Government grants and federal assistance programs essentially provide “free money” that will help you pay for basic necessities such as utilities, housing, education or disaster cleanup. There are dozens of government programs available to help you make ends meet during difficult times. Examples include federal financial aid for college, rural home repair grants, energy assistance programs and more.
Grants are not the same as loans, and therefore do not need to be repaid. However, not everyone can get a grant or receive assistance from the government. In most cases, grants are need-based and recipients will need to meet a variety of eligibility criteria. The requirements for getting a grant will vary based on the grant, but in most cases, an applicant’s income, family composition, age and citizenship will be important factors to consider. Below, learn about a few of the most helpful grants and assistance programs available from the government.
Discover Federal Financial Aid for Students
One of the most common government grants is financial aid for students who want to seek higher education. There are several different types of grants for students, and while the eligibility requirements vary, grants are usually given to applicants who are:
- Low-income or have a financial need.
- U.S. citizens and eligible non-citizens.
- Enrolling in a degree or certificate program that qualifies.
- Able to meet academic standards while enrolled in school.
The government also provides student loans, which, unlike grants, must be repaid. However, you should always check and see which grants you are eligible for first before accepting loans that results in student debt. Whether you plan on applying for grants, loans or both, you will need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). FAFSA must be submitted before the academic deadline determined by your school.
Learn About Individuals and Households Program (IHP)
Following a natural disaster, you may be eligible for IHP in order to make repairs to damaged property or pay for a temporary housing solution. IHP is only available after the president has declared a natural disaster and has authorized the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to step in and provide assistance. Therefore, when IHP is made available, you will need to submit an application through FEMA.
The eligibility criteria for IHP grants are a little different than they are for other government programs. While this is still a need-based grant, your income, age and family composition usually will not play a role in determining whether you qualify for assistance. Instead, you will be eligible only if the following conditions apply:
- You are a U.S. citizen or qualified non-citizen.
- Your primary residence has sustained damage from the natural disaster and is located within the disaster zone declared by the president.
- As a result of the disaster, you are unable to live in your primary residence.
- Your residence is not insured or does not have adequate insurance coverage for the natural disaster that occurred.
Find Out Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
Heating and cooling your home can be extremely costly. If you are unable to afford your bills, you may qualify for LIHEAP in order to avoid getting a shut-off notice from your utility provider. With some restrictions, LIHEAP can also be used to help “weatherize” your home, which can include adding insulation or making other improvements that make your home more energy-efficient.
Applications for this program must be submitted through local LIHEAP offices. The exact requirements for LIHEAP vary by state and county, but overall this is an income-based program. In most cases, you can automatically qualify if you are already receiving assistance from one of the following programs:
- Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also known as food stamps.
- Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
- Supplemental Security Income (SSI).
- The Housing Choice Voucher Program, also known as Section 8.
Discover Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Grants (Section 504)
If you live in a designated rural area and have at least one senior citizen in your household, you may qualify for a Section 504 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). Your eligibility will also be based on your citizenship, income and your housing needs. Applications for this program are accepted through local USDA offices.
Section 504 grants allow you to receive up to $7,500, which can be used to make repairs and renovations that remove health and safety hazards in your home or make a home more accessible for disabled household members. Therefore, your eligibility is also based on the status of your home and the nature of the repairs or renovations you need.
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