REDUCING EVERYDAY COSTS WHEN YOU HAVE A CHILD WITH SPECIAL HEALTH CARE NEEDS
BY LAUREN AGORATUS, M.A.
Families of children with special needs have expenses beyond that of other families. In addition to extra costs to provide specialized support to their children, even everyday costs such as rent, food, utilities, etc. may become burdensome.
The Catalyst Center recognized the financial stresses on parents of children with disabilities in their report, "Breaking the Link between Special Health Care Needs and Financial Hardship" (see Resources.) Advocates and disability organizations are frequently contacted by families of children with special needs seeking help with financial stressors. In addition to medical and educational resources, (see EP 2018 Annual Resource Guide reader.medi- awiremobile.com/epmagazine/issues/202720), families often need other help.
- Benefits.gov has a state-by-state listing of housing assistance found at: benefits.gov/categories/Housing%20and%20Public%20Utilities. Here families will find information on mortgage financing, rental assistance, public housing, homeless prevention, and Section 8/HUD (Housing & Urban Development).
- Additional information from HUD ( hud.gov), includes:
- • Avoiding foreclosure hud.gov/program_offices/housing/sfh/owning#1
- • Public housing authority hud.gov/program_offices/public_indian_hous- ing/programs/ph
- • Housing choice vouchers/section 8 at hud.gov/program_offices/pub- lic_indian_housing/programs/hcv.
LIHEAP, the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program, helps pay for utilities like electricity, gas, oil, etc. They also offer help with weatherization (insulation), air conditioners, and lead abatement. For more information, see acf.hhs.gov/ocs/programs/liheap.
Benefits.gov also has a listing by state for food assistance found at benefits.gov/cate- gories/Food%20and%20Nutrition. Many families may be eligible for SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program found at fns.usda.gov/snap/state- directory. A national list of food banks is available at feedingamerica.org/find-your-local- foodbank. There is recognition of the importance of available nutritious food, so there is also a listing of farmer's markets, including those that accept food stamps, at fns.usda.gov/contacts?f%5B0%5D=program%3A30. In addition, families of young children may be eligible for the Special Supplemental Nutritional Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) found at: fns.usda.gov/contacts?f%5B1%5D=pro- gram%3A32. School-age children may be eligible for free breakfast, lunch, and even summer programs at fns.usda.gov/school-meals/apply- ing-free-and-reduced-price-school-meals under "resources for households" which includes instructions, application, and translated materials.
FREE PHONES/LOW-COST INTERNET
The Lifeline Assistance Program has free phones for eligible families. Families can find providers in their area at data.usac.org/publicreports/CompaniesNearMe/Download/Report. Lifeline will also help with Internet costs.
New Eyes for Needy has free eye exams and glasses found at new-eyes.org/application. Donated Dental Services offers free dental care at: dentallifeline.org/our-state-programs. Lastly, the Starkey Hearing Foundation at starkeyhearingfoundation.org/Hear-Now as well as the Hearing Loss Association of America available at hearingloss.org/hearing-help/financial-assistance. Both offer help with hearing aids.
Sometimes, parents of children with special needs may need assistance with educational or health care issues for their children. For education, there is a Parent Training and Information Center in each state/territory that offers free help, found at par- entcenterhub.org/find-your-center. For health, there are Family Voices/Family-to-Family Health Information Centers (F2FHIC) that help parents navigate the system and are found at familyvoices.org. It is important to note that PTIs and FV/F2FHICs offer information and options but not legal advice. Free or low-cost legal help may be found by Protection and Advocacy/Disability Rights in each state found at: acl.gov/pro- grams/aging-and-disability-networks/state-protection-advocacy-systems or Legal Aid found at americanbar.org/groups/legal_services/flh-home/flh-other-resources. Your state or local Bar Association may also have a listing of pro bono ("for the public good," or free) legal assistance. These listings are the most commonly requested services for help from families. Besides Benefits.gov, another comprehensive website on available benefits is USA.gov at usa.gov/benefits. Parents of children with disabilities may need extra help with everyday costs, not only for their child, but for the entire family.
Immigrant families are often not eligible for these financial supports and resources. You can find out more information about immigrant eligibility for federal financial assistance and programs at the website of the National Immigration Law Center: nilc.org/issues/economic-support/overview- immeligfedprograms. •
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Lauren Agoratus, M.A. is the parent of a child with multiple disabilities. She serves as the Coordinator for Family Voices-NJ and as the central/southern coordinator in her state's Family-to-Family Health Information Center, both housed at the SPAN Parent Advocacy Network (SPAN) at spanadvocacy.org
LIGHTENING THE BURDEN : FINANCIAL RESOURCES
CATALYST CENTER: BREAKING THE LINK BETWEEN SPECIAL HEALTH CARE NEEDS AND FINANCIAL HARDSHIP ciswh.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/05 Catalyst_Center_Breaking_The_Link-2nd-ed.pdf