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Many of us assume that the government only takes out cash. However, there are some circumstances where there is free government money. The government offers federal benefit programs that are designed to help people lower their expenses or become self sufficient.
Just be aware that while there are some legit ways to get government money, there are dodgy websites that offer “Free government money” that can be scams. If you come across a scheme that seems too good to be true, it is important to report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
Is Government Money Really Free?
Of course, nothing in this world is truly free. Free government money is part of federal spending, funded by the tax payer.
As such, there are requirements to qualify for schemes that provide money. So, it is important that you ensure that you meet the requirements before you apply.
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Free Government Grants for Individuals
1. Unemployment Benefits
If you’ve lost your job, you may be eligible for unemployment benefits. This assistance is designed to help you cover your expenses while you are looking for a new job.
The Department of Labor offers temporary unemployment benefits to any worker who finds themselves without a job through no fault of their own. These benefits are intended to assist you until you can find suitable, replacement employment.
The current benefits are approximately $375 per week. To check if you’re eligible for a federal state program and start an application, visit the DOL website.
2. School Supplies
There are also programs to help families pay for school supplies.
For example, the Every Kid Counts program in Oklahoma provides thousands of low income families with $1,500 to buy curriculum content and or technology. This program is part of the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief fund and is available to families below or at the federal poverty line.
This program is available for all students in grades K through 12, regardless of which school the child attends. Parents can apply by completing the application form on the official Every Kid Counts Oklahoma website.
3. Childcare Expenses
Any parent understands that childcare is expensive. The national average for infant child care in the US is $1,230 per month. This can be almost impossible for many families to cover.
If you’re employed and need help with your childcare expenses, there is a government program to help.
The Child Care and Development Fund is an assistance program from the US Department of Health and Human Services. This offers help with care expenses, typically for children under the age of 13.
To discover the funding options available in your area, visit the CCDF website.
Food is an essential expense in any household. So, if you’re on a low income and struggling to buy groceries, SNAP can provide free government money.
SNAP (Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program) or as it is commonly known, Food Stamps, provides a benefit card. This can be used like a debit card to purchase food at designated farmers markets and grocery stores. This program helps 23 million households and offers an average of $133 per month.
There is also a Child Nutrition Program for school aged children to receive free or reduced cost lunches. Additionally, the Special Supplemental Food Program for WIC (Women, Infants and Children) provides food for pregnant and nursing women and children up to the age of six.
Low income families may be able to get free clothing including winter jackets and shoes at Clothing Closets. These charities are in most major towns and cities. The precise goods and aid at each center varies. However, generally these clothing banks offer low cost or free items.
For example, In California, there are locations:
- Contra Costa County
- Fresno County
- Kern County
- Los Angeles
- Northern California
- Orange County
- San Bernadino
- San Diego
- Santa Barbara County
- Tulare County
Clothing Closets aim to provide for the basic needs of those who qualify. They assist the working poor, children, single moms and the elderly. Some locations may have minimal fees and work with local thrift stores to provide the greatest aid to those in need.
6. Free Computers – Laptops & Desktops
If you need a laptop of desktop computer to help you to find work or learn the skills necessary for a role, there are some charities that offer free computers.
The Salvation Army has branches in cities throughout the country. Although not every branch will have free computers, it may be possible to find one in your local area.
If you can’t find a free computer, charities or non profits in your area may offer refurbished models at a greatly reduced price.
7. Consumer & Credit Card Bills & Debt
The NFCC (National Foundation for Credit Counseling) has been around for almost 70 years and helps people with their consumer & credit card debt. Ths nonprofit provides financial counseling services throughout America.
There is a national network of member agencies staffed by certified counselors. These can act as financial advocates to help you with a personalized financial action plan.
The counselors may even be able to negotiate a debt management plan, where some of your debt is written off.
8. Free Christmas Money & Gifts
As Christmas approaches, many families struggle to get the money together for the celebrations. Fortunately, there are a number of programs to help you get free Christmas money and gifts.
For example, the Salvation Army can help with toys, clothing and holiday meals for low income families. They also have a few holiday programs. The Angel Tree provides the name, age and wish list gifts for children on tags. These are hung on Christmas trees in local stores. Shoppers can buy the items and return these items as a donation for specific tags.
As the name suggests, the Adopt a Family program involves adopting an entire low income family. This could involve donations of toys, food, gifts, toiletries, cleaning supplies and more. Sponsors can even provide gift cards.
9. Public Transportation
According to the Census Bureau, Americans spend an average of 25 minutes each way traveling to and from work each day. This adds up to 15.9% of the typical budget, just for transportation costs.
However, there are a number of schemes that can provide you with free government money in the form of free transportation programs. There are currently over 100 cities around the world offering free public transportation. While many of these are in Europe, there are more cities in the US creating these fare free programs.
