To say that there are a lot of federal programs is an understatement. There are multiple programs and grants available to help anyone who is unemployed, many of which people have likely never heard of. After all, it isn’t something that most people are going to concern themselves with when they’re employed. While there are multiple programs available, they tend to fall into one of two categories. They either provide direct services to help someone who is unemployed pay for their expenses, or they give the unemployed a chance to pursue a higher education to help them get future employment.

Before getting into specific federal programs, it is worth noting that each state has their own additional services they offer, some of which might be more viable than federal programs. Anyone that is interested in contacting state agencies are encouraged to contact their state workforce agency to see what benefits and services are available.


Pell Grant

The Federal Pell Grant is one of the main programs that the government likes to promote to the unemployed, with President Obama frequently citing it as a dependable resource. The Federal Pell Grant is part of a need-based program. Specifically, it helps anyone who is unemployed get federal aid so they can return to school. The Federal Pell Grant is designed to help in the following areas:

  • Pay for tuition and other fees associated with taking college courses
  • Paying for books, general miscellaneous school supplies, and travel expenses for school
  • Living expenses, such as on campus room and board
  • Provide an allowance for any costs that are expected for students that have dependents, including daycare costs

The Federal Pell Grants is packaged with the FAFSA application, which anyone can apply for online.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

SNAP is the official name for the food stamp program offered by the federal government. Something that is important to note about SNAP is it isn’t necessarily based around the needs of an individual. Many people on unemployed mistakenly believe that they won’t be eligible because they’re technically still making money through the unemployment program. However, the program is meant to take of families and not just individuals. Someone that is collecting unemployment can still apply for their children or other members in their household.

Most states also have an option available called emergency SNAP benefits. As the name implies, this is meant to provide SNAP benefits for someone that suddenly needs them immediately. Anyone that was living from paycheck to paycheck and suddenly become unemployed might need to use. The exact conditions might vary a little from state to state, but they typically include two stipulations.

  • The applicant has a total household income less than their most recent monthly expenses, or if they have $100 or less. This is very relevant for anyone who recently became unemployed, since getting on unemployed isn’t instantaneous.
  • The money that is loaned from SNAP specially has to be used for food. There are only a few items that, as of 2016, are not covered by the SNAP program. These include:
  • Medicine and Vitamins
  • Hot meals/”ready to eat” meals
  • Soap, toothpaste, and other grooming supplies, including diapers
  • Pet food
  • Paper products
  • Tobacco products or alcoholic beverages



Lifeline Assistance (Getting a Phone)

Federal programs exist to help the unemployed get back on their feet and find a new job. Part of finding a new job means being able to contact potential employers. Many families no longer have a landline and rely on cellphones, which can be very expensive to pay for. Lifeline Assistance is a government program that exists to ensure all households have access to some form of communication. Lifeline Assistance provides a loan to cover the expenses of a basic phone. The application process and requirements will vary from state to state. In almost every instance, if someone is already receiving some type of federal aid, such as through SNAP, they will be eligible for Lifeline Assistance. is a privately owned website that is not owned or operated by any government agency.