Florida is a beautiful place and one that has had its share of problems during the (slow) economic recovery. But Florida is still #4 in the U.S. in terms of its state Gross State Product, and opportunity still abounds here. And that’s no secret — over one thousand people move to the state every day! Drawn by a very low overall tax rate (only four states are lower!) and some booming industries – as well as the weather – people know the good life can be created here.
Unlike the other large states that we have covered in terms of grants (see our articles on grants in Texas, grants in California, and grants in New York, Florida does not go to great lengths to make it easy to identify and find grants that are available in the state. That doesn’t mean that they don’t exist (they do!) or that they don’t want you to find them – it simply means that is not where they have placed their focus.
It's important to know is that it is wise to look to your own state for grants rather than just the federal government. States receive billions from the federal government to support local needs in their state.
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Update January 2018 What’s the outlook for these Specialty Crop Grants in 2018? So far things are looking quite favorable. Slightly less than four million dollars in block grant funds are expected to be provided to Florida by the USDA’s Agricultural Marketing Service. Qualifying programs will be those which are good for Florida specialty crops in terms of marketing and competitiveness. Specialty crops are still fairly broadly defined, including things like dried fruits, nursery crops including flowers, tree nuts, vegetables, fruits and more. Those who may apply include businesses, producers, and individuals (a long as the focus is on research and education. Nonprofits, farmer/producers, universities and government agencies are also eligible. More information regarding applications is available at the freshfromflorida website.
Update August 2017 The Florida Blue Foundation works to help strengthen Florida communities particularly in the areas of health and education. They partner with nonprofit organizations to do so, providing funding for programs whose missions match their goal of building strong communities. Their emphasis is on the areas of education and literacy, the arts and culture, health and basic community development. You can access an application on their website and submit a request for funding support at any time. They usually reply within sixty days. More information about eligibility requirements and focus areas is also available on that site. There you can also see some descriptions of the activities of their current partnerships.
Update May 2017 Florida expects to receive a federal Block Grant of approximately $3.8 million for their Specialty Crop Grant program. They intend to use these funds to award grants within the state to support projects that improve the ability of Florida specialty crops to compete in the marketplace. They define these “specialty crops” quite broadly: they include fruits and dried fruits, vegetables, nuts that grow on trees, nursery crops including flowers, and horticulture. To be eligible to apply you can be a nonprofit, a producer, or a university. Funds awarded must be used only for specialty crops and provide no benefit to other non specialty crops. Examples of acceptable programs and instruction for applying for funds can be found on the freshfromflorida website.
Update January 2017 Florida’s Division of Cultural Affairs focuses on the arts and culture, celebrating their role as being critical to everyone’s quality of life. One of the most interesting programs they offer to those looking for grants is the Fast Track Project Grant Program. This is an expedited process to provide applicants with access to funds fairly quickly rather than going through a long grant process. The funds are not intended to be used for general budget items but for specific programs such as special exhibits, performances, artist in residence programs and others. Each year there are two deadline for applications, typically in March and in September. You can get more information and submit applications online on the website of the Florida Division of Cultural Affairs.
Update September 2016 Do you have a business related to Florida tourism? If so there are a number of “reimbursement grant programs” that can help you promote your business and let people know about tourism in the state. For instance, if you spend money on advertising you could receive up to $2500 in a matching grant. You have to show proof of the money you spend and you have two spend the money between July 1, 2016 and June 15, 2017. More details are available on the VisitFlorida website.
News May 2016 Grants for Adult Literacy: Volunteers for Adult Literacy in Florida/Literacy Florida awards grants to promote and support adult literacy programs. The grants are not large — maximum $500 — but can go a long way toward assisting volunteer programs. They give preference to programs which offer services to 10-200 adults and/or families. They also want programs to be able to demonstrate that they can be replicated in other literacy programs in Florida communities. Applicants must be members of VALF ($25 to join) and ideally will be non-profit, faith-, school- or library-based. Deadlines for applications and submissions are in January and March respectively. Check out more information at floridaliteracy.org and get you organization’s request ready for the next awards!
News February 2016
The Florida Department of State’s Division of Cultural Affairs awards grants to assist and promote organizations involved in cultural activities as well as to individual artists. Applications can be completed and submitted online and will be judged by panels made up of practicing artists and other qualified people. There are seven different grant programs, from fellowships for artists to supporting the facilities needs of cultural organizations, to “fast track” funding for organizations in relatively small amounts ($2500) and more. You can find more information on the Florida Department of State Division of cultural Affairs website. The next deadline coming up is March 14, 2016 for the “Fast Track” funding mentioned in this paragraph.
News September 2015
Sometimes individuals benefit pretty directly from grants even when those grants go to non-profit organizations rather than to individuals. In early September, 2015 close to $10 million was awarded to seven organizations in Florida. These organizations received the grants — ranging from a little over $300,000 to close to $5 million —- specifically to continue to provide navigators to help people with health coverage.
