Budget Stretchers

Listing of resources and links provided by The Arc Greater Twin Cities, and reprinted with permission.

In today's economy, many of us need to budget our money.  This can be critically important for people with disabilities, especially those living on their own.  People with disabilities have the highest rate of poverty of any minority group in the United States (source Congressional Committee findings for the ADA), and a fourth of adults with disabilities live in poverty (source U.S. Census 2010).

Government programs can make independent living possible, but finances can still be tight.   Besides cutting back on extras, and even essentials, there are other ways to save money.  The following programs can help with day-to-day expenses including rent, clothing, and telephone costs.  In addition, there are numerous no cost or reduced cost admissions to attractions across the Twin Cities.  Check out these budget stretchers!

Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA)

You may be able to get more money to help pay for rent, utilities or other basic needs.  Minnesota Supplemental Aid (MSA) provides cash assistance to help adults who get Supplemental Security Income (SSI) pay for their basic needs. Some people who are blind, have a disability, or are older than 65 but do not get SSI because their other income is too high, may also be eligible for MSA if they meet the income limit. Most people eligible for SSI are also eligible for MSA.  Note:  This program is currently very underutilized by those who are eligible.You can apply for MSA, SNAP and GA using the same form. Complete the Combined Application Form and submit to the county or apply online.

MSA provides a basic monthly grant.  You can estimate this amount on the Minnesota's Disability Benefits 101 website.  There is also a special needs grant to help with medically prescribed special diets, representative payee services, guardian or conservator service fees, certain home repairs, certain household furniture and appliances and help paying for housing costs through MSA Housing Assistance. 

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Formerly known as Food Stamps, SNAP is a county run program funded by the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (USDA).  SNAP offers nutrition assistance to millions of low-income individuals and families and provides economic benefits to communities.  Income limits are higher for households with a member who has a disability.

General Assistance (GA) Program

General Assistance (GA) is a state-funded program that is administered by each county.  GA provides cash grants monthly to adults without children to pay for basic needs.  There are 14 eligible categories related to illness, disability or injury that prevent an individual from working.  Note:  You may be able to receive GA while applying for SSI, but you will have to pay GA back if SSI is awarded.

Energy Assistance Program (EAP)

Federally funded by the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, the Energy Assistance Program (EAP) helps pay home heating costs and furnace repairs for income-qualified households. Grants are available for homeowners or renters with income at or below 50% of the state median income.  Services may include payment of energy bills, help with utility disconnections, education on efficient and safe use of home heating energy, advocacy with energy suppliers on behalf of consumers and repair or replacement of homeowners' malfunctioning heating systems. 

  • Learn more about the Minnesota Energy Assistance Program or call 1-800-657-3710 or 651-296-2860 (TTY) for assistance and eligibility requirements
  • Applications for Minnesota Energy Assistance Program 
    Mail completed application to your local EAP provider

    Note:  Applications must be received by May 30th prior to the next heating season.

Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP)

You can apply for the Energy Assistance Program and Weatherization Assistance Program using the same form.

The Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP) is federally funded through the U.S. Dept. of Energy and enables income-qualified households to permanently reduce their energy bills by helping to make their homes more energy efficient while protecting the health and safety of family members.  Services may include:  energy audits, insulation, testing, repair or replacement of homeowner mechanical systems, and participant education. 

Telephone Service Discount and Loan Programs

Lifeline and Telephone Assistance Plan (TAP)

The federal Lifeline and state Telephone Assistance Plan (TAP) programs provide monthly telephone service discounts on one telephone line or wireless telephone per household.  Lifeline provides a monthly discount of $9.25 for the primary phone line and the Telephone Assistance Plan provides a $3.50 discount for home land lines.  Applications for Lifeline and TAP.

Telephone Equipment Distribution (TED) Program 

The TED Program provides telephone equipment to people who are deaf, hard of hearing, deafblind, speech impaired or have a physical disability and need adaptive equipment in order to use the phone.  The Minnesota Department of Human Services (DHS)loans the equipment at no cost for as long as you need it.  Visit the DHS website for more information, include FAQs about the program.

Food Related Programs

Fare For All

Fare For All buys fresh fruits, vegetables, and frozen meat in bulk to save you up to 40% off grocery store prices.  No need to sign up; visit a location and bring home food that day.  Exact content of packages changes each month, while the value remains the same (packages range from $10 to $25).  Fare For All is open to everyone, and there are no income requirements.  Accepts cash, credit/debit cards and EBT cards (no checks). Visit their website to find their distribution sites.

Hunger Solutions

Hunger Solutions serves as a credible, trusted link between government, nonprofit and corporate sectors in efforts to improve access to public nutrition programs.  You can find information here on several food related programs as well as a searchable food help map.

Farmer's Markets 

Local Harvest can help you locate a Farmer's Market or Family Farm near you.  The site also has a local food events calendar and offers a monthly newsletter.  Note:  Many Farmer's Markets accept EBT.

Consumer Supported Agriculture (CSA's)

A CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm is a great way to buy local, seasonal food directly from a farmer.  You can purchase a share (i.e. membership) from a farmer for an upfront cost.  The cost varies from farm to farm depending on the products in the share and the number of deliveries included.  Find a CSA farm near you!  Note:  Some CSA's accept EBT.

Meals on Wheels

Meals on Wheels in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro area meets a vital need for more than 6,800 seniors and people with disabilities by providing regular nourishment, social connection, connecting recipients to other home-based services, and providing peace of mind to clients, caregivers and families.  Check their website for program FAQ's, eligibility and how to sign up for meals.

