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Benefits.gov Compass Compass
Quarterly eNewsletter About the Benefits.gov Program | July 2012 Compass


Inside This Issue

Help Your Child Get Ahead with Head Start!

Energy Assistance Programs: Not Just for Winter

Benefits.gov Highlights Loans for Native Americans

Visit and Search the New Disability.gov!

Benefits.gov Buzz

Stay Connected to Benefits.gov!

Help Yourself with Benefits.gov: Find what you're looking for!


About Us

About Benefits.gov

Benefits.gov Partners

About GovLoans.gov


Benefits.gov Logo

Help Your Child Get Ahead with Head Start!
This is an image of a mother and her toddler playing with a toy

Now that summer is in full swing, it’s a terrific time to start thinking about education and development options for your little ones. For decades, the Head Start program has been associated with preschool education, but the program provides many other benefits for children until they enter public school – even before they’re born!

Head Start, a Federal program offered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), began in 1964 to provide education, nutrition, health and parent involvement services to support healthy development in low-income children between the ages of 3 and 5. Head Start programs foster children's growth in areas such as:

  • language and literacy
  • understanding and general knowledge
  • physical development and health
  • social and emotional development
  • approaches to learning

In 1994, the Early Head Start program was created to serve children from birth to 3 years of age –critically important years in a child’s development. Early Head Start programs can include regular home visits and weekly classes to help parents address different areas of their child’s development and any other needs children may have at home. The program specifically addresses the needs of expecting or new parents by offering prenatal benefits, doula services and infant massage and nutrition classes.

Beyond basic preschool or alternative childcare, Head Start programs also offer services that support parents to identify and meet their own goals, nurture their children and advocate on behalf of communities to support children and families of all cultures and circumstances.

All Head Start programs use the Federal Income Poverty Guidelines as the main factor to determine if families are eligible. These income levels by household size are published by HHS each year. Depending on where you live, your local Head Start program may be managed by non-profit organizations; a city, county, or Native American tribal government; or school district.

Benefits.gov houses program eligibility and application information that is specific to each state’s Head Start program. To find information on a Head Start program in your community, go to “Benefits,” select Browse by State, select your state and scroll down to view your state’s Head Start benefit.

To find out if your child is eligible for Head Start, Early Head Start, and other programs, click “Start Now” on the homepage to use our simple and confidential Benefit Finder.

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Energy Assistance Programs: Not Just for Winter
This is an image of a man weatherizing a house window

As the temperatures rise this summer, keep your home cool and help protect the environment by participating in energy related benefit programs and energy conservation. The Low Income Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is funded by the Energy Department and is administered by a non-profit organization managed by each state, territory or reservation. If your family’s income is within the limits set by your state, territory or reservation, weatherization grants will help you pay for upgrades to a home you own or rent. These upgrades can include new windows and improved insulation, which help keep homes warm in the winter and cool in the summer while using less energy. The Energy Department reports that over 750,000 homes have been weatherized in the last three years, with the average home saving about $400 per year as a result.

You may also want to look into the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which provides financial assistance to help you pay for heating your home in winter and cooling in summer. LIHEAP is funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and administered by each state, territory or reservation. If your family’s income is within the limits set by your state, territory or reservation, LIHEAP may help you pay your energy bills.

The easiest way to find the Weatherization program and LIHEAP income requirements is to use the Browse by State function on Benefits.gov to look through the programs offered in your state. If you live in a U.S. overseas territory, use one of the Federal program links mentioned above.

While these Federal programs can provide you with the financial assistance you need, you can start lowering next month’s energy bill today by making a few small changes around your home. This summer, be sure to keep your curtains or blinds closed during the day and change your air-conditioning filter regularly to cut down on cooling costs. If possible, plant trees or build a trellis for climbing plants on the south and west sides of your home. Landscaping that blocks sun in summer and allows it to reach your home in winter can reduce your energy bill by up to 25 percent.

Explore EnergySavers.gov, from the Energy Department, for more tips on how you can save money and protect the environment by using less energy for transportation and in your home, or check out the Energy Savers Guide. Find out if you may be eligible for the programs above and over 1,000 others by using the simple prescreening tool, the Benefit Finder, on Benefits.gov.

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Benefits.gov Highlights Loans for Native Americans
This is an image of a young Native American girl smiling

For some Native Americans, finding the money to buy a home, rent a house or start a business can be a challenge. However, the U.S. Federal government offers several programs that can help Native Americans achieve these goals.

Native American homeownership has been historically low given the unique status of Indian lands being held in Federal trust. In response, Congress created the Indian Home Loan Guarantee Program (Section 184)  in 1992 to increase Native American homeownership by reducing loan costs and encouraging private lending on tribal lands. Managed by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), the program can help finance the cost to purchase or build a new home, rehabilitate an existing home or refinance a mortgage. The Section 184 program requires a low down payment and has the lowest mortgage loan guarantee cost available. This program can be used for houses that are on or off a reservation in the states.

