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Quick Tips for Deciding Which Government Programs Can Help You Most

Residents of Texas have access to a wide variety of government programs, each of which offers specialized benefits. Having to decide which government benefits to apply for can be difficult, as certain programs do not accept beneficiaries if they are already members of another specific program. Conversely, some programs automatically accept applicants if they already receive certain other government benefits. Knowing the many options that are available and how you might be able to qualify for and benefit from specific programs will help you make the best decision for you and your family.

Texas-Benefits.org has compiled a list of simple and effective tips to consider in order to help you decide what government benefits to apply for. Review each of these sections to be sure you don’t miss any important opportunities that could help you meet your financial and basic needs. Whether you need help with housing, food or healthcare, there are opportunities
available if you meet the eligibility requirements.

Consider Your Income

Many government programs in Texas will only accept your application for membership if your income is at or below a certain level, as determined by the program. Thus, before you begin applying, check income requirements to make sure you are eligible. If you are not eligible for one program based on income, another program’s requirements may be less stringent. With all of these income requirement levels, you must ensure you are considering current, valid information instead of outdated details that might disrupt your benefits application process.

Your income will be a base level requirement for any of the benefits programs available, since they are designed to help low-income individuals and families. Understanding how your income is calculated for each program is also important, since each benefits program can determine income eligibility based on different factors. Make sure to always be honest on your applications, because all financial information will be verified through government databases or with supporting documentation.

To prove your income, you might need any or all of the following information:

  • Pay statements or recent tax returns
  • Child support payment information
  • SSI details
  • Bank statements

Consider Your Immigration Status

Most benefits programs will require you to prove your citizenship or immigration status in order to qualify. For most programs, you must be a U.S. citizen or a legally present immigrant in order to apply for and receive benefits. If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must prove your immigration status with legal documentation, and you will be verified through government databases. If someone in your household does not have legal status to be in the U.S., you can still apply for benefits, but that person will not be eligible to receive any assistance.

Consider Your Household Size

In addition to income, household size is often taken into consideration by government programs in Texas. Therefore, if you are thinking about applying for certain benefits, make sure that your household size also meets program requirements. If it does not, you can move on to looking at the next benefits program.

Your household size is typically inclusive of everyone living and sharing a home with you, whether or not you are related and whether or not each individual meets the immigration or citizenship status requirement. Make sure you check the current requirements for the program you want to apply for in order to accurately represent your household. Remember that you can apply for most benefits programs on behalf of children or others in your household even if you do not meet the immigration requirements personally, or you can apply for your household even if a member does not qualify. That person’s income will typically still need to be accounted for within your total household income information.

Consider Your Demographic

Certain benefits programs are available to specific sectors of the population, such as women, children, the elderly and the disabled. If you fit into a specific group that offers additional or unique benefits, you should learn the requirements to see if you qualify. Some benefits will be available to pregnant women or to recent mothers, others will include all women and children.

There are usually unique rules and eligibility standards for anyone with a qualified disability, which might help you to meet requirements you would not otherwise meet. The elderly can often apply under different qualification standards, too, so be sure to review age limits and specific requirements if you fall into that demographic.

Ask for Advice From Other Beneficiaries

In addition to considering requirements before you apply, it is recommended that you speak to current or past beneficiaries of the program you are considering enrolling in. They will be able to provide information about their experience with the program, which will help you to determine whether or not applying for such benefits will be worthwhile.

Some programs are designed to be a temporary stop-gap to help you in an emergency or when you are in extreme need. Other programs allow you to receive benefits indefinitely so you can continue to receive assistance for as long as you might need. It is helpful to ask other beneficiaries about their experiences with both types of programs if they were or are in a similar situation you find yourself in now.

Ask for Advice From Professionals

In addition to other beneficiaries you can consult, you should consider speaking to the program professionals to see if there are any recent changes to programs or potential upcoming changes that might impact your eligibility. Local benefits offices should be able to communicate different program options clearly so that you can determine which is best for you based on your personal circumstances. If you visit a local office for help, be sure to bring details on your income, your household size, your immigration status and more so you can get an accurate assessment and assistance.

As previously stated, some programs will allow you to automatically or easily enroll in other programs for which you will be deemed eligible, while others prohibit your ability to enroll in other programs. Make sure you know the differences so you choose correctly.

Direct Deposit Benefits

Convenience is always a factor worth considering when deciding whether or not you should set up direct deposit for your paycheck. Instead of receiving a paper check from your employer, you will instead have your wage electronically transferred into your account, allowing you to avoid long lines at your local bank. With direct deposit, you will also avoid the time it takes to process a transaction, thus receiving your benefits in a timely manner. Some banks might even offer additional benefits, if you switch over to direct deposit.

If you decide to change over to direct deposit, all you will have to do is notify your employer and provide them with the appropriate documentation, such as the correct credit union account, routing numbers, or a voided check from the account you wish to have your funds deposited. In some instances, your employer will allow you to distribute your paycheck into more than one account, such as a personal checking account and a savings account. This enables you to make online bill paying much easier as well, since you will know exactly when your earnings will arrive in your account. You can set up automatic bill payments for your convenience and this will prevent you from forgetting a scheduled payment. When your funds are directly deposited into your account, you will be less tempted to withdraw compared to when you physically deposit the paycheck.

Deposits that are scheduled to fall on a weekend or holiday will typically be posted earlier for your convenience. This will prevent you from missing out on your paycheck if you are away for vacation or business, since the funds will be automatically deposited. Unlike direct deposit, paper checks can be lost or stolen resulting in the risk of forgery or theft.

Having direct deposit might even allow you to avoid certain banking fees, such as monthly maintenance and minimum balance fees. You could also qualify for better interest rates because of your switch to direct deposit. From an employer standpoint, direct deposit will simplify the payment and bookkeeping for your business. It allows you to avoid the tedious task of printing out and distributing paychecks and could prevent you from making an error.

You can also set up direct deposit for Social Security benefits, providing you with a safer and more secure way of receiving the funds. Once you enroll in the Social Security Administration’s direct deposit, you will begin to receive your benefit amount in your account each payment cycle. Today, a large number of government agencies have already changed over to direct deposit, including unemployment offices. Along with government benefits, you will also be able to receive your tax refund through direct deposit, whereby bypassing the extended wait time associated with the issuance of a paper refund check.