Do people actually receive money through government grants? They definitely do! On this page you can see actual award amounts provided in Fiscal Year 2015. See Available Government Grant Money below for these billion-dollar award amounts and sample grants!
What is a federal grant? A federal grant is an award of financial assistance which has been created and authorized by a U.S. law, given by a federal agency to a recipient, to carry out a speicifc public purpose.
Sometimes special situations afford new areas of, or focus on, federal grants. For example the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, or Recovery Act, made $787 billion available in a variety of areas, including Grants. Grant-making agencies are currently posting Recovery Act specific grant opportunities on Grants.gov. And though many opportunities expired in 2010 there are still billions of dollars waiting to be awarded. For a useful summary, see Top Ten Things You Should Know About Grants. If you are looking for Scholarships, see Where to Find Scholarships. Find useful information about finding grants in our article called U.S. Government Grant Department.
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Update January 2018
Some interesting updated numbers are provided on a new site that is in beta under the Trump administration. In the most recent year for which there are figures, the federal government spent $3.85 trillion dollars. On what, you might ask? Well just three of the nineteen agencies that spend the money were responsible for around half of the total spending: that’s Medicare, our National Defense, and Social Security. Abut 30% of money awarded went to individuals, 5% to non-profits and universities, 19% to businesses, and 17% to government agencies at the state and local levels. This looks to be an interesting website and one to keep track of as it progresses from beta to full release.
Following are actual numbers for 2015 for total grant funds awarded by the top ten (in terms of award dollars) individual awarding agencies. This information comes from usaspending.gov, an official web site of the U.S. government.
- Department of Health and Human Services - $386.13 billion
- Department of Transportation - $29.26 billion
- Department of Education - $27.98 billion
- Department of Agriculture - $26.67 billion
- Agency for International Development - 6.91 billion
- Department of Labor - $6.24 billion
- Department of Homeland Security - $6.20 billion
- Department of Housing and Urban Development - $5.34 billion
- National Science Foundation - $2.92 billion
- Environmental Protection Agency - $1.28 billion
Finding Grants Though most grants go to agencies and organizations rather than individuals, there are some that go to people and to small businesses and non-profits. Without having to go to individual agencies it is possible to do a search of the central database for all government grant listings. Due to recent improvements you can now also filter your search results so you only see those for which you might be eligible. We give you step by step search tips in our article about grants.gov. Take a look, you might be interested when you see what you can find.
Current Grants: A Sample
Second Chance Pell Grants are a new category of federal grants. Initiated by the Obama Administration in mid-2016, these grants allow individuals in prison to receive Pell Grants to continue their education in postsecondary institutions (i.e. college..). It is hoped that this move will make it easier for them to get jobs and support families when they are out of prison. There is some data that shows that those who participate in educational programs while they are in prison are less likely to go back to prison within three years of release than those who do not. And in fact studies show that for every dollar spent on such programs the prison system saves between 4-5 dollars on the costs of reincarceration. Learn more in Grants for Felons.
Some grants are the subject of significant controversy. Many of those are substantial grants that go to nonprofits. Grants to nonprofits are often very important and worthwhile. The controversial part is large grants that go to nonprofits which already have very strong balance sheets … that is, they really don't need the money. So why are taxpayers forced to provide them with even more funds? The Wall Street Journal recently released a study that questions why, if we are supposedly funding the proverbial “starving artist”, are organizations with less than a million dollars in assets only getting a quarter of the funds being distributed? And why do huge organizations and universities with endowments of over a billion dollars receive money from taxpayers in working class brackets? Interesting questions …
Another interesting grant available June 2015 points out the need to conduct a broad search. You can of course go to the websites of any of the big agencies noted above – but that may limit your findings. Currently the Department of the Army - Materiel Command is seeking applicants for grants for biometric research to the tune of $5 million total. Awards for individual projects will range from a minimum of $100,000 to a maximum of $500,000. Basically biometrics research proposals should relate to results that result in faster and/or better identification and preservation of forensic evidence (like you see on TV - pretty cool!).
One of the most unique aspects of this opportunity is that individuals are eligible for awards, as are small businesses, larger for-profits, non-profits (whether they have 501 ©(3) status or not as well as the usual entities like higher education institutions etc.
This is a great goal and very intriguing grant opportunity. Certainly potential applicants might not look first to the Army or Department of Defense for available grants. So if you are seeking a grant it's important to know where and how to look — which you can discover more about in Find Grants.
Update April 2017
As a result of the federal stimulus program (American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009), agencies had new funds and incentive to make awards. There was a time when you could go to a great website to see on a map, or right down to your own zip code, where the money had gone and was going. That is no longer the case. The only way we have found now to see where money has gone and, more importantly, what opportunities still exist, is on the government website about Federal Business Opportunities (FBO). Check out our review of the FBO website and get some tips on how you might be able to find federal grants, mostly for businesses.
Federal grants are typically multi-year awards and the monies awarded depend on the specific programs and legislation generating the request. Small awards may be in the tens of thousands while larger ones can be many millions of dollars.
It is important to understand that federal grants are not made for “unrestricted purposes” or to support the existing programs or activities of an organization. They are instead awarded for very specific purposes in response to specific federal legislation. Therefore if you apply for a federal grant you will most likely be developing a new plan that is not a routine part of your organization’s current everyday activities.
Agencies at the cabinet level provide funds through their sub-agencies. Federal Aid is not the same as Federal Grants. 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 The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.
Grant announcements typically include details about estimated funding including the number of awards to be made if there are more than one, the size of the awards, and the length of time covered by the awards. They also include very specific information about eligibility, which is critical to understand before you consider applying.
See Also: Pell Grants
Interesting Searches If you are curious to know if a particular individual has received government grants, or who or what organization in a particular zip code has received federal grants, there is an easy way that you can do that. usaspending.gov lets you search a specific person's name or any zip code you wish and see who has received what. The former might just satisfy your curiosity – but the latter might let you see where opportunity lies in your area. If an organization has received a federal grant they might be hiring or have money to spend on your business' products or services.