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Student Resources for Basic Needs

Are you stressed about making ends meet? 

You’re not alone. 

Over half of all college students in Washington qualify as low-income. And especially now, many students don’t have the resources to cover food, housing, and other basics.   

Resources are available—and your college can help you find them. 

Most colleges have an office where students can go for help with basic needs. It’s usually called Student Services or Student Affairs. There you’ll connect with advisors who can help you find and apply for all kinds of resources to help you cover the basics. They’ll be familiar with the resources available through your campus and community as well as state and federal programs. 

Learn more

Doing a little research before visiting student services/affairs can help you prepare. But try not to rule anything out or assume you won’t qualify until you’ve met with an advisor or counselor.

This list is not exhaustive. Your school’s student services/affairs office will have more info about all the options available in your area. 

Cash assistance

Unemployment benefits

Unemployment benefits from Washington State Employment Security Department (ESD)

Many people who usually can’t get unemployment benefits now can. The best thing you can do to find out what you’re eligible for is apply.

Even if you aren’t eligible for regular unemployment benefits, you may still qualify for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) under the federal CARES Act. Visit ESD’s website to check your eligibility and find answers to FAQs for workers

Undocumented and other immigrant students 

Learn more about unemployment insurance eligibility from the National Employment Law Center

Stimulus checks

Stimulus checks from the federal Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

Find out if you need to apply for the recovery rebate in the federal CARES Act. 

Even if you don’t have income, you may be eligible for a recovery rebate of up to $1,200 per adult in your household and $500 per dependent under age 17.  The rebate won’t be taxed or garnished if you’ve defaulted on a student loan or owe taxes.    

Income-eligible students may receive the rebate if all of the following apply: 

  • They are not claimed as a dependent on someone else’s taxes. 
  • They are a U.S. citizen, a U.S. national, a lawful permanent resident, or meet the IRS substantial presence test. This may include people with DACA.
  • They have a work-eligible social security number (SSN). 

If you’re eligible, you may get your rebate automatically. But there’s also a chance you’ll have to go through a few more steps. Learn more on the IRS website:

Students who filled out a 2018 or 2019 tax return or who receive Social Security benefits:
You’ll get your rebate via direct deposit to the account you used for your most recent federal tax return or your Social Security benefits. 

Students who were not required to file taxes in 2018 or 2019:
Enter your payment info to get the rebate. 

Students who did not file for other reasons:
You must file a tax return to find out if you’re eligible.

Disaster Cash Assistance Program

Disaster Cash Assistance Program (DCAP) from Washington State Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS)

If you’re not eligible for other state benefits, you may be able to get cash assistance from DCAP during a State of Emergency.

It’s available to all Washington families and people without children who meet the income and resource limits of the program. To find out if you can get DCAP, you need to apply online or over the phone. Get more information from DSHS. 

Undocumented and other immigrant students 

DCAP is not part of the Public Charge Test, and you don’t need a social security number to apply. DSHS has said they will not share information with USCIS if you do not have a social security number or are undocumented. But DSHS is required to share information with USCIS if you have a lawful immigration status that qualifies you for federally-funded programs like TANF.

2019 Federal tax return

File your 2019 federal tax return with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)

If you’re expecting a refund on your 2019 taxes, it pays to file before the extended deadline of July 15. The sooner you file, the sooner you’ll get your refund. 

You may also qualify for tax credits including:

You can file directly with the IRS ( or get free tax assistance from United Way.

Emergency student aid

Check with your school about federal emergency financial aid for students.

Most colleges are getting federal funding from the CARES Act to provide emergency student aid. Check your school's website for info and contact student services/affairs. 

Are you also applying for SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)? 

Don’t include emergency aid from the federal CARES Act when calculating your income.

Undocumented students 
LGBTQ+ students

The Ingersoll Gender Center

  • Assistance for Washingtonians who identify as trans or gender diverse. 
  • Undocumented and other immigrant students may also apply.

Need-Specific assistance 

College students can qualify for assistance with food, housing, healthcare, utilities, and more. Again, the best first step is to connect with your school’s student services/affairs office. They can help you apply.  

Online resources: 

  • Washington Connection: Learn more and apply for state-managed programs like Basic Food and TANF (Temporary Aid to Needy Families)
  • Washington 211: Find local public and nonprofit support for food, shelter, physical and mental health, utility assistance, and more. 

Students who are immigrants may be affected by the Public Charge Test when they apply for legal permanent residency. Find out if the test includes any of the benefits you're seeking before applying. The City of Seattle has more information about the public charge test and public benefits in multiple languages.  


Campus food pantries 

Most college campuses now offer food pantries. Your student services/affairs office can also connect you with free food from community sources

Basic Food Program from Washington State Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS)

Many students don’t realize they can qualify for Basic Food, also known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). If you are low income and meet the immigration status requirements, you might qualify. Ask student services/affairs to help you apply for Basic Food. 


Mental health 

Care for your Coronavirus anxiety (Mental Health America and Shine)
Resources include managing anxiety about health and finances, talking with your children, social isolation, xenophobia issues, free meditation exercises, and where to get help.

Text and phone crisis support
Seeking help is a strength—not a weakness. Text and phone support are usually available 24/7. 

  • Crisis Text Line
  • Disaster Distress Helpline (DDH): Call 1-800-985-5990 or text TalkWithUs to 66746.
Undocumented and other immigrant students 

Mental health. United We Dream has a mental health toolkit for undocumented students. 

Physical health. You can get COVID-related healthcare and testing. Visit for more information in English, Español, and other languages. Getting healthcare and testing for COVID-19 will not affect the Public Charge Test for immigrants who apply for a green card. 



Washington Connection
Washington State Department of Social and Human Services (DSHS) offers resources for early learning, youth programs, childcare subsidies, and more. 

ChildCare Aware
This independent organization keeps an updated and searchable list of local community childcare options. 

Family, Friends & Neighbor Program
Offered by Washington State Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF)