national organization, CoAbode runs a home-sharing program that connects single mothers (whose interests and parenting philosophies are compatible) with the goal of sharing a home and raising their children together. Through the program, participants' household expenses can be reduced by an average of 40 percent, according to the organization. In addition to saving money each month, the program is designed to provide participants with companionship, support and to ease the loneliness often associated with being a single parent.
Children's Health Insurance Program
If you're a single parent suddenly without health insurance coverage, the Children's Health Insurance Program (CHIP) may be worth investigating. CHIP provides low-cost health coverage to children in families that earn too much money to obtain Medicaid. And in some states, the program also covers women who are pregnant. Qualification rules vary by state, but the important point to note is that you can apply any time of year. If your children qualify, that means you don't have to buy an insurance plan yourself to cover them. More information can be found here.
Low-Income Energy Assistance Program
Another federal program, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) was designed to provide help paying energy bills, which can also be helpful for single parents struggling to make ends meet. The program is open to low-income households that spend a high proportion of household income on heating or air conditioning costs, but you must check with your state to determine specific requirements and offerings as the program is locally administered on a state-by-state basis. In California, for instance, the program includes such options as one-time financial assistance to help pay off an eligible household's utility bill, and energy crisis interventions for households facing energy service interruption. InNew Jersey, the program provides similar assistance.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
Established in 1974, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) supports low-income pregnant women, postpartum women, breastfeeding women, infants, and children up to age five who are at nutritional risk. WIC provides nutritious foods to supplement diets, education about healthy eating, and health care referrals to those who qualify. There are income, residency, and other parameters used to determine eligibility. In order to enroll you must contact the WIC state or local agency serving your area and schedule an appointment.
Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)
Child Care can be one of the most challenging issues for single parents. The Child Care Assistance Program may be able to help. Available in many cities and states, CCAP is typically administered by a local department of health or human services. Program eligibility requirements vary by location but generally require having young children who need care while a parent works. There are also income limits. In Rhode Island, the program promises to subsidize the cost of childcare for children who are U.S. citizens or legal residents and under age 13. In Colorado, CCAP provides child care assistance to those who are working, searching for employment, or are in training and need child care services. Search CCAP and your state name to locate local program offerings.
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) can be another lifeline for single parents whose household income has suddenly been slashed. The program provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of low-income families. You must apply for this program on a state level, where more information is also available about eligibility criteria, including income limits.
Single Parents Alliance of America
Sometimes single parents just need to talk to someone who can relate. The Single Parents Alliance of America website offers that sort of connection. It was designed to empower single parent families by offering them access to a vast network of other single parents. The site says it has helped more than 3.8 million single parent families so far, providing support and resources. Registration is free. Once a member, parents are able to join groups, attend events, and gain access to various programs geared toward single parents. All resources are provided for free as well.
Single Parent Support Network
One last resource website for those beginning their search for help, the Single Parent Support Network says it was designed to encourage, inspire and empower its target audience. The downside is this site appears to currently be designed just for Oklahoma residents. But for those who live in the state, there's a resource page with downloadable information sheets outlining the support programs available in the areas of infant and pregnancy; education, food, housing, and health and safety. And perhaps the organization can point single parents in other states to local assistance or programs that may be helpful.