Food Pantries

There are several food pantries and food banks in Minnesota. This site has a directory of food bank locations and non-profit organizations committed to fighting hunger.  Hours, days and inventory vary greatly.  Check their website for details.

Free Dinners

The following organizations offer free dinners while also providing a sense of community.

  • Loaves and Fishes - A nonprofit meal program in Minnesota, serving hot meals to those in need.  In 2013, they served over 350,000 nutritious meals.  No questions asked.

Clothing and Household Goods

Arc's Value Village -  Arc's Value Village Thrift Stores provide a significant source of funding to The Arc Greater Twin Cities, an organization that helps adults and children with intellectual and developmental disabilities.  They have four locations:  Brooklyn Center, New Hope, Richfield and St. Paul with a fifth location coming soon in Bloomington.  You'll find everyday needs as well as treasures and collectibles.

Bridging - Bridging provides furniture and household goods to thousands of local families and individuals in need.  In order to receive services from Bridging, you must be referred by one of their partner agencies.  If you are currently working with a case worker or social worker, ask for a referral to Bridging or for assistance in getting a referral.  If you are not currently working with a case worker, check the website for a list of registered agencies that can provide a referral or contact the Health and Human Services division in your county (links to each county on website).  Note:  Bridging  provides a one-time gift of quality furniture and household items.

Twin Cities Free Market - The Twin Cities Free Market is an interactive internet-based program (with a newly designed website) that allows people to easily list or search for free items they want to get or give away as an effort to reduce the amount of goods being thrown away. Examples of items include:  appliances, children's items, electronics, furniture, home decor, home renovation, lawn and garden, musical instruments, pet equipment and recreation/exercise equipment.

Twin Cities Clothing & Household Resources/Thrift Stores - This listing of thrift stores in the Twin Cities is organized by county (Washington County page 21). It includes clothing and household items, areas served, and hours.  Most items are donated.

Need Help Paying Bills - This site offers information, inspiration and resources for today's challenging economy.  It lists a number of services offered by clothing closets, thrift stores and related non- profits.  In addition to receiving items such as clothing, household goods, school supplies, or more, some non-profits or churches may have vouchers or small amounts of cash for paying bills, Christmas assistance, or housing.

Reduced Price Memberships and Admissions

Science Museum of Minnesota - Located on the banks of the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul, the Science Museum of Minnesota is known worldwide for its interactive exhibits, dynamic traveling exhibitions, and internationally distributed large format films.  You can receive half price memberships and significant discounts on admission if you receive public benefits.  Check their website for details.

Minnesota Children's Museum - Located in downtown St. Paul, the Minnesota Children's Museum is dedicated to providing children with a fun, hands-on and stimulating environment to explore and discover.  All Play memberships are available free of charge to families who qualify, based on income, thanks to the generous support of many Museum donors.  Memberships expire after one year; members must reapply annually.  You can find the All Play membership enrollment form on their website.

Walker Art Museum - The Walker offers Target Free Thursday Nights, with free gallery admission from 5:00-9:00 pm.  Free gallery admissions are also available on the first Saturday of each month.  The facility is accessible to all visitors, and all entrances and public areas are wheelchair accessible.  Other accommodations include:  assistive listening devices, American Sign Language Interpretation for selected events, visual aids and audio descriptions.

Guthrie Theater - The Guthrie is located in downtown Minneapolis on the west bank of the Mississippi River, next to Gold Medal Park and the Mill City Museum, and strives to make its facility and performances accessible to all patrons.  Guthrie Gateway Tickets allows patrons enrolled in selected government programs to attend Guthrie performances for just $5 per ticket.  See their website for details.

YMCA Twin Cities - With locations across the Twin Cities, the YMCA is an inclusive organization of people committed to nurturing the potential of kids, promoting health and wellness and encouraging social responsibility.  They work to make sure that everyone, regardless of age, income or background, has the opportunity to learn, grow and thrive.  The Personal Pricing Plan is a needs-based scholarship fund made available through Y Partners -- individual and business contributions to our communities.  You are welcome to apply for both MEMBERSHIP and PROGRAM scholarships.  See their website for details.

Federal Access Pass - The Access Pass is a free, lifetime pass, available to U.S. citizens or permanent residents of the United States that have been medically determined to have a permanent disability, that provides access to more than 2,000 recreation sites managed by five Federal agencies (including the National Park Service).  Check their website for instructions on how to obtain the pass, including documentation that is required.

Many Community Centers offer discounted membership, program or entrance fees.

Minnesota State Park Camping - The Minnesota DNR is opening the outdoors to people with disabilities by working hard to update its public spaces and programs to meet the state and federal accessibility standards.  If your vehicle has been issued Minnesota disability license plates or a rear-view mirror hang tag, or if you have a Federal Access Pass, you can get a reduced rate special annual vehicle permit with proof of disability and proof of vehicle ownership.  For Minnesota residents with physical disabilities (permit issued by the State or Federal Access Pass holders), half-priced camping is available Sunday through Thursday nights.


PCs for People - To receive a computer from PCs for People, a potential recipient must be below the 150% poverty level, have a family member with a disability or work with a social worker.  Individuals receiving a computer are asked to provide a small donation, usually $35-50.  Many times government programs that clients are involved in will cover the donation.  Another service offered to eligible individuals, even if they have never received a computer from PCs for People, is affordable computer repair.  Individuals can bring in any computer and have it repaired for $25.