by Aidan Kang, CFA
Senior Writer
Grants
UPDATED: October 07, 2021

A lot of people believe that there’s no such thing as free money, but believe it or not, there is! Well, at least in America. There are various ways to find free money as long as you’re looking (or asking) in the right places. There are government grants and other assistance programs that provide money for personal expenses, human services, and other purposes.

How to Get Free Money from the Government?

If you’re desperate for cash, there are places where you can turn to that could help you out. Whether you’re just looking for a quick $5 or you need help with paying your rent, check out this wide-ranging list that will show you where to get free money through government grants.

1. Housing Assistance

HCV Program (Housing Choice Voucher Program)

How much can you get?

Up to 60% of your rent or housing cost. (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

To qualify for Housing Choice Vouchers (formerly known as Section 8 vouchers), your family’s income must be below 50% of the median income in the county or metropolitan area you reside in, plus meet other requirements. If you get approved, you can get housing assistance in a house of your choosing as long as it meets the program requirements. Contact your local PHA to find more info.

2. Education Assistance

Pell Grants For College

How much can you get?

$6,345 maximum Federal Pell Grant award  for the 2020–21 academic year (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

This is open for undergraduate college students only, meaning you do not have a degree yet. Unlike student loans, this grant does NOT need to be repaid. You can apply by submitting a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) form.

3. Food Assistance

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

How much can you get?

The amount will depend on your state, family size, and family income. The maximum monthly benefit can range from $194 per month for 1 person to over $1,000 for a family of 8 people (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

SNAP is formerly known as the Food Stamp Program, which is the federal government program offering money for food. Eligible families receive a pre-loaded debit card that they can use to buy food at supermarkets, groceries, and retailers that agree to take SNAP benefits. To apply, check your state’s SNAP website.

4. Assistance for Utilities for Low-Income Families

Portrait view of a young professional business woman using a laptop computer while sitting at her work desk holding utility bills and bank statements being thoughtful and worried. Office interior.

LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program)

How much can you get?

The amount will depend on your state, family size, and family income. Click here to find the minimum and maximum benefit levels (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

This is a program that provides cash grants to help low-income families with heating or cooling utility bills. To be eligible for energy costs assistance, you need to meet income guidelines and program requirements in your state. You can apply by calling your state’s LIHEAP office, contact the toll-free phone number at 1-866-674-6327, or send an e-mail to [email protected]


Lifeline

How much can you get?

$9.25 discount per month (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

Lifeline is the program of the Federal Communications Commission that provides low-income households discounts on monthly phone services and internet services. You must show that your income is equal to or below 135% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines or you participate in other federal assistance programs like Medicaid or SNAP. Use the National Verifier system to apply.

5. Health Care Assistance

The Healthcare Marketplace

How much can you get?

There are various factors that need to be considered when determining the amount you’ll get. That includes your age, income, and family size.

What do you need to do? 

Visit The Healthcare Marketplace and sign up for a health insurance plan that would cover your medical needs.


Medicaid

How much can you get?

Each state has its own eligibility requirements and which populations are covered.

What do you need to do? 

Medicaid is different from Medicare. It’s a healthcare program that aims to help low-income families, individuals who are medically needy, as well as disabled persons below 65 years old so they could get the quality medical care they need.

6. Child care Assistance

Child Care Development Fund

How much can you get?

The amount will depend on your income and is only available for kids below 13 years old.

What do you need to do? 

Check the website of the Office of Child Care and check where the Child Care Program Office in your state is located and how to get in touch with them. This office of the federal government provides subsidies through government grants and vouchers to eligible families for childcare. Each state has its own set of requirements so contact your local fund administration for more information.

7. Family Assistance

TANF (Temporary Assistance For Needy Families)

How much can you get

The amount will depend on your state, family size, and family income. (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

TANF is a federal government program under the Office of Family Assistance for disadvantaged families with children below 18 years old. You have to apply through your local county office and meet the program requirements.

