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Getting through tough times

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Community Agencies That Can Help

Sharon M. Danes, Extension Specialist and Professor — Family Social Science

Revised January 2016 by author.

Several agencies in your community can be a source of help during tough times. This fact sheet describes many of these agencies and includes contact information.

Unemployment Compensation and Job Service Offices

While you were employed, your employer was probably contributing to the unemployment compensation program on your behalf. If there is a chance you're eligible for unemployment compensation, you can apply at your nearest Minnesota WorkForce Center, over the phone, and online. The website can provide you with workforce locations, phone numbers, and other helpful information.

You will need to be able to list all the employers you have worked for during the last 18 months including their phone numbers and addresses. You will also need to take your Social Security card or know your Social Security number.

Expect to wait at least three weeks before receiving your first check. The payments are calculated from the first day you file, so filing promptly is to your advantage. However, there is a mandated waiting period of a week for first-time claims.

The Minnesota WorkForce Center provides listings of available jobs. They also provide information on the training and experience needed for different jobs. They can help you to determine the skills and aptitudes needed to succeed at the job of your choice. If you need help finding a job or getting training or work experience, a job-training program may be able to help you.

Employment Training

Learning new marketable skills may be your answer for increased income. Courses are available through local community colleges and other state and local institutions.

Dislocated Worker Programs are available for workers who have been laid off (or notified that a layoff is coming) through no fault of their own. They offer services at no cost that focus on preparing people to find a suitable new job.

The federal government provides grants, work opportunities, and low-interest loans to many students for education or training. The State of Minnesota also provides some financial assistance to eligible students. The financial aid office at each school or college can give you more information.

Human and Social Service

Your county Department of Human Services may provide financial assistance and services as well as information on other community resources.

Several assistance programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP; formerly known as Food Stamps), Medical Assistance, and Minnesota Family Investment Program (MFIP), are coordinated through the Department of Human Services. Your financial resources and family income are used to determine if you are eligible.

The Diversionary Work Program (DWP) is a four-month program that helps low-income Minnesota families find a job. The goal of DWP is to help parents immediately go to work rather than go on assistance. Parents are expected to sign an employment plan before their family is approved for DWP. After families have an employment plan, they can receive financial assistance to meet their basic needs and get other supports such as SNAP benefits and child and health care assistance.

When most families first apply for cash assistance, they will participate in DWP.

You may be eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or MFIP cash assistance under the following circumstances:

  • There is a delay between when you apply and the time your unemployment checks begin arriving.
  • You are ineligible for unemployment benefits.
  • Your benefits have run out.

For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Human Services MFIP website.

While they process your application, your county Department of Human Services may refer you to other agencies for immediate help. In some counties you may be referred to a township official for general assistance.

Fuel Costs

Help with fuel costs may be available through the Energy Assistance program in your county. Contact your county Department of Human Services and local utility companies for information on how to apply. For more information, see the Minnesota Department of Commerce Energy Assistance Program website.

Health Services

The local county community health office provides information on free or low-cost preventive health services, such as blood pressure checks and other screening programs. Flu shots and other immunizations may also be available at a minimal cost.

Other health services vary from community to community. There may be clinics, health fairs, and other services available free of charge or at a minimal cost.

Your preschool-aged children may be eligible for additional health services through other programs. The Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) and the Head Start Project are two federal programs that closely monitor the health of eligible children. If you have children under age five, you may be eligible for WIC. This federal program provides nutrition counseling and food vouchers to parenting, pregnant, and breast-feeding women with children under five. Visit the Minnesota Department of Health website Women, Infants & Children Program for more information.

Health insurance may be another concern. For more information, see Meeting your insurance needs: Health Insurance, another fact sheet in the Getting through tough times series.


Emergency food supplies may be available at local food shelves. Some churches and community agencies provide free or low-cost meals. Your children may be eligible for reduced-price or free school lunches. Some schools also provide breakfasts. Contact the school district office.

To find the food shelf in Minnesota closest to you, visit Hunger Solutions’ Foodshelf Finder.


Local thrift shops and garage sales are sources of low-cost clothing. Recycling clothing may be another option for your family.

Veterans' Benefits

Veterans of U.S. military service and their dependents may be entitled to a variety of benefits from the federal government and the State of Minnesota including:

  • Monthly pensions to surviving spouses and to dependent children of veterans who have died
  • Monthly payments and/or tuition and books while attending school, receiving training or completing apprenticeships
  • "Veterans' points" added to examination scores when applying to enter state service and various special employment

Family Counseling Services

Getting through tough times can be stressful for all members of the family. During these periods of high stress, family members may have difficulty coping with day-to-day situations.

Sometimes things may get so difficult and out of control that you, or other family members, may need professional help. In every community, resources such as the family doctor, faith leaders, mental health professionals, and support groups exist.

They can help you deal with emotional and the physical stress. County mental health services or counseling services provide assistance and information on what's available in your area.

For more tips on coping with the stress of tough times, see Controlling stress and Helping Children Cope, other fact sheets in the Getting through tough times series.

Financial Counseling

Managing the money you do have requires careful budgeting. Bank loan officers, utility company consumer service personnel, or mortgage companies can also help with planning for payment of specific debts. There may be other non-profit agencies that provide other financial services, such as free income tax filing assistance. Contact United Way 211 by dialing 211 or 1-800-543-7709, or visiting for referral information.

Community Agencies That Can Help


Boelter, L. (2006). Managing Between Jobs: Deciding which bills to pay first. Madison, WI: Division of Cooperative Extension of the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

Related resources

Financial Capability — Online resources and workshops to make wise decisions about money and other financial resources.

Resource List for Consumers (PDF) — This tool helps you identify and locate information and services to make informed decisions, take positive action, and create significant outcomes in your life.

Adjusting to Suddenly Reduced Income (PDF) — Take into account the financial, emotional, and social aspects of sudden income loss.

Rural Minnesota Life — Provides information for Minnesotan rural families, including the other 16 Getting through tough times fact sheets.

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