Millions of dollars of free money grants go unused each year in the United States, and you may be able to claim a portion of that for yourself.
The US government offers more than 1,000 grant programs to aid American individuals, organizations, and businesses in various areas.
Many people use the terms “grant” and “loan” interchangeably; however, they're very different. A loan is a sum of money you must repay – usually requiring a fee or “interest” to borrow the money.
A grant is a monetary award that does not require repayment. A government grant is a form of federal financial assistance awarded to eligible recipients. An eligible recipient can be either an individual or a business, depending on the specific grant.
While the federal government awards most federal grants to organizations and businesses, they also provide grants to other government entities such as states and counties.
These entities then offer programs to help individuals offset costly expenses such as mortgage payments, childcare, health insurance, etc. As a result, qualified individuals participating in these programs can experience relief to help lower expenses, improve their quality of life, and become financially self-sufficient.
6 Assistance Programs You May Be Overlooking
Whether you have overlooked these programs or never knew they existed, they can offer support and assistance in times of financial stress. While each program has unique qualifications and requirements, they are funded by grant money and do not require repayment.
1. Health Insurance Assistance
The Children's Health Insurance Program, or CHIP for short, is a government grant funded by the federal and state governments to help families offset the cost of childcare for their children.
Primarily, CHIP is for children under the age of 18 (with some exceptions) whose families are unable to pay for healthcare yet do not meet the income requirements to qualify for Medicaid. In some states, pregnant women can also be eligible for CHIP. Because CHIP is a state-run program, the eligibility requirements vary by state.
2. Home Improvement Assistance
There are two parts to the 504 Home Repair Program. The first part offers low-interest loans to low-income homeowners to help them repair or improve their homes. There are income qualifications; technically, this is a loan – not a grant – and you are required to repay the amount you borrow. These loans typically have a 20-year term with a fixed interest rate of 1%.
The second part of this program offers grants to elderly low-income homeowners who can't afford to make necessary changes or improvements to their homes regarding their health and safety. This portion of the program is a grant and does not require repayment.
3. College Tuition Assistance
Named after Democratic U.S. Senator Claiborne Pell of Rhode Island, the Federal Pell Grant program was initially known as the Basic Educational Opportunity Grant. The Federal Pell Grant offers financial aid to students from low-income families.
The U.S. Department of Education administers the grant and determines eligibility. For the 2022-23 school year, the maximum award for the Pell Grant has increased from $6,495 to $6,895.
4. First Time Homebuyer Assistance
Some say that owning a home is the American dream. Still, many Americans are not in a position to make that dream their reality. Purchasing a home can wipe out your entire savings between down payments, closing costs, and moving expenses.
While there are many different loans and other grants available through private companies and agencies to assist first-time homebuyers, the Good Neighbor Next Door program helps law enforcement officers, firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and teachers purchase homes in a U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) revitalization area.
This grant offers a 50% discount to qualified buyers on properties in HUD's inventory.
5. Childcare Assistance
According to the U.S. Government website, the Childcare and Development Fund assists low-income families who need child care due to work, work-related training, or school.
This program is available to parents and primary caregivers of children under the age of 13 (or under the age of 19 if the child is incapable of self-care) and does have specific income requirements.
6. Utility Payment Assistance
No parent should ever have to choose between keeping the heat running in the winter or feeding their children. The government has programs such as the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, LIHEAP, for short available to qualified applicants.
LIHEAP assists low-income households with heating and cooling costs and offers assistance in making weatherizing or energy-related improvements or repairs to your home.
In addition, an applicant may be automatically eligible if they (or another household member) participate in other benefit programs.
How to Receive Free Grant Money
Should you need an individual grant, the first step is to determine your eligibility and apply for the program.
Many programs have office locations with counselors who can help you through the application process. If you're experiencing hardship in these areas, don't hesitate to explore some of these programs further.
You can find additional information and apply for individual grants at Grants.gov. Be aware of grant-related scams when researching and applying. Always confirm you are on a government website before submitting any personal information.
And because you don't need to repay grant awards, there is no downside to participating in any programs for which you are qualified.
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Kristin Stones is the founder of Cents + Purpose, an online community dedicated to sharing practical personal finance content. Her mission is to equip women with the necessary tools and knowledge to take back control of their money and live a more purposeful life. She creates actionable content to help her audience achieve financial wellness using her simple approach to managing money - all learned through her personal experience of paying off almost $55,000 of debt in under two years.