For example, Kansas City, Mo, became the first large city in the US to create a fare free scheme.
10. Tax Credits & Deductions
The Earned Income Tax Credit (EIC or EITC) is a benefit for low to moderate income working people. To qualify, you must file a tax return even if you are not required to file or don’t owe any tax. You must also meet certain requirements.
EITC reduces the amount of tax owing and you may even get a refund. The amount of free money will depend on your returns in previous years and your current financial situation.
If you need a car to find and keep a job, but public transportation is lacking in your area, you may be able to get a vehicle through the Free Cars government assistance program.
Each program has different qualifications. These include:
- Low income families
- Medically needy
- Victim of a natural disaster
- Living in a transitional shelter
- Victim of domestic abuse
- Miltary families experiencing hardship.
Generally, you will need to demonstrate an explanation as to why you need the vehicle. You may also need to show proof of disability, pension income, or a job with minimum hours.
Free Government Grants for Seniors Over 50
12. Unclaimed Tax Money
This isn’t technically free government money, since it is actually money due to you. However, you may not be aware that you’re even missing your unclaimed tax money.
The National Association of State Treasurers created the unclaimed.org website to help consumers search for any unclaimed funds. This will not only help you to discover if you have unclaimed tax money, but also insurance reimbursements, old utility payment overages, forgotten savings bonds and even paychecks you didn’t cash.
You can complete a search using your full name and address. However, it is also possible to search just using your last name.
13. Disability Benefits
If you’re disabled, temporarily or permanently, or have a child with a disability, you could be eligible for supplemental security income or SSI. These are disability benefits offered to those who meet certain income requirements.
This benefit pays up to $783 per month for individuals and $1,175 for individuals with an eligible spouse.
However, if you’re over 65, it may be possible to collect both SSI and retirement benefits if you worked long enough to qualify.
14. Health Care
Many people struggle with the increasing costs of healthcare. Fortunately, you can receive assistance from the government in the form of a tax credit. There are some income eligibility requirements and you need to purchase your coverage through the Healthcare Marketplace.
There are several options for your credit. You can take it in equal allocations to eliminate or reduce your monthly premium payments. Alternatively, you can save your credit for the end of the year on your tax return.
Another option for healthcare for your children is InsureKidsNow.gov. You may have eligibility for reduced coverage or even free cover. The website can help you to learn about Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and local medicaid if you meet the income requirements.
15. Old Pension Plans
Another not really free way to get free government money is to find old pension plans. If you’ve left a company due to layoffs, a merger or an acquisition, you may have been so busy planning your next career move to remember about your pension funds.
Fortunately, the PBGC (Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation) can help you to find this forgotten money. You can check your name and details against the PBDC database.
This database has over 70,000 names on the unclaimed pensions list. So, you may find you have some old pension plans you’ve forgotten about.
16. Senior Benefits
SSI (Supplemental Security Income) offers senior benefits. It is a federal income program that is designed to help aged and disabled people with little or no income. It can provide free government money to meet your basic needs of food, shelter and clothing.
To determine if you’re eligible, you’ll need to use the Benefit Eligibility Screening Tool. This takes approximately 10 minutes and requires answering some questions. However, you can view the basic eligibility criteria on the Social Security Administration website.
Free Housing Grants
17. Real Estate Taxes
If you fall behind on your real estate taxes, your local government has a number of options to enforce payment. This can include seizure and sale of your property.
In this scenario, it is possible that you can apply for a tax abatement. This type of scheme is not available in all areas, but it involves the tax authority forgiving all or part of your real estate taxes.
The eligibility criteria and application process varies by area. You may need to document your assets and income to prove that you are unable to afford payment of your taxes.
Housing Assistance is available to help low income families, those with disabilities and seniors to get into government owned or affordable private rental housing. There are a variety of programs including the Housing Choice Voucher Program.
This provides certificates to rent approved properties. The subsidy provides recipients to pay a maximum of 30 percent of their income on rent.
As with most free government money programs, there are requirements to qualify for housing assistance. This includes income below a set level. You will also need to show necessary documentation including photo ID, birth certificates, tax returns when you begin the process.
19. Home Purchase
For many people the hurdle for purchasing a home is the down payment. While you may be able to comfortably afford a monthly mortgage payment, if you don’t have a down payment, you won’t qualify for a home loan.
Fortunately, there is a government program to help you. State based down payment assistance consists of loans and grants to help cover the upfront costs of buying a home.
The amount of assistance depends on your home state. For example, in Nevada, qualifying homeowners can receive a grant for up to 5 percent of their home loan value for a down payment and closing costs.
This help is not just for low income borrowers. The Nevada grant program is available to those with an income below $98,500 per year.
