The U.S. federal government spends hundreds of billions of dollars a year on citizens, but do not be fooled by con artists who try to sell you information on getting a grant to pay for personal expenses -- most government grants are hard to get. Most of the billions of dollars spent by governments go to programs that you cannot apply for or were earmarked for certain groups or projects long ago.
Government Grant Frauds
Governments usually do not give away grant money just to give taxpayers some money back on taxes. When a person receives money or benefits from the government, it usually comes from an entitlement program, such as Social Security or Medicare. These programs make up a huge portion of government spending, but you cannot apply for them. For example, most people automatically qualify for Medicare at the age of 65, and you must pay into the Social Security system to get some benefits, such as disability insurance.
The government does offer grants, such as for small businesses; however, these are extremely competitive. The government almost always lists available grants on the federal grants websites (grants.gov). States and U.S. territories usually list their grants on this website too. Most state and federal grants have highly restrictive stipulations, such as only going to a small business developing medicine to fight a certain strain of bacteria. Grant money does not go to personal expenses, such as bills and rent. When the federal government wants to help with expenses, it usually disburses money to the states, which then give it to qualified institutions. Thus, you might have to local agencies and professionals about available grants.
A common mistake made by consumers is to pay for information about government grants. While selling information about grants is not necessarily a scam, it usually is a waste of money. Companies sometimes sell books that list all known government grants, but these often are restricted to residents of a certain state or just information about entitlement programs. If someone asks you to pay for an application or claims that he can get you a grant for a fee, this is always a scam. The government never makes you pay to apply for a grant. Watch out -- some scam artists spoof phone numbers from Washington, D.C., and might claim to be from a legitimate sounding government agency, such as the Bureau of Grants.
The federal government lists every federal grant in the yearly publication of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance. You might have more luck finding a grant for your particular situation from a private foundation. Organizations, such as the Foundation Center's Foundation Grants for Individuals Online, sell subscription to their listing of grants, which be worth the time you save looking for them on your own. If you want a federal grant, try to align your goals with that of the granting agency. For instance, government grants usually go to nonprofit companies or companies on the cutting edge of technology.
Russell Huebsch has written freelance articles covering a range of topics from basketball to politics in print and online publications. He graduated from Baylor University in 2009 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science.