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Assistance programs Merced County.

Find financial assistance from the government, non-profits, charities, and churches in Merced County. Low income and/or struggling families (or individuals) can learn how to get help with their rent or utility bills, free food, affordable housing or medical care, and other financial aid below. Or get free school supplies for students, gasoline vouchers for work, or Christmas gifts.

There are also self-sufficiency, case management services and advice on how to save money each month. Any emergency financial help is often combined with free credit counseling, job placement, and other social services. The agencies offer either grants, vouchers, or even low interest loans for paying bills.

Emergency financial assistance programs for paying bills and expenses in Merced County

If you need help for bills or an unexpected crisis, contact the Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Fresno at 209-383-2494. This agency offers a variety of assistance programs. For example, they provide forms and assistance for rent programs, such as help completing the applications for the Homeowners and Renters Assistance program.

Other areas of emergency and crisis assistance provided include assisting families in need with funerals, acquiring prescription drugs, funds for energy bills, facilitating transportation for stranded travelers or for family members that may have a loved one in the hospital. Catholic Charities knows that assisting families in times of crisis or a hardship requires meeting needs through direct services or by referral to another agency or government program if necessary.

Receive access to numerous forms of assistance from the Merced Salvation Army. The social services and financial resources offered to the local community include food such as hot breakfast & dinner meals, groceries, and grants. There may be support including free back-to school supplies, clothing, Christmas toys, or coats for kids. Free supplies such as household products, toiletries, diapers, and other emergency assistance and grants may also be offered.




There are some financial aid programs during the holiday season only, as funds allow. No Merced County resident is ever guaranteed support. But when possible, one time short term rent as well as utility bill assistance may be provided by the Salvation Army. Call the Salvation Army in Merced County at 209-383-4225.

Merced County Community Action Agency is the local non-profit. They are a great place to turn to for information, counseling, and from time to time limited financial assistance. Among the programs and services they offer to the low income and struggling individuals include:

  • Housing services - If you are facing an eviction from your home or apartment, or if you are currently homeless,  they have Homeless Prevention Funds, an emergency shelter, and possible one time cash payments.
  • Help paying energy and utility bills - The community action agency runs the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). The program has two components, including Energy Crisis Intervention LIHEAP Program (ECIP), which provides crisis financial assistance to low-income households that are in a crisis situation. Read more. The second component is the Home Assistance Program (HEAP), which provides a direct financial payment or cash grant to an eligible client’s utility bill to help offset the cost of home heating or cooling bills for their home.
  • Weatherization and home repairs - Funding may be offered to install energy saving improvements to a clients home, and money to ensure the home is safe and liveable. Improvements such as caulking, insulation, heating and cooling unit repairs, and more are provided.
  • Food assistance - they can accept applications and direct people to the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program. Learn how to apply for WIC.

Call the Merced County Community Action Agency at (209) 723-4565.





Human Services Agency offers eviction prevention, homeless assistance, and can direct families to rental assistance and transitional housing. Call your Family Services Representative. Some of the highlights of the various housing programs administered are below.

Temporary Housing, including a shelter, is offered for families and individuals without a place to stay. The payment from Merced County will be provided to one of several pre-selected apartment communities or housing facilities.

Locating permanent housing is another service available. Low income and working poor families can receive assistance with paying for a security deposit, first month's rent and other necessary fees. The government may also subsidize a portion of your monthly rent going forward.

Or you can apply for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) at the office. This state program provides temporary financial assistance to qualifying families for other bills and basic needs. CalWORKs also provides Medi-Cal coverage for all recipients, will help people find a job, locate food, and more.

The main Human Service office to apply for housing and/or general assistance is at 2115 West Wardrobe Ave. in Merced CA 95340. Telephone number is (209) 385-3000.

Referrals are given to anyone in Mercer County who is in need. A United Way crisis line is in place. Callers can learn about various resources, including security deposit help, free Christmas or Thanksgiving meals or toys, medications, community clinics and much more. Various Merced County agencies and charities are part of the referral network.

Another focus is on ensuring people are stable. To this end families in the region can learn about job placement or training, ESL classes, debt and foreclosure counseling, and more. There are even details on credit card and loan debt settlement programs. Other social services are available too. More on the Merced County Crisis Line assistance programs.

Housing, rent, and eviction help is targeted at those Merced residents that are in a short term crisis. If the tenant does not have a past history of evictions, then agencies may offer cash grants or other forms of rental assistance. This may even include vouchers for motels or funds for security deposits. Find rental assistance in Merced County.

Get free groceries and food

A local charity, Harvest Time, provides food to individuals and families that are trying to find the money for food, and who would otherwise go hungry. By providing nutritional needs and offering groceries to people of all ages, they help promote good health and allow clients to seek employment in the Merced County area. 209-723-2395. Read more on cheap food in California.





Another option is the Merced County Food Bank (phone 209-726-3663) which is a private non-profit charity organization. They partner with dozens of local food banks and charities to offer services and free food to people in need. Their goal is to feed the hungry in the local area.

Assistance for food is also available from several other local pantries. Or if a location does not have enough items to meet the demands of the community, then they may refer the resident to government aid, including CalFresh. The pantries may also have free hygiene supplies, clothes, and even seasonal resources including Thanksgiving turkey dinners. Click here Merced County food pantries.

Medical and health care in Merced

If you need access to high quality medical services, call Golden Valley Health Centers (209-383-7411) which is a private, non-profit health care organization. The facility employs a team of doctors, nurses, behavioral health clinicians, dentists and other medical professionals who are all highly dedicated and committed to providing high quality, primary health care and dental services.

The free community clinic known as Golden Valley also has staff on site to provide guidance and information on financial aid or insurance. The programs are for individuals and families in the service area – regardless of language, their financial means or status or cultural barriers. Find more information on free community clinic medical care programs.

A variety of programs that can help pay for health care is offered to low and mid income families by Golden Valley Health Care clinics. Phone (209) 383-7441. They operate several locations throughout the area.

The community health centers offer heavily discounted, or even free health care and services. They provide both primary medical and also dental care to all qualified residents, including including seasonal and migrant farm workers, the homeless, and Southeast Asian refugees. In addition to the primary care services offered, the Golden Valley Health Centers and clinics provides specialized programs to promote health and deal with non standard services.

They do accept insurance at Golden Valley as well. They take patients with Medicare, Medical, Healthy Families and they also accept most private health insurance. If a patient is underinsured or uninsured and their income is low, they may be qualified for discounted rates or grant programs that provide free services.







There are some options for people to get prescription drug assistance as well. Help for medicines is available for the low income and uninsured from the United Way. They offer a savings card that will reduce prescription drug costs at most pharmacies by 10 to 30 percent. Both Golden Valley and the United Way of Merced County have been distributing pharmacy cards since 2007, and since then it is estimated the cards have saved Merced County residents almost $50,000 per year on medicines.

Maybe the best news is that these cards are free, and there are no criteria. There are no income limits, age restrictions. The cards can be used by anyone.


By Jon McNamara

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