Can’t Pay Rent? When Things Get Tough, This Organization Helps Pay the Bills

Image: Bills
kate hiscock under Creative Commons

I once had to cover some unexpected dental procedures. A toothache is not a fun experience for anyone — and neither is the cost for fixing it.

My expenses for that month went over my regular budget by about $2,000, endangering my ability to cover other necessary expenses such as my rent. I wasn’t sure what I would do until I heard about an organization called Modest Needs.

Modest Needs is a non-profit organization that “empowers members of the general public to make small, emergency grants to low-income workers who are at risk of slipping into poverty.” It provides small grants to deserving, self-sufficient individuals who are usually capable of paying rent and other expenses, but due to unforeseen circumstances (medical or dental emergency, death in the family, loss of a job, large utility bill), their expenses for the month are too much for their budgets.

If you’re in need of a bit of extra support, Modest Needs might be able to help you too.

Who Is Eligible for Support?

Modest Needs focuses on giving Self-Sufficiency Grants to those who aren’t eligible for other kinds of social assistance, with priority for people living alone, public school teachers and first responders, though they accept applications from anyone in need.

If you qualify, they’ll help you cover an unforeseeable or emergency expense that occurred in the past 60 days, such as an unexpected medical bill, the legal fees to complete an adoption or the cost of replacing a major appliance. They’ll also support you with monthly expenses that you can’t afford because of a documented extenuating circumstance, such as my rent when I had to unexpectedly pay for dental surgery.

Modest Needs only considers expenses that are deemed crucial for the household, such as rent, electric or gas bills; eyeglasses purchases; or medical emergencies. It doesn’t cover internet, cable or phone bills; State or Federal taxes; personal loans; rental or utility deposits; bankruptcy costs; tuition; or credit card debt. Applicants do not receive cash, gift cards or any other form of payment — Modest Needs pays the vendor, e.g., your landlord or medical provider, directly.

How Does Modest Needs Work?

Modest Needs isn’t funded by government grants or big foundations. Instead, funds come from regular people who want to help out a fellow community member. Interested donors can browse submissions on the site, and if they want to support you, they’ll donate an amount of their choosing. Little by little, you’ll see the support trickle in until your application is fully funded.

How Do I Apply?

The application is simple, though you’ll need your most recent tax return and bank statement for some of the questions. In the final section, it asks direct questions about your crisis and situation. Make sure to share as much information as you can here: It’s all confidential and will make you a more interesting candidate.

You’ll need to provide documents to prove you are truly in need, such as your pay stubs, the bill in question, e.g. a letter from your landlord or utility bill that is overdue,, your latest tax return, and proof of identification. Upload your documents to the site or fax them to Modest Needs.

If you find yourself in a tight spot this month, perhaps Modest Needs can help you. (Like this idea? Click to tweet it!)

Your Turn: Have you heard of Modest Needs?

Emilia Chape is a full-time program assistant. She practices what she reads on The Penny Hoarder and thus is part of organizations such as TaskRabbit, Market Force and InboxDollars.