by Aidan Kang, CFA
Senior Writer
UPDATED: December 24, 2021

Are you a single mom juggling time between raising your kids and working to keep up with your bills? Are you dealing with emotional and work-life challenges, limited time, fatigue, and the financial strain of raising kids single-handedly? Worry not because you are not alone. 

According to the 2020 U.S. Census Bureau, out of about 11 million single-parent families, 80 percent are headed by single mothers. These mothers have to plan and budget for their kids’ school fees, food, and clothing among other expenses. Even though you might be too skilled in managing your finances, emergencies happen when least expected and you might need financial assistance to save the day.

There are several programs and emergency grants designed to meet the urgent needs of single mothers like yourself. They can give you some relief from urgent financial problems involving necessities like food, housing, education, and others so that you can be less stressed and have more time to nurture your kids.  Here are some examples of such financial aid programs: 

 Programs offering Cash 

1. Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) 

Temporary Aid for Needy Families (TANF) is a state-owned program that provides financial help and related support services to needy families. The benefits include emergency cash for work assistance, child care assistance, and job preparation. 

This grant aims to: 

  • Provide monthly cash payments for food, clothing, housing, utilities, furniture, transportation, phone, laundry, household supplies, medical supplies not paid by Medicaid, and other basic needs. This emergency cash advance helps needy families care for children in their own homes or at the homes of extended family members.
  • Help in job search, and marriage preparation to discourage over-reliance by needy families on government unemployed benefits. 
  • Reducing and preventing out-of-wedlock pregnancy incidents
  • Support the formation of families where both parents are actively involved in raising the children

Eligibility Criteria:

  • A US citizen, legal alien, or qualified alien
  • You must be a resident in the state where you are applying for the grant
  • Unemployed, underemployed, or earning a low income
  • Have a maximum monthly income limit as follows: 
Family SizeChild-only CasesHome with 1 Parent or 1 CaretakerHome with 2 Parents or 2 Caretakers

There is an extra $72 for each additional family member.

Also, you should meet any  of the following conditions:

  • Be aged 18 years or below and are the head of your household
  • Be a parent of a child aged 18 years or less 
  • Be pregnant 

Anyone seeking job preparation support services should be a single parent with children under 6 years. The parents must participate in job training for at least 20 hours a week. Parents with older children should have worked or trained for at least 30 hours a week.

How to Apply:

  • Visit the TANF Program contact information by state page here
  • Get the contact information for your State and apply online
  • Write to [email protected]

Deadline for Submissions/Applications: No deadline 

Food Aid Programs

2. Women, Infants and Children Program 

Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC) is a short-term special supplemental nutrition program targeting low-income women, expectant and new mothers, and children below five years. This federally funded program, administered by  Federal’s Food and Nutrition Service, gives free healthy foods to these children from six to 12 months of age to supplement their current diets. 

The food includes fresh fruits and vegetables valued at $35 per participant per month.  An additional $105 per month is given to single mothers of two children and above.

Also, the federal agency educates the women and children about healthy eating habits, runs breastfeeding promotions, and gives immunization screening and referrals for additional healthcare services and support.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Pregnant, postpartum, or breastfeeding women, infants, and  children under the age of 5 years
  • Applicant must be a resident of  the state where they apply for the grant
  • Current income is at or below the standard set by the state agency
  • A health professional must certify that the applicant is at nutrition risk. This determination is done free of charge at any WIC clinic as part of the application process.

How to Apply:

Deadline for Submissions/Applications: No deadline

Programs For Child Care 

3. Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP)

Child Care Assistance Program (CCAP) is a state-owned program providing child care assistance to low- or no-income families in select states across the United States. The child care expenses include infant and toddler daycare assistance, before/after school care, preschool/pre-K programs, summer day camps and programs, and school holidays. The grant recipient could be a working parent, a jobless parent currently searching for a job, or a parent who is also a student. The maximum grant is up to $5,000 per family per year. 

Eligibility Criteria:

  • A parent or caregiver with a child who is 13 years or older and with a special needs
  • A parent or caregiver with a child who is under 13 years old
  • The applicant’s household gross income
  • Number and age of eligible children

These parents or caregivers should also be: 

  • A low-income working parent
  • A parent pursuing full-time training or education in a certified trade school or accredited college, or a current participant in the SNAP Employment & Training Program, leading to self-sufficiency
  • Teen parents pursuing elementary, middle, or high school education or its equivalent
  • A parent transitioning off government assistance through employment
  • A jobless parent currently pursuing formal employment
  • Any homeless child
  • Any person with authorization from Child Protective Services to access the grant. Such a person could be having a pending child protective or preventive case involving a child in need of care.

Once awarded, the funds are deposited in the applicant’s DCSA account. That way, the recipient pays their child care provider and claims reimbursement from the DCSA for the eligible expenses incurred.

How to Apply:

  • Visit the Child Care Advocate Program offices in the State you live in now

Deadline for Submissions/Applications: Once a year on specified dates

Rental Assistance

4. Emergency Rental Assistance Program

The Emergency Rental Assistance Program is a program run by the U.S. Department of the Treasury (DOT) in response to the coronavirus pandemic. The emergency rental assistance program covers up to 12 months rental assistance or arrears and some additional three months if you demonstrate that the three extra months are indeed required to ensure your housing stability. 

Security deposits, utility, and home energy costs (e.g.,  internet) are also covered under the emergency fund. For utility arrears, you will be required to first apply with the Home Energy Plus Program.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Those who have experienced financial hardship due to the coronavirus, have no income, and those who have experienced a reduction of household income. 
  • If you can demonstrate that you are at risk of housing instability or homelessness, or if your household income is below 80% of the area median, then you may be eligible. Single mothers who fall into this category can take advantage and apply for the fund.

