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Modest Needs

Modest Needs
Modest Needs
33 Irving Place
Floor 5
New York, NY 10003 Get Directions

About Modest Needs


Modest Needs exists:

  • To responsibly provide short-term financial assistance to individuals and families in temporary crisis who, because they are working and live just above the poverty level, are ineligible for most types of conventional social assistance but who (like many of us) are living one or two lost paychecks away from the kind of financial catastrophe that eventually leads to homelessness;
  • To lessen the burden of state and federal agencies charged with the care of the truly indigent by doing everything in our power to stop these at-risk households from slipping into the cycle of poverty, despite the burden posed by an unanticipated, emergency expense; and
  • To promote compassion and generosity on the part of individual persons living in the United States and Canada, the areas that we serve, by standing as a living testament to the power of human kindness to change lives, no matter how much (or how little) a person has to share.

In keeping with our mission:

  • We have designed our programs to help those who work hard and have nowhere else to go for assistance, as well as those who give back to our communities and country such as public school teachers, first responders, veterans returning from service abroad and active duty military members. Our aim is to support those who don’t generally qualify to receive assistance from conventional agencies so that they don’t find themselves losing everything because of a short-term crisis.
  • As a matter of policy, we do not ever give cash directly to the persons who apply for help from Modest Needs; rather, when our donors empower us to make a grant, we assist the person who has requested our help by remitting payment directly to the vendor or creditor named in the applicant’s documentation. By operating this way, our donors always know for certain that the funds they’ve made available to our qualified applicants serve only the purpose for which they were intended; and
  • We never charge a fee to our applicants, and the grants we make come with absolutely no strings attached and never have to be repaid. We make only one request of the people we’re able to help; we ask them to say ‘thank you’ to the individual donors who made it possible for us to help them in their times of need.

Grant Types and Qualifications

Modest Needs’ hallmark grant is our Self-Sufficiency Grant. We make Self-Sufficiency Grants in an effort to assist individuals and families who, because they are working and live just above the poverty level, are ineligible for most types of conventional social assistance but who, all the same, are living one or two lost paychecks away from the kind of financial catastrophe that eventually leads to homelessness.

We give special consideration to persons living alone (single persons with no dependent children), public school teachers, and first responders – the people who do the most for our communities but who don’t generally qualify to receive assistance from conventional agencies, even though these good folks are often grossly undercompensated for their work.

Generally, Modest Needs offers Self-Sufficiency Grants to qualified individuals / households who need help to afford two specific types of expenses:

  • Unexpected or emergency expenses that an individual or family living paycheck-to-paycheck could not possibly afford without a short-term hand-up.
    • Examples of expenses of this type with which Modest Needs has helped in the past include everything from the cost of medical care not covered by insurance to the cost of repairing or replacing a major appliance to the cost of required work tools or uniforms to the cost of legal fees to complete an adoption to – tragically – the cost of burying a family member that has unexpectedly passed away; and
  • Monthly bills that an individual or family living paycheck-to-paycheck cannot afford to pay at the time of their application because of a documentable extenuating circumstance that occurred within the past year.
    • For example, if you were required to take unpaid leave from work because your child was ill and now cannot afford the cost of your auto insurance, or if you were in an auto accident and cannot afford this month’s rent or mortgage payment because you had to pay a deductible to repair your car – under these kinds of documentable emergency situations, Modest Needs would consider paying a regular monthly bill on behalf of your household on a one-time basis.

Modest Needs’ mission is to help low-income workers who are struggling to shoulder the burden of a short-term emergency expense.

In keeping with our mission, Modest Needs’ applicants must meet the following income and employment guidelines:

  • At least one adult member of the applicant’s household must be documentably employed at the time of the application; AND
  • The primary (largest) source of income for each applicant’s household must be either income earned from employment; or child support payments; or Veteran’s Benefits; or retirement income (including Social Security retirement benefits)

Modest Needs regularly makes grants to households receiving types of income other than those listed above (Social Security Disability Income, for example). However, in light of Modest Needs’ mission, applicants whose households do NOT meet the income and employment guidelines listed above will NOT qualify to apply for a grant from Modest Needs.

If you need help to afford a short-term emergency expense but know that your household does not meet the income and employment guidelines listed above, please do not complete an application for assistance from Modest Needs. Instead, please consider contacting your local 2-1-1 and requesting a referral, or have a look at our resource database to see if we list another agency that might be able to help you.

While we try to be as flexible as we can with the requests for assistance we receive, Modest Needs cannot ever help persons to afford expenses that fall into one or more of the following three categories:

  • Expenses we are not permitted to pay as a matter of law.
    • Expenses of this type would include federal, state, or local tax payments, including property tax payments, past-due child support payments, or fines / legal fees associated with a civil or criminal offense with which an applicant has been charged (for example, we can’t pay traffic tickets or help you to retain an attorney because you’ve been sued or charged with a crime).
  • Expenses that we cannot pay on behalf of an applicant without sending cash or a gift card directly to that applicant.
    • Modest Needs’ policies prohibit our sending cash directly to an applicant, so unfortunately, we cannot help applicants to afford, for example, the cost of groceries or gas, the cost of covering an overdraft in an applicant’s bank account, or the cost of repaying a payday loan.
    • Similarly, we can’t make a rental payment if, for example, an applicant is renting from a family member (this would be like giving cash directly to the applicant’s family), and we can’t help applicants to afford utility or rental deposits (these payments are returned to applicants as cash at the end of the rental term.)
  • Expenses related to credit card debt, bankruptcy, or luxury items.
    • At Modest Needs, we believe that the best kind of giving is responsible giving. So, as a matter of organizational policy, we do not help persons to afford credit card bills; the cost of filing for bankruptcy or making scheduled bankruptcy payments; or luxury goods / services of any kind (for example, the cost of replacing a broken television or the cost of taking your family on a vacation).

Generally, if an applicant’s responses to the questions we ask in our online application indicate that the applicant’s household meets our employment and income guidelines, Modest Needs will always give that applicant the opportunity to apply for a Self-Sufficiency grant.

Applicants should keep in mind that, during the application process, they will be asked to document information regarding their identities, incomes, employment, and the expense for which they are applying for Modest Needs’ help to afford.

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