USA.gov is designed for “regular people” rather than for government agencies or employees. That means it’s not bogged down with detail and “government-speak” not relevant to you and me. It describes itself an “online guide for government information and services.” As long as you are looking for government specific information and not for private programs or services it is a good place to start learning more about your topic of interest.
USA.gov is funded by US taxpayers. Primarily used by the public in America, about 25% of traffic does come from outside the U. S. The site also includes the Spanish-language portal GobiernoUSA.gov (previously known as espanol.gov).
We're often asked if there's a central U.S. Government Grant Department. That's not what USA.gov is, but it is a place to learn about things like grants and assistance programs. Aside from typical questions (e.g. who’s my congressperson, how do I apply for a passport) you can even get lottery results and see what's for sale to purchase or to bid for in auctions…
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Update March 2017 Things are a bit fluid with a new administration and changes are occurring to many government websites. USA.gov is still up and running and providing lots of useful information. A note on some of the sections below: the current primary special headers (in red) are now “How Do I…” and “What’s New”, replacing the Most Popular bar. But the topics are still all timely and interesting and there are major tabs for things like grants and aid, finding unclaimed money and, this season, for important things to consider when doing your taxes. And you can still get everything from current lottery results to learning how to start a nonprofit organization.
USA.gov is nicely organized so it is pretty easy to find things. Across the top there are seven different categories of information you can click on to start narrowing your search. Major topics include Government Agencies and Elected Officials; Health; Housing and Community; Jobs and Unemployment; Money and Shopping; Travel and Immigration; and the catch-all More Services. Choose one of those or simply use the prominent search bar near the top of the home page.
If you click the “Money and Shopping” tab on usa.gov you can find information about a wide range of financially-related information. These include information about saving for retirement, with a link to topics like pension benefits, how to figure out your target savings rate, what you need to know about Social Security (and how to calculate when to start taking it) and more. They even link to some tips about how to give a boost to your retirement savings — worth checking out.
For instance, we recently checked the “Most Popular” section and found the topics Health Insurance (no surprise), Money and Credit, Find a Job, and Immigrate to the United States. Clicking any one of those topics will take you to further information and direction. But you can also look for a more specific topic depending on your circumstance. Say you are looking for a new car but you’re not an experienced shopper. You can go to “Buying A Car” and get lots of information about the process and different ways to pay for the car. (If you are looking for ways to get assistance affording a car, take a look at our article about Money for a Car).
Next is a section that highlights major topics similar to those mentioned at the top of the home page. But here these also include some specifics on Benefits, Grants and Loans as well as on Housing and Community. As we have mentioned, USA.gov focuses only on government information and services. So if these are your areas of interest you can also find more information on private and non-profit services available in our articles about Home Grants, Types of Grants and Where to Find Them, Grants for Home Repair, and Grants for Business.
Toward the bottom of the home page is a useful section that lets you quickly find and go to more information about government agencies and elected officials. You can click on specific positions like President or U.S. Senators or others or you can go to Federal Agencies or your local community or tribal area.
Chat: If you are confused, can’t find the specific information you need or simply don’t understand what something means, there is actually a live Chat feature on USA.gov. We have not tried it but if you click the Chat button you will go to a page that tells you whether chat is currently available and lets you click a small red box to Start a Chat. The hours listed for the Chat service are weekdays (Mon-Fri) from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Eastern Time. The service is not available on federal holidays. There is a button toward the top of the page that says “Espanol” and you can click that to chat in Spanish. And if you don’t like Chat they also provide a phone number you can call instead.
Stuff for Kids: Yes, USA.gov even provides information - and entertainment - for kids! At the very bottom of each page you will find not only contact information but also some interesting links. One of them will take you to GobiernoUSA.gov for the Spanish version of the site. Another link will take you to a site where you can order a surprising variety of printed publications. And another will take you to kids.gov. This is an interesting looking site designed specifically for kids! It’s divided into sections for Kids from kindergarten to fifth grade, Teens (Grades 6-8), Teachers and Parents. The major categories at the top include “Learn Stuff, Play Games and Watch Videos. There are lots of fun sections and at the top they highlight interesting jobs, details on how a bill becomes a law, and what the three main branches of the government are. They also have a question of the week — when we looked it was “How many national parks or preserves are in the U.S.?” We guessed right — 1200! This is a well done and very interesting site it would be easy for kids and adults to spend time on — and learn a lot…
Shopping: never thought about buying stuff from the government? Apparently it happens all the time, and USA.gov is the place to find out what is for sale, how and where. Here’s how:
In about the middle of the home page, click the box that says Money and Shopping. Once on the Money and Shopping page, look to the far right. In the upper corner click Buying from the U.S. Government. You’ll then go to a page where you can click Auctions and Sales; Collectibles, Books and More; or Surplus Sales by State. Under Auctions and Sales, Items range from aircraft and antiques to real estate and vehicles with lots in between. Items might be on sale because they’ve been taken from criminals, because owners didn’t pay federal income taxes, or simply because some agency no longer needed the items. Auctions are run through several different agency websites and if you’re interested you should spend some time nosing around and learning about them. And if you click “Surplus Sales by State” you’ll go to a list where you can pick out your state and get details on what auctions are coming up, where, what’s for sale, contact information and more.
Lottery Results: Want to check the results of the latest lottery drawing in your state or another one? You can do that here too! Just click State Lottery Results, then choose your state, and up come the results for the latest winning lottery numbers. Good luck ….