 The maximum monthly benefit will depend on the state you live in and your family situation. For example, the maximum monthly benefit for a single-parent family with two children for the following states are as follows:

  • Mississippi – $170
  • Texas – $290
  • Illinois- $432
  • California – $714
  • New York – $789
  • New Hampshire – $1,039

8. Unclaimed Funds

Unclaimed Money and Free Tax Money

How much can you get?

The amount depends if you have unclaimed money and the adjustments you can make on your W-4.

What do you need to do? 

Check out various websites that list down whether you have unclaimed funds or not, which may include your uncashed employment checks, housing or utility deposits, or forgotten tax refunds.

You can also get free money through tax credits and deductions. Check your W-4 and make adjustments as required. Use this list

Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

How much can you get?

Free tax preparation and possible tax refunds (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

If you make less than $54,000 a year, have a disability, or speak limited English, you could apply for this program to receive free tax return preparation. IRS-certified volunteers will help you to make sure your tax bill is as low as possible and if you are eligible for tax refunds.

9. Other Federal Government Assistance Programs

2-1-1 Program

How much can you get?

Amounts vary depending on the specific type of assistance (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

This is a program run by the United Way Worldwide that connects people to available assistance programs in their states. You can use this to find assistance for food, housing, job training, service for veterans, health care, etc. You can dial 211 on the telephone or go to 211.org to find available programs near you.


Unemployment Benefits

How much can you get?

The amount depends on your state but the average person receives $378 a week. (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

Due to the Covid-19 crisis, states are revising their laws concerning unemployment benefits. Aside from people who have lost their regular jobs, people who are self-employed and those who are gig workers are now eligible to receive unemployment assistance.


Benefits.Gov

How much can you get?

The amount depends on the type of assistance or benefits you’re applying for (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

This is the official benefits website of the U.S. government that acts as a one-stop shop to find information about the available benefits you may have access to. You can check out benefits regarding disaster relief, healthcare, loans, and financial assistance by going to this website.

What is a Government Grant?

The government helps organizations to fund projects or ideas that help stimulate the economy and provide services to the public. Government grants are given to local and state governments, universities, nonprofit organizations, research laboratories, and businesses.

Business Grants

How much can you get?

Amounts vary depending on the grant program (Visit Site)

What do you need to do? 

Go to Grants.gov or your local Chamber of Commerce to find non-scientific and scientific government grants available for people who want to start their own business. Other companies and organizations that provide business grants include the following:

Is there a Hardship Grant?

There is no such thing as a hardship grant for individuals. The government provides grants of this nature to local and state governments, federal agencies, universities, colleges, research labs, non-profits, law enforcement agencies, and even businesses.

For instance, nonprofit organizations that receive funding from federal grants can use the money to help eligible individuals whom they serve. So, if you’re looking for a hardship grant, you should seek help from a nonprofit organization.

Beware of Government Grant Scams

Be careful of individuals or organizations offering free money from the government. You may come across someone who offers a grant to cover your unpaid bills, education, or home repairs. They use different ways to reach you like sending emails or texts. They make big promises and can be very convincing. Always remember that the government won’t get in touch with you to offer government grants or ask for your personal information. File a report at FTC if you spot a scam pretending to offer free money from the government.

What are the Alternatives to Government Grants and Financial Assistance?

Government grants and assistance aren’t your only options when you’re looking for extra cash. There are other places where you can get free money.

Swagbucks

How much can you get?

$5 Bonus on signup (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

Go to Swagbucks.com and sign-up for an account and you will instantly get a $5 bonus. Since the minimum cash-out limit is only $3, this means that you can instantly exchange that for a gift card or send it to your PayPal. If you want to earn more, you can try answering surveys, watch videos, print coupons, and watch videos through Swagbucks. There are also great cashback deals you can take advantage of.