20. Mortgage Payments
Whether you’ve lost your job or suffering from some other financial hardship, missing mortgage payments can not only have an impact on your credit score, but also put your home at risk of foreclosure.
Fortunately, there are programs and grants available for those in difficulty making their mortgage payments. The Department of Housing and Urban Development is a federal government agency that provides assistance to those in financial difficulty. While there is a lot of competition for the grants, it is worth applying to prevent foreclosure.
21. Home Repair and Improvements
If you need help improving your home to get ready for winter, there are grants available through the Department of Energy.
The WAPTAC (Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center connects you with grant programs in your state. These grants are designed to help you pay for home improvements that reduce your energy expenses.
The Department of Energy estimates up to 30 million homes are eligible for these types of grants. You’ll also get preference for approval if you are over 60, have children or have a family member with a disability in the home.
22. Energy Bills
Americans spend an average of over $300 per month for their basic utilities. So, it is easy to see how it can be difficult for many people to manage their energy bills, particularly in summer and winter.
The government has the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). This provides funds for those in need. The grants are available to assist people with their cooling and heating expenses. The program is funded through the Department of Health and Human Services and managed through state programs.
You can explore the available aid and programs in your state on the LIHEAP website.
Free Education Grants
23. College Students
We all know that college is expensive. For the 2017-2018 school year, the average tuition for private colleges was almost $35,000 and approximately $10,000 for state colleges.
So, if you want to go to college, but worry about affording tuition, books, room and board, you may want to consider an education grant.
The most widely offered is the Federal Pell Grant. This grant offers up to $6,345 for qualifying students to cover their education costs. Unlike student loans, this grant does not need to be repaid.
To qualify, you will need to view all the details for the grant and complete a FAFSA.
There are lots of other grants available. So, while the Pell Grant should be your first stop, be sure to explore the other options on the College Grants Database.
24. Student Loan Forgiveness
If you are burdened by student loans, one area of free government money that may be of interest to you is student loan forgiveness. There are various programs that can forgive your student loans, so you no longer need to make payments.
For example, if you are employed by a not for profit or government organization, you may qualify for loan forgiveness through the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program. Providing you’ve made 120 or more qualifying monthly payments while working full time for a qualifying employer, the PSLF will forgive the remaining balance on your Direct student loans.
There is also teacher loan forgiveness for those who teach full time for five consecutive complete academic years in a low income school. This provides forgiveness of up to $17,500 on FFEL program loans or direct loans.
25. Teaching Grants
If you like the idea of becoming a teacher but cannot afford the cost of a college education, there are teaching grants available. The TEACH (Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education) grant requires that you complete four years of teaching in return for a grant of up to $4,000 per year.
If you fail to meet this obligation, the grant will transfer into a loan that must be repaid with interest.
There are eligibility requirements for this grant, including maintaining a cumulative GPA of 3.25 or higher and enrollment in an eligible program.
Free Government Small Business Grants
26. Rural Business Development
The USDA has a Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program. This offers training and technical assistance to small businesses with less than 50 workers. To qualify, you also need to be located in a rural area and have less than $1 million in gross revenue.
The intention of the grant money is to benefit projects that support rural public entities. This includes state agencies, towns, higher education institutions and rural cooperatives.
27. Legal Services
If you have a legal issue, but are struggling to afford legal services, LawHelp offers low and modern income households find free legal aid. This platform not only answers questions about legal rights and provides forms to deal with legal problems, but LawHelp also works with a national non profit organization.
LawHelp can provide referrals for local legal aid or public interest law offices through a network of statewide information portals.
28. Employment & Training
The Small Business Administration has been around for almost 70 years. Its aim is to help entrepreneurs and small business owners to improve their skills and training.
The SBA offers a variety of courses through its learning center. For example, there is a 30 minute course on buying a business. There is also a 30 minute course on Small Business finance options.
Each course is accompanied by materials such as worksheets. Yet there are no course fees or charges.
29. Research & Development
SBIR (Small Business Innovation Research) offers grants to participate in federal research and development. This is a highly competitive program that can help businesses to achieve technological innovation.
To qualify for this type of free government money, you must have a for profit company that is at least 50% owned by a US citizen. There are other requirements that can be explored on the SBIR website.
The Small Business Administration has STEP (the State Trade Expansion Program). This provides financial awards to territory and state governments to help small businesses with their export development.
These STEP awards are provided and managed at the local level. You can contact an awardee in your state to discover how they can help you expand your business to reach a global market.
How to Apply for Free Government Money?
There are lots of grants and assistance programs that offer free government money. Unfortunately, each one has specific requirements and criteria to qualify.
However, there are some great resources to explore which grants you may qualify for. If you’re unsure about which schemes may benefit you, check out all the options on the USA.Gov website.