How to Apply for Financial Assistance - CommonHelp

CommonHelpAt some point in our lives, we or someone we know - our friends, family members, or loved ones - may face a hardship or illness that requires the need for financial assistance. The Virginia Department of Social Services (VDSS) provides a variety of financial assistance programs to eligible residents of Virginia.


CommonHelp is the Commonwealth of Virginia’s fast and easy way to apply online for many financial assistance programs. Through the CommonHelp website you can find out what assistance you may be eligible for and submit one application saving you time and effort.

You can apply online through CommonHelp or in person at our office for the following programs:

  • Child Care Services
  • Energy Assistance (Cooling, Heating, or Crisis)
  • Financial Assistance Programs
  • Medicaid
  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) (Formerly known as food stamps)
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

You can also use the CommonHelp website to:

  • Check your benefits
  • Renew your benefits
  • Link your account to a case
  • Report changes to your case
  • Update your account

Eligibility Requirements

Applicants must meet certain general eligibility requirements to receive such services as SNAP, cash, medical, or energy assistance and help with child care expenses. These general requirements include:

  • You must live in Virginia
  • You must be a U.S. citizen or meet certain requirements if you are an immigrant
  • You must meet the specific requirements of each program for which you are applying

Before it can be determined whether you are eligible, much of the information you give must be verified. Eligibility and the amount of benefits will be based on your income, resources and number of people for whom you are applying, and for some programs, certain household expenses.

You will be notified in writing as soon as a decision about your application has been made. This notice will tell you whether you are eligible, and if eligible, what your benefits will be. If you are applying for financial or medical assistance, you must apply for any other benefits to which you may be entitled, such as Social Security, Worker’s Compensation, Unemployment Compensation, Veteran’s Benefits, or retirement pensions.

Eligibility Screening Tool

You may use the online eligibility screening tool to help determine whether you may be eligible for benefits. Please note, however, that the final decision regarding eligibility must be made by an eligibility worker at your local department of social services.

How to Apply

You may apply for assistance online through CommonHelp, in person at our office, or by mailing a paper application to:
Charlottesville Department of Social Services
P.O. Box 911
Charlottesville, VA 22902-0911

Paper applications may also be faxed to 434-970-3444. Blank applications can also be printed directly from the Virginia Department of Social Services. Please note: adobe reader is needed to complete this task. 

Public computers are available in our lobby in City Hall Annex to access CommonHelp if you prefer to apply online but do not have internet access. You may also use the computers at any public library. Paper applications can be picked up at our office or you can request an application be mailed to you by calling 434-970-3400.


All information you provide is confidential and may only be given to staff directly connected with administering or enforcing provisions of the programs for which you applied, other federal assistance programs, or programs that assist low-income individuals. Information will also be disclosed to:

  • Law enforcement officials for the purpose of investigating program violations
  • The Division of Child Support Enforcement to help locate absent parents
  • Persons connected with verifying status of immigrants
  • Employees of the Comptroller General’s Office of the United States for audit examination authorized by law
  • Law enforcement officials if you are a fugitive felon and receiving TANF or food stamp benefits
  • Agencies providing employment-related services for TANF recipients.

Additional Information

View the Guide to Using CommonHelp (PDF) for additional information.