In Arizona, low-income assistance programs in Maricopa County varying from housing, food and nutrition and financial support are made available to impoverished individuals and households. According to statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau in September 2012, 19.0% of individuals and 27.2% children under the age of 18 in Arizona have lived in poverty as of the year 2011, a statistic which is at its highest level in recent years. Because of the rising poverty rates, low income assistance programs are provided to low to moderate income residents and families. These programs include:
Housing and Rental Assistance Programs
- Arizona Housing Choice Voucher Program – The Housing Choice Voucher Program is the federal government’s lead project in providing low-income families the opportunity to lease or purchase low-priced privately owned rental housing. Housing types include townhomes, single family homes and apartments. Local housing authorities manage housing choice vouchers.
- Rental Assistance Program– run by the Maricopa County Community Services Division, the county’s Rental Assistance Program caters to Maricopa county locals excluding residents of Glendale, Mesa and Phoenix, as the three cities have their own rental assistance projects. Qualified Maricopa county residents may receive one month payment or deposits for their new rental home after they have submitted an application for the program. Interested residents must submit a documentation of U.S. Citizenship or lawful residency, Social Security Cards of all household members, most recent electric and gas bills, Photo Identification of applicant, verification of a crisis reason and proof of household income received in the 30 days before the applicant’s appointment with the local agency. The program and its services are subject to availability of funding.
Food Assistance Programs
Maricopa County’s Department of Economic Security (DES) food assistance programs provide food security to low-income families by giving them access to nutritious food. These programs include:
- The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – A national program, TEFAP offers free emergency food and nutrition assistance to supplement the diets of low-income American families. Commodity foods are made available by TEFAP to state distributing agencies through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
- Coordinated Hunger Program – This program help maximize food resources through the coordination of different government and local institutions that provide food assistance. The Coordinated Hunger Program also conducts supplemental feeding programs; rescuing food that otherwise would go to waste; along with food bank coordination and provision of food boxes. The program also provides information on where to obtain free or low cost food.
- Nutrition Assistance (NA) – Also under Maricopa’s Department of Economic of Security (DES), the Nutrition Assistance program provides low-income families access to adequate nutrition. Eligibility for this program is based on the family’s income, resources, residence, citizenship and compliance with the DES’ training and employment program.
Financial Support and Assistance Programs
The Department of Economic Security offers provisional financial assistance to low-income families and individuals to help address their basic and most immediate needs, until they are able to achieve self-sufficiency.
- Unemployment Insurance Program (UI) – also one of the low-income assistance programs in Maricopa County, the Unemployment Insurance program caters to individual workers who become unemployed “through no fault of their own”. The program provides the unemployed a measure of financial assistance until the individual finds a new job.
- Cash Assistance (CA) – Supportive services along with temporary cash benefits are given to the neediest Arizona families and children through the Cash Assistance program. The CA supports the most vulnerable households until they are able to acquire their basic needs and finally become self-sufficient.
- Child Support Enforcement – The Child Support Enforcement program provides services that ensure the welfare of children by making sure that they are supported by both their custodial and non-custodial parents. The program’s services include the provision of assistance in locating non-custodial parents; collecting child support payments; enforcement of child and medical support orders; establishing a legal child or medical support order; and establishing legal paternity for children born out of wedlock.
- Short Term Crisis Services (STCS) – The Short Term Crisis Services Program assists low-income households that are experiencing an emergency situation. State-funded assistance such as repairs or special needs to maintain employment; contracts with community providers; mortgage, rental and utilities payment assistance are provided by the program to help the households to at least until the crisis is stabilized.
- Social Security Administration Disability Programs – People with disabilities depend almost primarily on the state’s Social Security Administration Disability Programs to help assist them in their basic financial needs. The Disability Determination Service Administration (DDSA) of the Department of Economic Security verifies medical eligibility for two possible Social Security Administration (SSA) disability programs. These programs are the Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Title XVI and the Social Disability Insurance (SSDI), also known as Title II.
- Community Action Agencies (CAAs) – Local Community Action Agencies organize poverty alleviation projects that will also reduce the need for long-term assistance in low-income populations. CAAs help empower families and individuals by providing vocational education programs, GED preparation courses and job training opportunities. Local CAAs also fund youth programs, offer transportation in rural and far-flung areas, operate senior centers, provide weatherization services and organize emergency assistance programs.
- Tuberculosis Control (TC) – The Tuberculosis Control program screens the eligibility of applicants and possible candidates for the program’s benefits. The TC program provides assistance and support to individuals who are certified unemployable by the State Tuberculosis Control Officer due to communicable tuberculosis. The program’s benefits can also be extended to the candidate’s qualified dependents, if applicable.
Soaring housing costs, dwindling employment opportunities, inflation, and a number of economic factors have made it difficult for moderate to low income residents and families in Maricopa County to sustain their growing basic needs. Because of this, community action groups have taken the initiative to help improve the quality of life of the county’s marginalized residents. Low income assistance programs in Maricopa County have significantly reduced their economic burden and promise to create opportunities for financial independence and sustainable economic growth.
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