Government grants are often called “free money,” as they do not generally need to be repaid.
These lump-sum payments can be used towards specific purposes, such as utility costs, weatherization improvements or towards the cost of higher education. However, applicants must meet the eligibility requirements associated with the grant program that they are applying for.
While qualification requirements do vary, most financial awards are only available for low-income households, families and individuals.
Since free government grants are distributed by certain federal programs to qualifying individuals, it’s important to search for options based on your eligibility.
By learning more about the available government grants for individuals, you will gain a better understanding of the grant programs that you may qualify for. This understanding can help you when applying for benefits, resulting in a smoother application process.
1. Find Out About the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Government hardship grants like LIHEAP are available to assist low-income households with the cost of utilities. In particular, this program offers monetary assistance that is generally applied directly to a household’s heating and electric utility bill.
Funds can help reduce current bills, apply credits to the account and avoid utility shut-offs due to nonpayment.
LIHEAP is administered on a state level and, therefore, eligibility requirements vary between states. However, applicants must generally be considered low-income to qualify.
Due to low funding, it is estimated that only 20 percent of households who are eligible will receive a grant. For this reason, many states have adopted “priority listings” where certain households are provided grants first.
These households may include young children, disabled individuals or senior citizens, depending on the area.
In addition to government hardship grants, the LIHEAP program provides financial assistance towards the cost of small weatherization projects.
In doing so, a household’s utility costs may be permanently reduced, thus eliminating the household’s need for further LIHEAP assistance.
2. Learn About the Individuals and Households Program (IHP)
Federal government grants are also provided by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) following a presidentially declared disaster. These grants are distributed through the Individuals and Households Program (IHP) to be used towards disaster-related costs, such as:
- The repair or replacement of a residential home.
- Temporary and short-term housing.
- Medical care.
To receive free government grants following a disaster, you must be a U.S. citizen or have a qualifying immigration status. Other requirements include the following:
- You have experienced property loss within the declared disaster area related to the disaster.
- The property loss that you experienced must have occurred in your primary place of residence.
- You are unable to access or live within your home, due to damages caused by the disaster.
- Your do not have an adequate homeowners insurance policy.
To apply for IHP government grants, you must contact FEMA after an area has been declared a disaster zone. In addition to providing financial aid, FEMA can also direct you to additional assistance programs and local resources.
3. About the Section 504 Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Program
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) provides federal government grants to qualifying senior citizens with homes that in need of certain repairs or improvements.
In particular, the Section 504 Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation program offers grants to seniors who do not have the finances necessary to realistically repay a Section 504 loan.
To qualify for this government hardship grant, you must be a senior citizen with an income that is well below the poverty line. In addition to age and income qualifications, you must meet criteria related to your status as a homeowner.
If qualified, the USDA will provide you up to $7,500 in assistance towards the cost of approved home repairs or improvements. However, this grant program only allots funds towards improvements and repairs that will:
- Remove a safety hazard.
- Remove a health hazard.
- Impact disability accessibility within the home.
You can apply for a USDA government grant by contacting your local USDA office. When applying, you will need to provide specific documentation, including proof of income.
You must also discuss the details or the repair or improvement project with the USDA for a grant to be issued.
4. Find Out About Education Community and Federal Government Grants
The most commonly provided government grants are educational grants. Educational grants are available to students of all ages who have limited income. Eligibility for financial aid is also determined by:
- Citizenship or immigration status.
- Current standing on federal student loans, if applicable.
In addition to generalized grants for students, the federal government provides additional aidto students seeking a specific degree.
As an example, the Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grant can only be provided to students who are attending school to become a teacher in a “high demand” field.
Awards such as these commonly have continuous eligibility requirements. For example, TEACH grant recipients may be required to obtain a position within their desired area within a specific amount of time after completing school.
You can apply for free government grants for educational purposes by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FASFA) before an academic deadline.
In addition to federal grants, you may receive financial aid from other local and community programs, such as through your college or a scholarship program. Most of these programs will require you to meet additional eligibility qualifications.
Understanding Government Grants and When They Must Be Repaid
Before applying for free government grants, it is crucial that you review how awarded financial aid can be used.
Additionally, it is essential that you look for any ongoing eligibility requirements that you must meet to avoid repayment.
You will not be required to repay your gifted grant if you stay within the awarding program’s eligibility requirements, and use funds towards their intended purpose.
For example, educational grants generally require a student to meet individual academic-related requirements, as well as meet a specific amount of class hours.
Failing to meet those requirements, or using funds for an unauthorized purpose, will result in the grant being converted to a loan. If your award is converted into a loan, it must be repaid.