What is Public Assistance Programs?

Public assistance refers to assistance programs that provide either cash assistance or in-kind benefits to individuals and families from any governmental entity.

There are two major types of public assistance programs; social welfare programs and social insurance programs. 

Benefits received from social welfare programs are usually based on a low income means-tested eligibility criteria. 

Some of the major federal, state, and local social welfare programs are:

  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)
  • Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), including Pass through Child Support
  • General Assistance (GA)

Benefits received from social insurance programs are usually based on eligibility criteria such as age, employment status, or being a veteran.

Some of the major federal, state, and local social insurance programs are:

  • Social security (self and on behalf of a dependent child)
  • Department of Veterans’ Affairs benefits (except Veteran’s pension)
  • Unemployment insurance compensation
  • Workers’ compensation

Most of the information available on public assistance comes from data collected in the Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP) and is available as reports and statistical briefs, table packages, and working papers. 

In addition, micro-level SIPP panel data, technical documentation, and topical modules for the SIPP panels are available on the SIPP website. 

MI Asian Staff
Author: MI Asian Staff