University of Illinois Extension

Community Agencies That Can Help

Several agencies in your community can be a source of help during tough times.  This website describes many of these agencies and includes a list of toll-free telephone numbers.

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, go to your nearest Illinois Department of Employment Security Office. You will need to be able to list all the employers you have worked for during the last 12 months including their phone numbers and addresses.  You will also need to take your social security card.

At the claims counter, you will receive help on how to file an initial claim.  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. You can also file for benefits online at

You may be eligible for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) 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.

The Department of Employment Security Office may require you to file with the Illinois workNet Center if your lay-off is expected to be long-term.  The workNet Center office 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.

Human and Social Service

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

Several assistance programs, such as Food Stamps, Medical Assistance, and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), are coordinated through the Department of Human Services.  Your financial resources and family income are used to determine if you are eligible.  Call to find out what records to take with you.

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 project in your county.  Contact your county Department of Human Services and local utility companies for information on how to apply.

Health Services

The county Department of Public Health can provide 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.  Your county or area Department of Public Health can tell you what is available.  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.


Emergency food supplies may be available at local food pantries.  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 office.

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.

United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) surplus food may also be available if your income falls within the guidelines.  Contact local government officials for information on distribution.  Contact your county Department of Human Services or Ministerial Alliance for more information on food pantries.


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

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.

Displaced Homemaker programs are designed to prepare former full-time homemakers for employment.  Local community colleges have more information on these programs.  Some assistance for child care and transportation costs may be available.

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

If health problems or a disability led to your present situation, the Illinois Department of Human Services Vocational Rehabilitation (VR) may offer retraining and help in searching for new employment.  You are eligible for vocational rehabilitation services if you have a physical, emotional or mental disability that is a substantial handicap to employment and if the VR determines their services can help.

Workforce Investment Act (WIA)

If you need help finding a job or getting training or work experience, the Workforce job training program may be able to help you.

WIA provides employment training services to people who receive TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) benefits, to youth between the ages of 16 and 21, to persons who receive General Assistance benefits, to other unemployed low-income persons, and to dislocated workers (persons laid off because of plant closings).

On-the-job training, youth employment and training programs, vocational and other skills training, and job search skills training may all be available through WIA.  The programs are administered in Illinois by the WorkForce Development Board (WDB).

To find out more, contact a WIA office directly or ask your local workNet Center or county Department of Human Services for information.

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 Illinois 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.

Day Care Subsidies

If your income and family savings are below certain levels, you may be able to get help from your county Department of Children and Family Services to pay for child care so you can work or get job training.  You don’t have to be eligible for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) in order to get this help.

To find out more about day care services, contact your local Department of Children and Family Services for the Child Care Resources and Referral office nearest you.

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, clergy, mental health professionals and support groups exist.

They can help you deal with extreme levels of stress and the physical and emotional trauma that often accompany stress. The County Mental Health Services/Counseling Services provide services and information on what’s available in your area.

Coping with the stress of tough times is discussed in Controlling Stress and Helping Children Cope.

Financial Counseling

Managing the money you do have requires careful budgeting.  Your local Extension office can provide money management resources.  Also visit More for Your Money website -

 Bank loan officers, utility company consumer service personnel, or mortgage companies can also help with planning for payment of specific debts.