What do you do when you need money but don’t want to take on debt? One answer is to seek a personal grant. The government offers grants to help Americans pay for certain classes of expenses and to make it through tough times. Think you may qualify? Want to know how to apply? Let us explain how these personal grants work.
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You may have heard of forms of government assistance like small business grants and subsidized healthcare. But did you know that the government offers personal grants for individuals, too?
If you meet eligibility requirements and you need the money for one of a set of approved expenses, you could be in luck. Unlike loans, grants don’t need to be paid back. That makes them a powerful tool for those facing financial hardship.
Most government grants are given to institutions like universities, hospitals and non-profits. There are a few personal grants available at the federal level and a host of other government benefits that don’t need to be repaid. We’ll refer to all government money that doesn’t need to be repaid and is available to individuals as personal grants.
Keep in mind that the government doesn’t offer grants to help Americans pay off consumer debt from things like credit cards. It does, however, offer financial support for Americans struggling with a range of tough financial situations.
When to Seek a Personal Grant
Think of a personal grant as an alternative to two things: doing without and taking on debt. Some grants are designed to help with consumer spending for things like children’s clothes and school supplies. Others are designed to help with long-term investments like a home purchase.
If you’re facing financial need, consider applying for a grant. Unlike payday loans and installment loans, personal grants won’t leave you with expensive interest payments. You don’t have to pay to apply for government grants, either, so the only things you have to lose are the time and effort it takes to submit the grant applicants.
Don’t expect instant turnaround, however. Remember that you’re dealing with the government. That means you should expect a certain level of bureaucracy. The process of getting a federal grant to meet your financial needs may not be as fast as going to the payday lender around the corner, but government grants are a much safer option than high-cost loans.
Applying for Personal Grants from the Government
The government focuses its grant-giving energies on certain classes of individuals. For example, veterans and single mothers have better odds of getting a personal grant than young single men with no children and no record of military service. Still, you shouldn’t let fear of rejection keep you from applying for the funds you need.
Let’s talk about how to apply for personal grants. Go to benefits.gov and you’ll be able to start searching for grants and benefits for which you might be eligible. Search all categories or choose one of the following categories:
- Child Care/Child Support
- Disability Assistance
- Disaster Relief
- Employment/Career Development Assistance
- Energy Assistance
- Environmental Sustainability/Conservation
- Living Assistance
- Loan/Loan Repayment
- Military: Active Duty and Veterans
- Social Security/Retirement
- Tax Assistance
- Volunteer Opportunities
Whether you need help making rent, tackling student loans or paying your medical bills, the government may have a grant for you. Benefits.gov will take you through a quick on-boarding process. The site will prompt you to answer questions about personal details such as your income, marital status, age, employment status and place of residence.
When you’ve answered all the questions, you’ll see a list of grants (and loans and temporary assistance programs) for which you may be eligible. Then, it’s up to you to apply for the help you need.
Beware of Fraud
We’ve told you how easy it is to find government grants online using benefits.gov. If you have internet access and a little time you can get an answer to the question: “Am I eligible for government grants?” There’s no need to pay someone to do the search for you.
A quick online search for personal grants will turn up many sites offering to hook you up with federal grant money. If they’re offering help searching for grants from private organizations and non-profits they may be offering a worthwhile service. With government grants, though, there’s really no reason to hire a middleman to find grants for you.
Our advice? Take the DIY approach to grant applications and stay away from sites that charge a fee for their services. At best, some of these sites are taking money for something you could do yourself, for free. At worst, some of them may be phishing sites that just want your name, date of birth and Social Security number so they can use them to commit fraud. Don’t be tempted by sites that guarantee they’ll get you money. And if you get unsolicited offers of personal grants by phone, mail or email they’re not from the government – they’re from fraudsters.
Personal grants give recipients an alternative to going without, skipping bills or taking on debt. If you are interested, check your eligibility, fill out your applications honestly and thoroughly and stay away from middlemen offering you guaranteed free money.
Update: We constantly have readers reach out to us for financial planning help, but no situation is the same. Whether it’s understanding debt repayment or just figuring out a budget that works for you, a financial advisor can really help. To make finding one easy, we designed a tool to find the top advisors near you. All you have to do is answer about 20 questions and our SmartAdvisor tool uses your information to match you with as many as three advisors who can provide expertise based on your profile and goals. You don’t have to spend hours interviewing dozens of people and firms. Check out their profiles, interview them on the phone or in person and choose who to work with in the future.
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