THOUSANDS of hard-up households could get up to £800 to help with essential costs such as food, bills and appliances.
The free cash payments are part of the £500million Household Support Fund, which local councils are handing out to struggling families.
For example, Runnymede Council in Surrey is giving up to £800 to residents to help pay for costs such as food, heating, white goods and essential repairs.
Households with children can get up to four payments of £80 a month to help with buying food – meaning the total support comes to £320.
Residents without children will get half that amount over the four month period
In order to qualify you must be receiving benefits such as Universal Credit.
Families can also get help paying for essentials such as blankets as well as hygiene items such as soap and sanitary products.
Again, families with children are eligible for four £80 monthly payments, and those without kids will get £40 per instalment.
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Households who are behind on their energy or water bills can get support worth up to £150.
Up to £500 is available per family to help cover the cost of replacing or repairing white goods, such as fridges or washing machines.
But you'll have to buy the appliance yourself first and show proof of purchase to get a refund from the council.
A maximum of £350 is on offer to cover transport costs such as car repairs, an MOT or buying a bike or rail ticket.
A further £350 could be given out for other essential costs such as broadband bills, school uniforms and winter clothes.
Again, you will have to pay the money upfront and provide a receipt to get reimbursed.
Finally, grants of up to £800 per household can be used to pay off council tax or rent arrears, but only in exceptional circumstances where existing support schemes can't help.
Families can apply for more than one pot of cash, but the total amount awarded won't be more than £800.
Residents can submit their application via the Runnymede Council website.
The scheme will end on March 31, but it could close earlier if the local authority runs out of funding so you should get your application in soon.
While this particular scheme is only open to Runnymede Council residents, there are other similar initiatives taking place across the country.
But how much you can get and who is eligible can vary depending on where you live.
For example, in Spelthorne you can get a one-off cash payment of up to £80 and in Rutland you can get £100 for essentials.
Families in Barnsley can apply for supermarket vouchers worth up to £200.
You can search for your local council using the search tool on gov.uk – just enter your postcode.
You can then see the help you can get from the Household Support Fund, who's eligible and how to apply.
It's worth doing this sooner rather than later, as there is a limited amount of cash to give out.
The funding is available up to the end of March but some councils have closed applications earlier or may run out of cash if there's a lot of demand.
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