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Help from the United Way.

The United Way near you can connect families to a wide variety of assistance programs. The non-profit organization operates in almost all counties, cities, and states. Examples of what the United Way agency can help with include rental assistance programs, food, free medical or dental care, transportation, government grants, scholarships, electric bill help, bill payment programs, and much more. Locate United Way services near you and find how to apply to their main phone number.

The United Way itself does not offer financial aid. Rather they refer families or individuals in need to a local charity, church, non-profit, or government program in their area. Those agencies then may be able to assist with bills, give volunteer opportunities, or help in any number of ways. Those local partners of the United Way 211 telephone service give resources. Applicants need to call the 211 hotline to find local services near them.

Get grant money and financial assistance from United Way

As noted, they do not directly offer funds themselves for paying bills. Rather the local 211 United Way telephone service (or equivalent in your local community) provides callers with free information on financial help in their area. The caller than needs to call on those other agencies to apply, including for United Way programs that help pay rent. But there are many forms of financial aid available. Examples of financial help from partners of the United Way include the following.

  • Government benefits, DHS, welfare, TANF, food stamps and Social Services.
  • Rent, mortgage, security deposit costs or applications to section 8 from public housing authorities. Read more on United Way rental assistance programs.
  • All sorts of utility bills including electric, propane, heating, water, light, and more.
  • Applications to government grants that help with bills, educational expenses, employment, and other costs.
  • Expenses around employment including computers, gasoline, commuting and related costs.

Other support may be arranged too. All United Way partners have limited funds to help clients pay their bills, but as resources all those and other bills may be paid using grants or loans. Find other details on help near you.




Free items from United Way partners

There are a number of ways to get free stuff. Some partners, like the Salvation Army or The American Red Cross near you, respond in emergencies or a disaster. Others give year round support, including free food from pantries, winter clothes, medical equipment, eyeglasses, and more. Some of the free items or basic needs from the United Way that may be offered are as follows.

  • Nutritional items, including food, meals, free groceries, formula, Ensure for seniors. Learn more food banks for the low-income.
  • Household items from low cost (or free thrift stores, furniture or clothing banks.
  • Clothes, hygiene supplies, household goods and more.
  • Basic medical items or prescription drug vouchers, discount cares, as well as eyeglasses from Lions Club.

Case management services and self-sufficiency

This is a major focus of the United Way and all of their partners. Community Action Agencies, job centers, The Urban League and plenty of other agencies are out there and are part of the free United Way 211 service. Most combine help with paying bills and living expenses with ongoing case management. The United Way services work to address long term stability. Some of the programs may include:

  • Educational resources, Head Start for children, Computer Classes, ESL services.
  • Free career counseling and assistance in getting new skills.
  • Details on job or career fairs.
  • Free professional work attire for interviews, gasoline vouchers, bus passes.
  • Free or low-cost internet programs, computers from the United Way, and high speed services. Find more details on free government internet for the low-income.





United Way volunteer opportunities from 211 telephone service

The United Way may not only provide clients information on how they can get financial help for their bills, but they also provide individuals the ability to give back. Or corporations or others can contribute too. Whether volunteering time or donating money or surplus goods or other resources, the United Way makes good use of the resources.

  • Thrift Stores, consignment shops and other United Way partners collect surplus goods.
  • Corporations or individuals may donate money to help the United Way operate or help them provide grants to local charities.
  • Volunteers are always needed for fund raisers, partners including Habitat for Humanity, community clinics, Family Stores and so many other groups.

Financial literacy services and budgeting

Almost all Americans, regardless of their income, can use help on saving money as well as living within means. Or clients needs tips on saving for retirement, debt help, or budgeting. The United Way partners with national and local free credit counseling as well as community action agencies on these financial services.

  • Free income tax preparation and filing services from VITA. This is a free service from most United Way offices, and learn more on income tax help free.
  • Budgeting classes or workshops.
  • Tips on paying down debts, lowering interest rates, mediating with credit card company, and general help with debt.
  • Information on investing, saving for retirement (including pensions or 401ks), passive investment, and building assets or wealth.

