Wisconsin Resources to Turn to During Financial Emergencies
Financial hardship can happen to the best of us, especially in the midst of a job loss, a health crisis or another daunting challenge. Fortunately, Wisconsin has many resources to help you weather the storm, especially if COVID-19 has upended your life. Here’s a list of must-know state and local resources, plus important details about each of them.
If you’re concerned about putting nutritious food on the table, FoodShare Wisconsin may be able to help. This is a federal government program that operates at the state level. It’s also known as the Supplemental Nutrition Program (SNAP) or food stamps.
FoodShare eligibility depends on your household’s size, income and other factors. So does the amount of your monthly payment. To apply, you’ll need to provide proof of your income, expenses and household size. If you qualify, you’ll receive a debit card you can use to purchase food at supermarkets, convenience stores and some farmer’s markets. The FoodShare money you receive each month can only be used for certain types of products, so be sure you know what you can and can’t buy with it.
Nonprofit food banks and pantries are another resource for feeding your household. Food banks store millions of pounds of food that get delivered to programs for people in need. Food pantries, which distribute food to hungry individuals and families, are one type of program that food banks serve. Pantries can be found at organizations ranging from community centers to churches to schools.
The Wisconsin section of FoodPantries.org can help you locate food pantries in your community. There’s even a map-based search tool that shows you which pantries are closest to your home. Want to find food banks in your region? Feeding Wisconsin, a statewide association of Feeding America food banks, can help. Second Harvest supplies food to programs in 16 southern Wisconsin counties, including Dane, and Hunger Task Force serves kids, seniors and many others in Milwaukee.
Health Care and Medical Insurance
The Wisconsin Department of Health Services (DHS) provides BadgerCare Plus health care coverage for low-income households. It also administers Medicaid programs for a variety of populations, including children, seniors and pregnant women. If you’re looking for a way to pay for your medications, explore the DHS prescription drugs assistance page. Also bookmark the agency’s list of free and low-cost medical clinics for people who are uninsured or underinsured.
In addition to helping low-income individuals access health care and releasing state-specific information about the coronavirus crisis, DHS helms health-related programs for Wisconsin residents with disabilities. This includes children with disabilities and adults with chronic conditions such as hemophilia and cystic fibrosis.
If a condition such as COVID-19 has prevented you from working, you may also be eligible for disability benefits. These are cash payments to help you pay for living expenses, not the disability-related health care benefits DHS can help you access, and they’re offered through the federal Social Security Administration (SSA). To apply, contact the SSA office that serves your area.
If you lose your job or find yourself furloughed, you may be able to claim federal unemployment benefits through the state. Wisconsin residents must apply for unemployment through the Department of Workforce Development (DWD). If you meet eligibility requirements, you could receive cash payments for a period of time as you look for work.
Some rules that normally apply to unemployment benefits have been relaxed in response to the COVID-19 crisis. For example, many people who didn’t qualify for unemployment before the crisis are now eligible if COVID-19 has affected their health or led to a job loss. For more information, visit the U.S. Department of Labor’s unemployment page. You should also read its announcements about the CARES Act. For a limited period of time, this legislation gives an extra $600 per week to unemployment beneficiaries.
Housing assistance is available through federal programs like Section 8, as well as state and local organizations. The Wisconsin section of ShelterListings.org can help you locate shelters in your area. If an emergency forces you to evacuate your home, American Red Cross of Wisconsin can help you secure temporary shelter, health services and even financial assistance. Its shelter search tool shows which of its shelters have openings, which can save time and reduce stress.
If you’re struggling with debt, credit or paying bills, GreenPath Financial Wellness can guide you. This nonprofit organization provides credit counseling, a debt management program, bankruptcy support and resources for preventing foreclosure. All of these services are confidential, and many of them are free to UW Credit Union members.
If you don’t know where to start, dial or text 211. Or, if you prefer, chat with a 211 referral specialist. This service connects Wisconsin residents with nonprofit organizations and government agencies that can help in times of need. Even if you just need a bit of reassurance, it’s a place to find a kind and helpful listener.
UW Credit Union is also filled with friendly people who want to help you. Contact us if you’re concerned about debt, credit or another aspect of your finances. We can answer questions, connect you with resources and help you find a way forward in difficult times.
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During a pandemic, banking online is a safe, smart choice. If you’re a UW Credit Union member, you can do these things and more from a smartphone, tablet or computer:
- See account balances and history
- Transfer money
- Deposit checks
- Make loan and bill payments
- Send and receive messages
- Monitor your credit score