How to Apply:

You can complete the application process both online and offline. Here are the documents needed when applying for the fund.

  • State ID or Driving license
  • Your income documentation such as bank account deposit verification, an annual statement of earnings, or a copy of a completed income tax return
  • Proof of rental amount
  • Arrears statement or eviction notice

Deadline for Submissions/Applications: Use this database to check what program near you is accepting applications and applicable dates

5. State Housing Assistance Program for Single Mothers 

The subsidized housing program assists single mothers to find a safe and affordable home for their families. The program is administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).

HUD partners with private property owners to negotiate and subsidize the rent for low-income families. It does this by paying subsidies directly to property owners to provide immediate housing for single mothers.

Eligibility Criteria:

  • The applicant must be an individual from a low-income family, or a person living with a disability, or a senior citizen
  • Have a monthly income that does not exceed the HUD’s income limit

How to Apply:

Deadline for Submissions/Applications: No deadline

Continuing Education Financial Aid Programs for Single Mothers 

6. Federal Pell Grant 

Federal Pell Grant is a US student aid program assisting needy undergraduate students, including single mothers, to “go back to school” and acquire the skills they need to get a job and make a sustainable income. As a grant, the funds awarded to the student are not repayable. You can receive a maximum grant of up to $6,495. The program is run by the Federal Student Aid

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Any undergraduate student who displays exceptional financial need  
  • An undergraduate student who is yet to earn a bachelor’s, graduate, or professional degree  


  • Any student currently incarcerated in a federal or state penal institution
  • Any former inmate currently on involuntary civil commitment for a forcible or non-forcible sexual offense

How to Apply:

  • Log in to the online portal or  to fill and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form  or, 
  • Use the myStudentAid mobile app to fill the form or,
  • Call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to request a printout application form. Fill it and mail it back for processing. 

Deadline for Submissions/Applications: June 30 

7. Live Your Dream 

Live Your Dream is a higher education financial aid program that assists single mothers/single fathers with their higher education costs without having to worry about paying their utility bills. The program is administered by Soroptimist. Soroptimist is a global volunteer organization with a network in 121 countries including the USA. 

Each year, the organization grants at least $2.8 million worth of scholarships to 1,700 single mothers, allowing them to pursue higher education in college for free. Most recipients are survivors of sexual assault, sex trafficking, and domestic violence. 

Hence, the program aims to empower women who are also the primary breadwinners in their families to acquire the resources they need to improve their education, professional skills, and employment prospects. 

Single mothers are given cash awards to offset their tuition costs, childcare, books, or transportation in their pursuit of higher education. The maximum grant you can receive is up to  $16,000 per Recipient

Eligibility Criteria:

Any woman: 

  • With a financial need
  • Who is the sole financial support provider for a family with such dependents as children, spouse, sibling, partner, or parents
  • Is currently enrolled or accepted for an undergraduate degree program 
  • Does not hold any other graduate degree
  • Is not a past recipient of the Soroptimist Live Your Dream Award or Women’s Opportunity Award
  • Resides in any one of the Soroptimist International of the Americas’ member territories or countries
  • Is neither a Soroptimist member nor employee or  immediate family of Soroptimist members

How to Apply:

Log in to the Soroptimist website and register your name and email address. You will receive an email notification with the application procedures immediately after the application window opens.

Deadline for Submissions/Applications:  August 1st to November 15th every year 

 Loans for Unemployed Single Mothers

8. Federal Perkins Loan Program for Single Mothers

Many unemployed single mothers struggle with bad credit. In turn, they fail to meet the personal loan criteria for accessing mainstream loans from banks and venture capitalists. As an alternative,   a single mother who is also a student struggling to pay tuition fees may apply for Perkins Loans at a 5% interest rate. This program is run by Federal Student Aid. The maximum loan amount you can receive is up to $60,000 for the entire duration of the study. 

Eligibility Criteria:

  • Graduate, undergraduate, or professional single mother
  • Have an emergency financial need related to your higher education
  • The school you are enrolled in participates in the program

How to Apply:

  • Log in to the online portal or  to fill and submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form  or, 
  • Use the myStudentAid mobile app to fill the form or,
  • Call 1-800-4-FED-AID (1-800-433-3243) to request a printout application form. Fill it and mail it back for processing. 

Deadline for Submissions/Applications: June 30 each year

Alternative Sources For Emergency Cash For Single Mothers

9. Church Assistance for Single Mothers

Faith-based organizations in many states across the country have various programs that help unemployed, low-income single mothers, and even those with bad credit or who need immediate housing.

The catholic church via Catholic Charities Financial Assistance for single mothers provides emergency basic needs to single mothers and other low-income families. All single mothers are eligible despite their faith, religion, or beliefs. The type of assistance offered includes free clothes, free food, shelter, and affordable healthcare.

The organization also trains single mothers how to manage their finances, succeeding in job interviews as well as helping them build assets.

The Salvation Army Assistance for Single Mothers is also known for providing various types of assistance to vulnerable families including single mothers. Part of the assistance includes free meals, short-term and long-term housing assistance, and employment assistance. 

10. Borrow Money from Family or Friends

Borrowing money from close relatives or friends who are financially stable can also be a quick solution to eliminate the present predicaments you may be facing as a single mother. However, you should approach family members and friends only if it is an emergency case and if you are sure you have a source of getting the money in a couple of months in order to pay it back.

Emergency cash for single mothers helps them look after their children and still maintain a career that uplifts their lifestyles. Indeed, single mothers go through a physical, emotional, and financial drain trying to be supermoms. Yet, with the appropriate programs and support network, they can dream again and still be mothers at their best.