All of these United Way services can be thought of as “financial literacy 101.” They are the core concepts of saving, budgeting, and living within means. Learn how to develop financial literacy skills.




Disaster help from the United Way

When a natural or man-made disaster hits near you, or when a personal disaster occurs (such as a house burning down), the United Way will often respond to a crisis with their partners. Many volunteers as well as national charities, including the American Red Cross, work with the United Way on giving short term relief. Assistance given to people impacted may include:

  • Meals, food, clothes, blankets, or water.
  • Emergency shelter or free vouchers for hotel or motel rooms.
  • Emergency medical care, including ambulatory services from the United Way partners.
  • Assistance is long term stability including transitional housing, temporary lodging, furniture, and more resources.

United Way seasonal support

The 211 service near you is great for offering information on sometimes hard to find free seasonal assistance. As programs such as Toys for Tots often change from year to year. Or there are different places for heating bill help or school supply giveaways, or free snacks or meals for students out of school.United Way 211 service - Get help near you

The most demand seasonal support is for Christmas toys or meals, and the United Way gives free information on those tools too. Many of these programs are free to those who apply, but they are first come-served so callers need to get help early.

  • Spring programs including free Easter meals, food, or baskets for kids.
  • Summer assistance programs may be snacks for students, free box fans for low income seniors, AC repair grants.
  • Fall programs range from back to school supply giveaways to Thanksgiving turkey dinners, uniforms and more. Continue with United Way school supply giveaways.
  • Winter programs from United Way partners include free Christmas gifts, heating oil, LIHEAP and weatherization applications, additional financial aid for paying bills, and other resources for keeping people safe. Or find more details on free Christmas help from United Way.

Immigration assistance from the United Way

The United Way, and all of their partners including Catholic Charities or others, do not discriminate based on race, religion, age, gender, nationality, or other factors. The 211 service will therefore give free referrals to immigrants (legal or illegal), Spanish speakers, refugees, asylum seekers and others. Depending on location, the United Way 211 phone program offers free information in multiple languages.







  • Educational resources including ESL classes, GED training, and other skills.
  • Placement into housing or shelters, as the United Way case workers help people find a place to live.
  • Basic medical care from volunteer doctors or community clinics. Immunizations and check-ups.
  • Assistance in getting citizenship as the United Way helps pay legal bills or refer clients to free attorneys.

Free medical, dental, mental health and other healthcare services

Tens of millions of Americans either lack health insurance or struggle to pay medical bills or debts. Or the health or dental care, or medications they need, are cost prohibitive. The United Way near you is a great place to learn about free medical services or care for all sorts of needs.

  • Vision care includes free eyeglasses, contact lenses, exams for children or seniors. Look for glasses for free.
  • Dental care from dentists, hygienists, students at dental schools, and other facilities.
  • Mental health care is often given free by partners of the United Way, as therapists, social workers, and professionals address needs.
  • Free general health checkups for check-ups, cancer screenings, immunizations, flue shots, and other medical conditions.
  • Referrals to veterinarians, clinics, and pet shelters to care for dogs or cats. The United Way has information on vets too, and look here for emergency pet care with no money.
  • Prescription drug assistance programs, RX discount cards, vouchers, from charities, the government, or pharmaceutical companies.
  • Details on applying for Medicaid, Medicare, SSI disability, CHIP (for teenagers), and getting affordable or free health insurance policies.




Applying to United Way near you

The United Way is a nationwide non-profit that families can turn to in their time of need. Or people can donate money to it or volunteer. Whether it is financial help to pay bills, rent, or other costs or self-sufficiency services or seasonal aid, all of the information over the telephone from the United Way 211 service is free of charge. Or for additional referrals, use the search bar on our main search page and type in your financial or other need as well as city, county, or state to find resources.

Anyone can get referrals to local organizations near them that may help, as the United Way directs clients to those partners. For more information or details, look for a United Way office here or dial 211. As noted, it is nationwide and free to use.


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By Jon McNamara

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