HUD also offers the Indian Housing Block Grants program which helps federally-recognized tribes carry out a range of activities on Indian reservations and Indian areas, such as building housing, providing housing services to eligible families and individuals, or creating crime prevention and safety programs for housing developments.

With the Native American Direct Loan (NADL) Program, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) helps eligible Native American active duty service members and veterans apply for a loan to purchase, build, or improve a home on Federal trust land. These loans may also be used at the same time to purchase and improve a home or to refinance another VA direct loan.

If you’re interested in starting your own business but don’t have the capital, the Department of the Interior (DOI) may be able to help. The Indian Loan Guaranty, Insurance, and Interest Subsidy Program, offered by DOI, exists to help Native Americans and Alaska Natives obtain loans from private lenders in order to start their own businesses on Federal trust lands. 

To find out if you may be eligible for the programs listed above, and over 1,000 other forms of government assistance, click the “Start Now” button on the Benefits.gov  homepage to use our free and confidential Benefit Finder. Or, type “Native American benefits” in the search box found in the top right corner of any page on Benefits.gov.

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Visit and Search the New Disability.gov!
This is an image of the Disability.gov logo

The government's official website for people with disabilities, Disability.gov, recently launched a newly designed website, making it easier for individuals, their families and others to find disability-related information and resources.

Disability.gov now offers the following easy-to-use search tools that can help find what you're looking for:

Search Box: Type a key word or phrase into the Search Box located at the top of the Disability.gov homepage.  This allows you to run a targeted search, helping you find exactly what you need.

Information by Topic: Select one of the popular topics that are listed on the left hand side of the homepage to view resources such as Benefits, Community Life, Emergency Preparedness and Transportation. Next, decide whether you want to search both national and state resources, search only state resources or search only national resources, and choose the appropriate blue box. 

Helpful tip: If you feel you have received too many search results, do not get discouraged. You can now choose from the options under Subtopic(s), Audience(s) or Disability Type(s) on the left side of the page. Each time you select an option, such as “Parents & Guardians” under Audience(s), your search results will show only resources for the option(s) you selected.

You may also register with Disability.gov and receive a unique login. This will allow you to subscribe to "groups." Groups encourage different sectors of the disability network to come together, such as caregivers or those interested in the Americans with Disabilities Act, to discuss important issues that impact their lives.

It's easy to stay connected with Disability.gov. You can start by following their official blog, Disability.Blog. You can also subscribe to their newsletter or RSS feed and receive email updates when changes are made to the site. Be sure to check out the Suggest a Resource page, where you can recommend a resource to Disability.gov for possible inclusion on the website.

Visit Disability.gov today for more information, or share it with someone you know!

You can also view a list of disability benefits on Benefits.gov by visiting our Browse by Category page and selecting "Disability Assistance." Use our confidential Benefit Finder to find out which government benefits you may be eligible to receive.

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Benefits.gov Buzz
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The following publications recently featured Benefits.gov as a valuable resource for citizens. To read the full story, click on the article title below or "Read more…"

Consumer Affairs: Caregiving Resources
The Times of Northwest Indiana
Caregiving can be challenging. The following are examples of online resources that may help: Benefits.gov is a collaborative effort of several federal agencies designed to provide information on government benefit programs…
Read more…

Government Website Celebrates its 10 Year Anniversary
The Benefits.gov website, which has helped over 50 million citizens determine if they can receive federal assistance, is preparing to celebrate its 10th anniversary. The service has been very helpful to seniors, especially those with low incomes…
Read more…

Check out what our Facebook Fans are posting about us and what our Twitter Followers are retweeting!


Facebook Recommendations:

  • “Even though I am doing missionary work in a foreign country, I relish every bit of information I can get about home.”
  • “Great stuff; I've used this site multiple times.”

Facebook Shares:

Benefits.gov: Have you been affected by a disaster and need help? Go to www.disasterassistance.gov to locate and apply for disaster relief.

Benefits.gov: Turn unemployment into reemployment! Learn more about One-Stop Career Centers here, and what they can offer: http://bit.ly/fXC6Xf


@BenefitsGOV: Benefits.gov is celebrating its 10th Anniversary of citizen service! Read more: http://bit.ly/IPUoRR

Retweet: Thanks for 10 Years of awesome citizen-focused services, @BenefitsGOV!

@BenefitsGOV: To begin using our free Benefit Finder tool, click the orange "Start Now" button on the Benefits.gov homepage!
Retweeted by 9, 1 Favorite

@BenefitsGOV: Download & share FREE Benefits.gov materials! Here's how: bit.ly/o4qvfH
Retweeted by 5, 1 Favorite

@BenefitsGOV: Are you a Veteran? Senior? Student? Homeowner? Parent? Visit Benefits.gov to find benefit programs you may be eligible for.
Retweeted by 3, 4 Favorites

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Stay Connected to Benefits.gov!
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Benefits.gov is dedicated to keeping citizens updated on all government benefit and assistance programs. If you want the latest in benefit information or are interested in helping your community or website visitors find us, check out the many ways you can stay connected and share our site with others.

