Whether you plan to continue your education or need help with basic living expenses, government grants can make a world of difference. If your application is successful, you'll receive funding for your projects. Government grants for individuals are not as common as small business grants and other types of financing, but they do exist. A quick search online can reveal dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities.
How Grant Programs Work
Thousands of grants are awarded to students, researchers, artists and entrepreneurs each year. These government-funded programs aim to support the local and national economy by investing in people and businesses. Some are merit-based, while others are need-based. They're often referred to as gift aid.
According to the Official Guide to Government Information and Services, there is no such thing as a free grant. If you do receive a grant to cover your expenses or tuition fees, you must repay it. The same source states that the government does not offer grants to individuals, but only to organizations, universities, research centers and so on.
If you're an artist or a student who needs funding, you may receive it from your state's social service agency or other organizations that have been awarded government grants. TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), for example, offers financial help, job training, child care and other benefits to low-income families. The federal government funds this program. Those who qualify are required to find a job within two years of receiving aid.
Another example is the Federal Pell Grant, which is usually awarded to undergraduate students who need financial help. Applicants who qualify for this program receive up to $6,095 depending on their status as full-time or part-time students, their tuition fees and other factors.
If you're interested in the Pell Grant, you can submit an application along with an award letter from your school. The college you're attending will use the money to cover your expenses or send it directly to your bank account. In certain circumstances, you may be required to repay a portion or all of the funds.
As you see, government grants are not awarded directly to individuals, but to state and local agencies or private organizations that can help individuals in need. Depending on the program you apply to, you may or may not need to repay the money. However, it's necessary to use the funds for the purpose specified in the grant award and meet certain conditions. Beware that all government-funded programs have income limits.
Types of Federal Grants
There are several types of federal grants, and each serves a different purpose. These include:
- Block grants.
- Categorical grants.
- Earmark grants.
Categorical grants provide funding for specific projects and types of work. An example is Medicaid, which provides free or low-cost medical services to those who can't afford them.
Block grants, by comparison, are awarded to public institutions for use in a general purpose. Local authorities, for instance, may receive block grants to create jobs in the community, provide affordable housing or protect seniors from abuse. A portion of the grant may be distributed to other organizations.
The Congress provides earmark grants and supports particular projects, such as the construction of a bridge or highway. These government-funded programs are quite controversial because of the political parties involved.
There are many other types of grants available. In general, they are categorized according to the purpose they serve. These include but are not limited to competitive or discretionary funding, pass-through funding, continuation funding, capital grants, current grants and matching/non-matching grants. Discretionary grants, for example, are awarded based on the merits of the application. Charitable organizations can request grants for nonprofits.
As an individual, you can apply for grant programs through organizations and agencies that receive funding from the Federal government. The grants cover a wide range of areas, from food and nutrition to science and technology, arts, housing and business.
Government-Funded Programs for Individuals
Choosing a grant program comes down to your needs. Compare the different types of grants, check the eligibility requirements and submit the best proposals possible. You're competing against hundreds of thousands of other applicants, so it's important to draft a grant-worthy proposal. For a start, check out these government-funded programs for individuals.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
This program may be available through your school's financial aid office. It appeals to undergraduate students who have the most financial need. If you qualify, you will receive $100 to $4,000 per year. Each school receives a specific amount of money, so the funds are limited.
If you meet the grant's requirements, you don't have to repay the money. Students who change their enrollment status, quit school or receive funding from other sources may be required to repay all or part of the grant. The same goes for those who fail to meet the requirements for maintaining the grant award.
The TEACH Grant
If you plan to become a teacher and need money to pay for college, you may qualify for the TEACH grant. Unlike other government-funded programs, this one requires participants to take certain classes and follow a specific career path. Students can receive up to $4,000 per year.
To qualify for this grant, you must agree to teach in a high-need field in a low-income school for at least four years. High-need fields include special education, bilingual education, foreign language, science, mathematics and more. If you fail to meet these conditions, the grant funds will be converted to a direct unsubsidized loan that must be paid in full.
In addition to these requirements, applicants must earn a cumulative GPA of 3.25 and see a counselor who will inform them about the grant and how to use the funds. Furthermore, students need to maintain satisfactory academic progress. Those who have already applied for a loan to pay for educational expenses are not eligible for this program.
According to a study conducted in 2014-2015, 63 percent of students had their grants converted to a loan. Before applying for the TEACH grant, over 89 percent stated that they were likely to meet the requirements. Therefore, it's important to make sure that you can fulfill the conditions; otherwise, you'll end up in debt.
Grant Programs for Artists
Many organizations offer grants for photographers, musicians, painters, writers and other artists. The government does not necessarily fund these. The Fulbright Fellowship for the Creative and Performing Arts, for instance, awards approximately 8,000 grants every year. Its mission is to help artists study, conduct research and teach in their field of interest.
Remember, applying for a grant is just the first step. If you qualify, you'll be responsible for meeting certain obligations and goals. In general, eligibility requirements are specific and strict. Government agencies are not flexible or willing to make compromises. Make sure you’re aware of these things before you enroll in grant programs.
To stay safe, submit your application on trusted platforms like Grants.gov, Benefits.gov or FederalGrants.com. Steer clear of any organization that guarantees grant approval or claims to provide free money. What you'll get is a loan that must be repaid sooner or later. Research the grant programs you're interested in, read the fine print and discuss your options with a counselor.