Inbox Dollars

InboxDollar

How much can you get?

$5 Bonus on signup (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

Go to Swagbucks.com and sign-up for an account and you will instantly get a $5 bonus. Since the minimum cash-out limit is only $3, this means that you can instantly exchange that for a gift card or send it to your PayPal. If you want to earn more, you can try answering surveys, watch videos, print coupons, and watch videos through Swagbucks. There are also great cashback deals you can take advantage of.


Jobs2Shop

How much can you get?

$5 Bonus on signup (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

You have to go to the site, sign up, and you’ll get your $5 bonus, however, you’ll have to keep doing different online tasks and activities like playing games, checking websites, and watching videos to get to the $25 minimum earnings that will enable you to cash out. You can get paid $0.20 to $2 per task so if you are quite active on the site, it shouldn’t take a long time to cash out.


MyPoints

How much can you get?

$10 Visa or Amazon gift card when you spend $20 on your first purchase and up to 40% cashback (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

MyPoints is a blend of a cashback rewards app and a survey app. When you sign up, you get $10 when you spend at least $20 through the MyPoints shopping portal. This is not a bad deal especially if you’re going to buy something online anyway. There are also various cashback offers of up to 40%. So, if you spend $100 on a particular product with a cashback offer, you can get $40 back. That’s free money right there! 


Shopkick

How much can you get?

$2 for 500 kicks you earn (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

Get paid for walking into stores you normally go to anyway. When you sign up for Shopkick, there are different ways you can earn “kicks”, which is the currency used in the app. You can earn kicks by walking into their partner stores, scanning barcodes, scanning your receipt, watching videos, or making online purchases.

How many kicks can you earn? It will depend on what you choose to do. Just walking into a store like Target gets you 25 kicks while going inside Best Buy earns you 50 kicks.


Checkout 51

How much can you get?

$5 bonus after redeeming your first offer on the app and up to 35% cashback (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

Sign up for this grocery cashback app to get offers of up to 35% cashback. When you redeem your first cashback offer, you’ll also get a $5 bonus. You will need to reach $20 cashback to cash out via PayPal.


Ibotta

How much can you get?

$20 Welcome Bonus when you redeem specific offers in the app (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

You have to download the app and redeem offers to get the welcome bonuses. If you redeem any in-store offer, you get a $10 Welcome Bonus; a $5 Welcome Bonus for redeeming a Mobile Shopping offer; and a secondary $5 Welcome bonus for an in-store Mobile Shopping offer.


Rakuten

How much can you get?

$10 Welcome bonus when you place a qualifying order with a minimum of $25 within 90 days of joining; Up to 10% cashback and free gifts (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

If you shop online a lot, you can join Rakuten and shop through its portal. You can get cash back rewards just by shopping and also get free gifts from participating retailers. Welcome bonuses of up to $20 are up for grabs when you redeem offers in the first 90 days of joining.


Mobilexpression

How much can you get?

10 Amazon gift cards after being an active member for 1 week (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

You have to install the app on your phone for at least one week to get the $10 reward. Take note, however, that Mobilexpression will record your internet behavior while it’s installed on your device.


Sweatcoin

How much can you get?

$1 for 20 Sweatcoins (estimate) for PayPal (Sign Up)

What do you need to do? 

Walk, walk, and walk more to earn Sweatcoins. For every 1,000 steps you take, you can earn 1 Sweatcoin. You can use the Sweatcoins you earn to buy stuff from the marketplace but if you want it exchanged for PayPal cash, the equivalent is $1 for 20 Sweatcoins. While walking 20,000 steps may seem like a lot of work for a dollar, it’s a great way to get paid for something you do every day.


Knowing Where To Get Free Money

Many Americans do not realize that there are many ways to get free money, whether through easy online sign-ups, cashback rewards, or by applying for financial assistance programs or government programs. If you’re in a difficult place financially, you can check out these recommendations to get free money.

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