Navigators explain the options available with various health insurance options and help get those people signed up for appropriate plans. Florida Covering Kids and Families was the largest winner of the grants. So you may of course benefit if you need to sign up for health care coverage as you will more likely be able to speak to someone in person who can help you.
If you are looking for a job you might check with Florida Covering Kids and Families and other grantees. Those receiving some of the largest grants also include the Public Health Trust, the National Alliance for Hispanic Health, the Epilepsy Foundation of Florida and the Community Health Inteventions & Sickle Cell Agency, Inc. and Meridian Behavioral Healthcare, Inc.
Our review of grants and financial aid available in Florida is organized around four major topics: Housing & Related Services, Education, Business, and the Arts & Historical Preservation:
Housing and Related Services
Through funds provided by a combination of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and the Community Services Block Grant Program Florida provides lots of assistance to those requiring help with housing.
Buying a Home: For those who are able to consider buying a home, HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agencies throughout the state offer free counseling and guidance along with information about buying vs. renting, reverse mortgages, and help managing debt.
Help with Rental Housing: For those who need help finding a rental, public housing or Section 8 vouchers, Public Housing Agencies (PHA’s) are numerous and also located throughout Florida. They are the best place to start to learn what is available, and it is best to check PHA’s in more than one area as availability differs and changes regularly.
While it’s not the same as the improbable dream of receiving grants to purchase a home, PHA assistance can mean the difference between housing and homelessness. It even can offer assistance in preventing homelessness which is about to happeb. Some substantial funds have been provided to help the states and to help Florida in particular. HUD recently awarded a total of $1.8 billion to improve public housing by providing capital funds to 3100 PHA’s. Florida received over $48 million of that total.
Help for the Homeless: Florida is also receiving over $70 million to provide help for the homeless. Local communities were asked by the federal government to compete for awards for homeless-related projects that include housing as well as training for jobs, health care issues (including counseling for mental health), childcare needs and treatment for substance abuse. The largest grant in the state was received by Miami-Dade County (over $30 million).
Services that are not housing-specific are also available through Florida’s Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Program (learn more about Block Grants). To apply to get assistance find your nearest CSBG Provider. (For PHA’s and CSBG Providers, do an internet search including the name of your city and county.
Education Grants and Financial Aid
Support for post-secondary education is strong in Florida. While the State Department of Education does have a grants management office, it is not geared toward individuals and is not worth your time. The best place to find financial assistance for education is through the Department of Education’s Florida Student Scholarship and Grant Programs. These are offered by the Office of Student Financial Assistance. They have a helpful site that lists the programs and provides links to further information for each one at floridastudentfinancialaid.org. Each link takes you to a page that lists the three most important qualifying criteria, which is a great place to start.
There are currently 14 different programs listed – some provide support to those in the top 20% of their class or with a 3.0 or better GPA, others encourage ethnic minorities planning to pursue education in teaching and students whose parents did not get college degress or children of deceased or disabled veterans and more. While each has its own specifications not all require completion of the FAFSA, though they always encourage that as a means of learning of and qualifying for other programs. The Florida Bright Futures program – which is entirely funded by the state lottery – includes three separate awards that students may compete for.
Florida Grants For Small Business
Financial support for Small Business is supported in Florida primarily through the State Small Business Credit Initiative. This program is funded by the U. S. Department of the Treasury. It supports lending to small businesses that are having difficulty getting funding even though they have the required credit. By providing financial support the state is able to stimulate new private lending at a rate of at least 10-1 (i.e., providing close to $100 million in state lending support generates an additional $1 billion in private lending — good for the state and great for those who can now get loans!).
The Initiative supports three separate programs: one focused on Capital Access, one supporting Venture Capital for emerging or relocating businesses, and a Small Business Loan Support Program. To apply or to learn more do a search for “SSBCI Statewide Contacts” and find the one nearest you.
In addition the separate Black Business Loan Program provides support (loans, loan guarantees and other investments) to black business ventures unable to find funding through traditional means. This program operates through specially certified Loan Administrators. Learn how you can apply to receive funds for your small business by contacting the Black Business Investment Corporation in your local area.
Grants For The Arts and Historical Preservation
For Individual Artists: We identified one Arts program which provides grants to individuals. The Florida Division of Cultural Affairs manages the Individual Artist Fellowship Program. It provides recognition for new and original art works by individuals. The awards – which are $5000 or $2500 — are meant to support the overall artistic and career development of the recipients.
For 2015 there are awards in three categories: (1) Choreography, Interdisciplinary, Literature, Media Arts, Music Composition and Theatre; (2) Folk and Traditional Arts; and (30 Folk and Traditional Arts Application. More information is available at florida-arts.org/programs/fellowship/.
The Historic Preservation Grants Program: This program is designed to preserve and protect the state’s “historic and archaeological sites and properties.” It is available only to state government agencies, local government organizations and non-profits which are officially designated as 501c3’s by the IRS. There are both Special Category and Small Matching Grants and awards can be requested for up to $350,000 for the former and $50,000 for the latter. More information is available from the Florida Department of State’s Division of Historical Resources.