Federal Aid, over $600 billion dollars annually, is provided by federal government agencies. There are considerable amounts of Federal Aid and Federal Assistance, money from the government, available. You will see more below about Federal Grants and Awards.
For examples of Federal Aid Programs, click Federal Assistance in the United States. For a trustworthy source of information on domestic assistance in the United States, including a list of Federal Assistance Programs, see Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.
The federal government offers aid through benefit programs that serve a variety of important purposes. These include job training, nutritional assistance, education, health care and other needs. These are not grants, though some people may want you to think so so you'll pay for their help. It should be free to find federal aid.
Aid to individuals – different from grant awards – is given for specific purposes. Applicants must fill out an application to receive government assistance. Your eligiblity for aid is determined based on requirements outlined by each program.
Discover your program today!
First, if you are looking for aid because you find yourself out of a job, be sure you file for Unemployment Benefits if you qualify. Don't know whether you're eligible? Check out Unemployment Benefits to learn who is eligible, what you need to do to claim your benefits, and how much you might be able to receive.
Sometimes when people talk about federal aid they mean financial aid that the U.S. Government gives to foreign governments. This aid may be in the form of military assistance or economic financial assistance. Recently the total amount has been about $35 billion. Sounds like a lot, but it's far smaller than the $600 billion that goes to U.S. citizens through federal and state agencies and other private organizations. So how do you know what federal aid you are eligible for and how do you find it?
Fortunately, our government has made it easier for individuals by providing a website where you can enter a confidential set of questions online. Your answers wll automatically give you a list of benefits tailored for your specific needs. Although you cannot apply for the benefits online, you can click “Next Steps” and learn what you need to do to apply.
Always be sure to get your information from trusted sources such as the sites detailed here. Beware of callers who claim to offer you free money of any sort, and check out our article on Free Money Phone Call Scams so you know how to defend against getting ripped off.
Go to the Benefits.gov website - the official benefits website of the United States Government - and click on Start Here in order to complete your confidential questionnaire. If you are looking for information in a particular area, you can click on “Benefits” instead.
Ongoing help is provided to those who need help getting enough food for themselves and their families. The Wall Street Journal estimates that over 22 million households in the United States get such assistance each month. While some complain about the cost to tax payers, studies have shown that such aid does more than just fulfill basic kindness requirements. It also results in higher numbers of students graduating from high school, healthier adults and more self-sufficiency especially for women. If you need more information about the SNAP program for food assistance see our review of options for Low Income Help.
Some complain that too much aid is given by the government and point to “food stamps”, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) as an example. However, further consideration should lead to a change of heart — and hopefully federal action. We are the world’s most prosperous nation and yet the Department of Agriculture reports that as recently as 2014 there were more than fifteen million children who were considered “food insecure” — gaining that at some point in a year’s time they did not have enough food. SNAP is an important benefit and one you should certainly apply for if you are eligible.
Sometimes significant amounts of federal aid are provided for specific groups and needs. In October of 2015, for instance, over one million dollars was distributed to help fishermen and their communities in New Hampshire. The money came from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and was targeted to assist the commercial ground-fishing businesses as well as fishing vessels that are for hire. This award is in addition to the $2 million that has previously been provided to aid fish hatcheries in New Hampshire. So always be on the lookout for news specific to your state and your industry.
Update July 2017
According to the Wall Street Journal, a declining trend in the number of applicants for federal aid for college has been reverse. The number in fact went up 6% in the latest academic cycle, a positive sign that students and their families haven’t been scared off by a recent technical problem. Hopefully it also means that families are realizing that even if they are pretty well to do they should still apply for federal aid. The FAFSA is also used for some merit aid and could also be important if the family has several kids in college at once — a big financial burden!
If you are looking for money for college, check out our page on Pell Grants
as well as the website Free Scholarships Wiki. Also be sure that, regardless of what type of college assistance you are looking for, get familiar with the FAFSA and be sure you complete and submit yours on time!
Don't neglect to apply for help with college even if you think you don't qualify. More than 70% of full time students in college are receiving some sort of federal aid. It's also best to apply sooner rather than later. It could get harder in the future to get student loans since there is such a high rate of default…
You may also want to look into books such this one, billed as “a great resource for anyone looking to supplement his or her federal financial aid package with aid from colleges and universities. This comprehensive directory points you to complete and accurate information on need-based and non-need gift aid, loans, work-study, athletic awards, and more.”
For more information on recipients of federal aid, see our discussion on Federal Grant Recipient Categories.