Subscribe to Benefits.gov Email Updates!
Visitors to Benefits.gov can ensure they receive the latest information on specific programs of interest. Enter your email address in the box provided under "Subscribe to Benefits.gov Email Updates" on our homepage and select the Benefits.gov pages of your interest. You can also click on "Subscribe to email updates" on any page on the site to receive emails about changes to that specific program or page.

Connect with Benefits.gov's eNewsletter!
Over 60,000 citizens are reading the Benefits.gov Compass along with you! Our increasing readership confirms that more and more Americans are finding valuable benefit information through the Benefits.gov website and want to stay informed. Share the Benefits.gov Compass with your friends and family so they can take advantage of all that Benefits.gov has to offer.

Follow Us on Twitter, "Like" Us on Facebook!
Do you Tweet? Do you "Like" your favorite pages on Facebook? So do we! Follow Benefits.gov on Twitter, "Like" us on Facebook to receive our benefit-related updates, news and information that may benefit you or someone you know.

Share Benefits.gov!
Want to tell others about the site, a program you came across, or an informative article you read? Use our "Share" button on the top right corner of our site to post any Benefits.gov page through any of your email or social media tools. Share the wealth of benefit information!

Link to Us!
Linking to Benefits.gov helps raise awareness of this important resource. If you'd like to inform your site's visitors about the official benefits website of the U.S. government and provide them with access to over 1,000 Federal and state benefit and assistance programs, please place a link to us in a readily visible area of your website, such as on your homepage or in your site footer. For complete linking instructions, visit our Link to Us page.

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Help Yourself with Benefits.gov: Find what you're looking for!
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If you’ve come to Benefits.gov and already have an idea of what you’re looking for, we offer four different ways to find it quickly and easily. As you read, keep in mind that the only way to check your potential eligibility for the programs on Benefits.gov is by using our simple prescreening tool, the Benefit Finder.

Read on to find out which of these four search features will work best for your needs:

Search Field

Who’s it for?: You know the name of a program, or even part of it, or a keyword that describes what you are looking for.

How does it work?:  The search field is located at the top right of the website on every page.  Like any other search engine, enter your keyword or phrase into the search field and click “Search.” This feature will search the Benefits.gov site and you will be provided with relevant results for your word or phrase, as well as a list of “Related Searches” at the bottom of your results.

This could be you: You are looking for information on the Medicare program. You enter the phrase “Medicare” into the search field. Your results show relevant links to programs that include the phrase “Medicare” on Benefits.gov. You browse your results and click on what best fits your needs, which may be the Medicare Program.

Browse by Category

Who’s it for?: You are looking for a specific type of program, or you want to see all of the programs related to a certain topic of your interest.

How does it work?:  Go to “Benefits” in the top navigation of the site and click “By Category” in the drop down menu that appears. Read through the 20 benefit categories and select the topic of your interest to browse the benefits grouped into that category. The categories range from “Healthcare” to “Energy Assistance” and everything in between.

This could be you: You are looking for information on programs that you can apply for to get help paying your energy bills. You go to the “Browse by Category” page and select “Energy Assistance.” You are directed to a page of all 107 benefits on Benefits.gov that are related to Energy Assistance.  You click on a program title, such as Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), to learn more.

Browse by State

Who’s it for?: You know your state offers a certain program of your interest, or you want to see which programs each U.S. state offers.

How does it work?: Go to “Benefits” at the top of the site and click “By State” in the drop down menu that appears. Either select your state of interest by clicking the state on the interactive U.S. map, or click on the state name out of the full list of the 50 U.S. states below the map. You will then be taken to a list of the benefit programs that are offered in that state.

This could be you: You want to find out if your home state of Arkansas offers the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). You go to the “Browse by State” page and select “Arkansas.” You browse the list of programs offered in Arkansas and find that the state does indeed offer the program. You click on the Arkansas Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program to learn more.

Browse by Federal Agency

Who’s it for?: You know which Federal agency offers the program/s of your interest, or you want to see which programs each agency offers.

How does it work?: Go to “Benefits” at the top of the site and click “By Federal Agency” in the drop down menu that appears. Read through the Federal agencies listed and select the agency of your choice. You will then be taken to a list of the benefit programs that are offered by that agency.

This could be you: You want to find out more about the benefit program offered by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) that could help you repair your home after a declared disaster. You go to the “Browse by Federal Agency” page and select “U.S. Small Business Administration.” You browse the list of programs offered by SBA to find what you are looking for, which may be Home and Property Disaster Loans.


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Credits This publication is produced by: U.S. Department of Labor
T. Michael Kerr
Secretary for
and Management
Edward Hugler
Deputy Assistant
Secretary for
and Management
Albert Sloane
Amanda Hoffman
Caitlin Livingston
Paul Mayhew
Scot McGinn
Sam Schreck
Leila Scott
Bonnie Walters


If your agency would like to feature a benefit program on Benefits.gov, please contact us.

Thank you for reading the Benefits.gov Compass, a quarterly eNewsletter produced by the Benefits.gov Program. If you have comments or suggestions for items to include in future eNewsletters, please contact us through our Media Inbox.