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5 Resources to Overcome a Period of Unemployment

Have you recently lost your job, or fear that you may soon? These resources can help you if you’re ever without an income.

Written by Caish Echols AFC®, CFP® / August 29, 2022

Quick Bites

  • Look into food assistance programs in your state like SNAP or WIC, or consider visiting a food bank.
  • As you look for work, revamp your resume, get career advice and consider pivoting industries.
  • COBRA can help you keep your same health insurance even after you lose your job.
  • The Housing Choice Voucher Program provides a subsidy to help you cover part of your monthly rent.

Just like a flotation device can be thrown out to rescue someone who’s at risk of drowning, there are programs set up to help people who become unemployed and need financial assistance. No one ever expects to be without a job, but if it happens to you, these resources can help you get back on your feet. They’ll help you buy food, find a new job, have access to healthcare and pay for housing or utilities.

There is a misconception that these resources are only for people who are low-income. However, these programs are specifically designed to help people get back on their feet—regardless of whether you’re in a low-paying job or completely out of work.

Even though it can feel scary, there is nothing embarrassing or wrong about needing financial assistance to get you through a period of unemployment. You wouldn’t refuse a lifeguard's help if you were about to drown. The help these resources offer is no different. So, let’s dive in...

Inside this article

  1. Food
  2. New work
  3. Healthcare
  4. Housing

Food

Making sure you can feed your family is the number one priority if you find yourself without an income. There are programs that can help you keep food on the table while you look for work. Just keep in mind that these initiatives are state-specific, so coverage and eligibility will be different depending on where you live.

  • Food banks—every area has a food bank to help you get essential food items if you fall on hard times. You can find a food bank in your area via Feeding America. This can be a great resource as you apply for other programs like SNAP or WIC.

  • SNAP, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as “food stamps”), helps low-income families buy food. Once you apply for benefits and are approved, you will be issued an EBT card. This card works like a debit card and can be used to purchase food items at grocery stores, gas stations and some restaurants. Find your state’s SNAP application via the Department of Agriculture’s directory

  • WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, helps provide additional food benefits to pregnant women and children up to age 5. It provides benefits for additional nutrition items, like bread, milk and cheese to help kids grow. If you have little kids and lose your job, it’s worth applying to see if you qualify. You can learn more about the WIC program on the Department of Agriculture's website.

New work

If you were let go from your job and are actively seeking another job, see if you qualify for any unemployment income. Unemployment income can help supplement some of your past earnings while you search for a new position. Visit the Department of Labor website to learn more about unemployment in your state.

As you search for work, it’s also a good time to retool your resume. If you’re like me, it probably hasn’t been updated since you took your last position. You can learn more about resume building via Candid Career

Top Jobs That Are Impacted in a Recession

Top Jobs That Are Impacted in a Recession

Jobs in essential industries like healthcare are more likely to be recession-proof. On the other hand, travel and hospitality gigs are at higher risk of getting cut in down times.

Find out more

If it seems your specific industry has been hit hard with job loss, consider switching into a different, related career. You might consider changing to something that pays more, has more flexible hours or offers better company benefits. You can look for open positions on online job boards and social media, but networking goes a long way toward standing out from the crowd.

Top 5 Recession-Proof Jobs—and 4 to Avoid

Top 5 Recession-Proof Jobs—and 4 to Avoid

Jobs don’t come with guarantees, but there are some industries that fare better than others in the midst of a recession.

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Healthcare

Most people obtain their health insurance through work. So, if you get laid off from work, you might be wondering where to get new healthcare coverage. You have a few options:

COBRA

COBRA (the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act) makes it so that you can continue with the exact same group health insurance plan you had through your work for a short period of time after you stop working.[1] This is helpful if you like your work insurance and don’t want to change health plans in the short-term. A big drawback, however, is that you generally have to pay the employee and employer cost for the plan—often making it the most expensive health insurance option. To get COBRA coverage, your old employer will notify you that you qualify and you have to sign up within 60 days of when you lost your job.

Medicaid

Medicaid is a very low-cost or free health insurance option for families with children who are low-income. In order to qualify, there are strict income and family size requirements, and these eligibility rules vary by state. However, if you are experiencing unemployment and can’t afford health insurance, it is always worth it to reach out to your state’s Medicaid office and apply for coverage. The worst thing that could happen is they tell you that you don’t qualify. To learn more about Medicaid where you live, input your state at Medicaid.gov.

The Marketplace

If you don’t have health insurance through work—and make too much money to qualify for Medicaid—you’re able to shop for a new health plan through the HealthCare.gov Marketplace. The application takes your household income and family size into consideration, then tells you which health plans you can choose from, as well as if you qualify for a subsidy reducing the monthly premium. You can choose a plan that fits your coverage needs or your price range.

How Much Is Health Insurance?

How Much Is Health Insurance?

Health insurance can cost thousands a year, but your total costs are dependent on the plan you choose and how much care you need.

Find out more

Housing

If you find yourself unemployed for an extended period of time, you may qualify for housing assistance through the Housing Choice Voucher Program (formerly Section 8). This federal program helps low-income families afford safe housing. 

To receive this assistance [2]:

  • Apply for the Housing Choice Voucher Program at your local public housing agency (PHA)

  • Find housing that meets the housing standards set by the PHA for your area

  • Then the local PHA will pay your landlord a monthly housing subsidy (and you’ll pay any amount remaining)

You can find the contact information for your local PHA via the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) website. As a heads up, the amount of vouchers is limited in each area, often creating a waitlist, so you’ll want to apply as soon as possible if you think you may be eligible. 

Tip

There are many other resources available—many of them via USA.gov—to help you if you’re struggling to pay other bills. One of my favorites is LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program): It helps pay for your utility bills, especially during the winter months. Like the other programs mentioned, the application, eligibility and program details vary from state to state. However, visit the Department of Health & Human Services to find more information about your state’s program and how to apply.

Article Sources
  1. “Continuation of Health Coverage (COBRA).” Department of Labor, https://www.dol.gov/general/topic/health-plans/cobra.
  2. “Housing Choice Vouchers Fact Sheet,” HUD, https://www.hud.gov/topics/housing_choice_voucher_program_section_8#hcv02.

About the Author

Caish Echols

Caish Echols AFC®, CFP®

Caish has worked in the financial planning industry for over 5 years, including working for one of the pioneer financial planners who brought fee-only financial advice to Millennials. She loves making the complexities of finance simple to understand and helping people follow their own paths.

Full bio

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