Given the $billions in grants awarded each year it's logical to think there is a department in charge. In fact there is no central grant department. There are multiple agencies, described below.
IMPORTANT: No legitimate “U.S. Government Grant Department” will ever call to notify you that you have been awarded a grant. If you do get such a call, IT IS A SCAM; do not believe them. Never give them any information and never send them money - you will never get it back. To learn more about this and similar scams please see our article about Free Money Phone Call Scams.
Regardless of what you read, grant-awarding departments don't give grants to individuals. They deal only with other government agencies, housing agencies, non-profits, educational institutions and others. Here's where you can look to find personal assistance:
For money help see our articles on Financial Aid and I Need Help; check out Pell Grants if you're a student; see Grants for Business for to start or grow your business; Grants for Research if that applies to you, and Government Grants to Purchase a Home for help buying or keeping your home.
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The best approximation there is of a “Grant Department” is grants.gov, which we have reviewed and provided a guide for at that link. This site lists thousands of grant funding opportunities and you can search it by eligibility. So you can find grants for individuals as well as businesses, schools, government agencies etc. You cannot use it to simply apply for financial aid. But we searched grants available to individuals recently and the search returned ten opportunities. One was for the Partners for Fish and Wildlife — available to private landowners to help to revitalize and save the habitat of wildlife. So it’s worth checking out if that pertains to you —- and to see if you find other opportunities of interest.
The next closest site is usa.gov, which is specifically intended for individuals. It provides a detailed review of financial assistance available. It covers not just grants but also many different loans provided by the government. It even has a section for kids, and some rather entertaining resources like winning llottery numbers and information about government surplus sales and auctions.
You can think of government grant funding like a giant funnel. At the top is the federal government. It awards somewhere upwards of $600 billion a year in grants. These funds are awarded to the next level of government agencies which you can see listed below. Those agencies in turn award grants to smaller agencies and to communities. In that case some of the funds get to non-profit organizations that are close to the community and its needs. And the non-profit serves the end user – so the government funds do eventually go to help individuals and families.
Sometimes these funds are awarded as Block Grants. There are arguments for and against such grants but in general they are a good thing. They are given without a lot of strings attached as to how the money must be spent and with whom. So the receiving agency, which is familiar with the local area and its needs, can decide where it is needed most. Often these funds go to local nonprofits and other groups who serve those in need. You can find out what block grants may be available in your area by checking your state or county web pages, or by doing an internet search with “block grants” and the name of your county.
A potential new block grant may help you understand the benefit and the impact of block grants. President Trump promised during his campaign that he favored such a grant in the area of education. That grant would (and hopefully will) provide vouchers or other financial assistance so that every child - not just the rich - can choose to go to a private school or a charter school rather than be required to attend a public school. Many public schools are great, but unfortunately many in the inner city and low income areas are failing are children. As of today - February 7 - Betsy DeVos has won the role of Education Secretary. That could be a very good sign for the likelihood that this will come to pass.
Note that as indicated above, the largest agencies do not award grants or financial aid to individuals. However, the recipients of their grants DO provide such help. You can get a lot of good information about how to find the type of grant you're looking for in Types of Grants and Where to Find Them. If what you actually need is financial aid, check out a wide range of options at Low Income Help.
Also, though these agencies typically operate through the states or other agencies, there are exceptions. Sometimes grants do go directly to individuals, to small businesses, and to private non-profits. We explain more and give you step by step instructions to search for federal grants you could be eligible for in our review of grants.gov.
How will things change under the Trump administration? Some critics spread doom and gloom, focusing on the areas where the proposed budget has supposedly been “slashed”. However, typically the reduction proposed is merely in the rate of growth, not of the overall amount of the available grants. Some of these duplicate the benefits and services provided by other programs or other grants. And combined with the progress being made in improving the economy and the real rate of growth in the U.S., the “cuts” are really not as disastrous as some would make it seem. It will be important for those seeking grants to understand what they qualify for and what the appropriate process is for receiving funds. New modifications to the grants.gov website make it pretty easy to get this information, highlighting large graphics users can click to go to the Grants Learning Center, an area called What Is A Grant?, and another titled Exploring Eligibility.
If you find grants.gov to be overwhelming – and many do — there are also some very interesting grants available from nonprofits and other private sources. Some of the latest that we have reviewed and provided details about include Travel Grants and Land Grants. The travel grants are pretty interesting and though many are for students there are lots more that could apply to just about anyone. The Land Grants article is also intriguing because it shows that Land Grants – that is, free property on which you can build a home — are not just a thing of the past. They were key to development in the early days of the formation and growth of the United States, and many assume that they have disappeared. But they haven't and there are still a few states that offer them. Take a look and see if they could help make your dream of home and property ownership a reality.
- Agency for International Development: aid outside the United States.
- Corporation for National and Community Service: service and volunteering
- Agriculture: food safety, resource conservation
- Commerce: U. S. economic health and technology
- Defense: the defense of our nation
- Education: education in the U.S.
- Energy: energy security and related issues
- Health and Human Services: the health of all Americans.
- Homeland Security: protection from attack and from harm due to natural disasters.
- Housing and Urban Development: home ownership and community development.
- The Interior: U.S. heritage, Indian tribes and island communities.
- Justice: law enforcement, crime control and equal justice for all Americans.
- Labor: work related issues including safety, opportunities, rights, and other issues.
- State: U.S. relations and general stability around the world.
- Treasury: the U. S. economy and various financial systems.
- Veterans Affairs: a variety of issues and services for U.S. veterans.
- Environmental Protection Agency: the U.S. environment.
- Institute of Museum and Library Services: support for U.S. libraries and museums.
- National Aeronautics and Space Administration: U.S. space program, aeronautics and exploration;
- National Archives and Records Administration: maintains public records of government actions.
- National Endowment for the Arts: promotes the arts, arts accessibility and education.
- National Endowment for the Humanities: makes grants which promote a variety of programs related to the humanities;
- National Science Foundation: promotes progress and achievement in science for the benefit of all Americans and for our national defense. It is a major provider of related grants made for government supported research at universities and colleges.
- Small Business Administration: promotes and encourages small businesses through grants to related organizations and by providing a wide range of education and support.
- Social Security Administration: leads and manages the U.S. Social Security programs.