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There are so many government programs that will give you free money.
I know that there are some people out there bemoaning the fact that the government is too big and bloated.
But some of these people are more than a little hypocritical because, in one breath, they berate the Affordable Healthcare Act or the SNAP program for stealing money from hardworking American citizens.
In the other breath, they ominously tell people:
“Nobody better touch my stinkin’ Medicare!”
Of course, Medicare is a government program, but they don’t see it that way. This is cognitive dissonance on a grand level! The fact is, there are a lot of government programs that will help you out if you really need it.
Now, I’m not advocating that you become hopelessly dependent on government assistance, but there are times in your life when you do need a helping hand.The government is offering you one.
Are you just going to slap it away?
From locating a bank account you totally forgot about to getting a Pell grant so you can get a quality education, there are ways the government can help you out. Some of these programs aren’t about giving government money away, but returning cash to you that’s rightfully yours.
Find Lost Money
Because of escheatment laws,you might you have a treasure trove of money sitting in a state treasury account.
Escheatment laws mean that a financial institution has to give money in an account to the state if there’s been no activity for three to five years and the customer can’t be contacted. These laws were enacted to protect consumers by helping them to get money back that’s rightfully theirs.
Before unclaimed property laws, there was no real way for people to get their money and assets back. Companies with unclaimed property had no incentive to try to locate the owner.
For any property that has a value of $100 or more, Massachusetts (where I reside) requires companies first to send out letters to try to find out who the money belongs to. Financial institutions in Massachusetts must report all abandoned accounts by November 1st of each year and give the money to the state. Life insurance companies have until May 1st to turn in the funds.
In 2015, $3.2 billion out of $7.8 billion collected was returned to account holders by state government unclaimed property agencies. While the agencies wait for the rightful owner to come forth, they can use the money to fund state programs.
Each year, these agencies strive to return more money to account holders, and each year, they increase their success rate.
Where To Get Your Money
Visit unclaimed.org to find money you forgot about or didn’t even know you had.
These can include old utility payment overages, insurance reimbursements, paychecks you forgot to cash, apartment deposits, and forgotten savings bonds. You can use your full name and address to search. Or, you can just use your last name.
By using your last name, you might find a deceased relative’s money that’s now rightfully yours. All you have to do is to file a claim, and on it, state that you’re an heir.
The National Association of State Treasurers started the website to make it easier for people to be reunited with their long-lost money.
Recover Pension Funds
If you’ve left a company due to layoffs or mergers, you may have been too preoccupied with other matters to remember to take your pension with you. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation can assist you in your search. There are currently 100,224 names in it.
That’s a lot of unclaimed pension fund money floating out there!
Unclaimed pensions total over $400 million. Individual benefits range from 12 cents to one million dollars.You can search the database by all fields, first name, last name, or company name. Enter your search term, the field type you would like to search by, and then tap the search button.
If you find your name, complete the secure online form by clicking on your name. Make sure you provide them with a valid telephone number, email address, or mailing address so they can contact you.
Money for a House Down Payment
One of the biggest roadblocks on the path to homeownership is trying to come up with enough money for the down payment. This is particularly true for first-time homebuyers.
Many people have student loans slowly eating away at their financial reserves, which makes it hard to save up for a down payment. But you’re not alone, because 81% of first-time homebuyers buy with less than 20% down.
Luckily, the government can often help you out. It has grants and programs to help you purchase a home if you’re ready to buy now and have already found a competitive mortgage rate.
Here are a few government programs that will help you buy a home:
The Good Neighbor Next Door Program
The Good Neighbor Next Door program can save you thousands on a home. It’s sponsored by HUD, and properties eligible for the program are listed by state.
You need to be willing to buy a home in an area earmarked for urban renewal if you want the program to help you. However, only some occupations qualify. These include firefighters, teachers, and law enforcement officers. If you make a commitment to living in the home for at least 36 months, you’ll receive up to 50% of the cost of the house.
These properties are often in areas of urban blight.
The National Homebuyer’s Fund
For over 16 years, The National Homebuyer’s Fund has been helping people all over the country achieve the dream of homeownership. They can provide up to 5% of your down payment.
This is a grant you don’t have to pay back. Check with a participating lender for income requirements based on your location and housing market.
If you’re a military member, you might qualify for a VA loan. You might not even have to come up with any down payment.
VA loans are guaranteed by the government, and participating lenders offer them.The VA also offers Adapted Housing Grants. If your disability was the result of your service, this grant allows you to purchase a house.
It’ll also pay you to make upgrades to your home if you need to make it accessible.
USDA loans, otherwise known as the USDA Rural Development Housing Loan Program, are zero down payment loans with low-interest rates for suburban and rural homebuyers. The program is designed to improve the quality of life and the economy of rural America.
These loans help those without safe and sanitary housing and who can’t qualify for a traditional mortgage. There are income limits that are location-specific, and your income has to below that limit to be eligible.
These mortgages are backed by the USDA, which allows you to get low rates even without a down payment. However, if you don’t have any money for a down payment, you’ll have to pay a mortgage insurance premium.
They also offer home improvement loans and grants, and direct loans for low-income applicants. For direct loans, the interest rate can be as little as 1%.
Money to Pay for College
If you think you’ll never be able to go to college because of insurmountable financial obstacles, think again. Millions of people each year receive financial assistance to attend college, so there’s no reason why you can’t.
There are thousands of grants for applicants, and everyone qualifies for at least one of them.
There are grants available based on your major, geographic area, and even your interests. Visit the College Grants Database website to find out which ones you’re eligible for.
Types of Grants
Need-based grants are for students who have financial hardships. Merit-based grants are tied to performance, including good grades and other personal achievements.
Some grants target specific segments of the student population to help them pay for college:
- Children in foster care
- Groups that are traditionally underrepresented
- Students choosing specific careers or who have disabilities
- Veterans and members of the National Guard
To qualify for grants, you’ll need to fill out a FAFSA form, and the information on it will be used to figure out the total cost of your education. Then, your ability to pay for college expenses will be estimated.
They’ll first come up with an Expected Family Contribution (EFC) amount by using the income and assets of both you and your parents.
To get the highest amount of federal dollars to fund your education, file your FAFSA as soon as possible. There are state and federal deadlines to be met, and you have to hurry.
Federal Pell Grant
One of the best grants to get is a Federal Pell Grant. You must meet the following requirements to get one:
- Be an undergraduate student who hasn’t received a bachelor’s degree.
- Be enrolled as a full-time student in a degree or certification program.
- Have earned a high-school diploma or GED or completed high school in an approved home-school setting.
- Be a US citizen or eligible noncitizen.
You cannot receive Pell Grant funds from more than one college at a time.
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is for the most financially-challenged students. It supplements other grants.
Applicants with EFC scores of zero are given money before other applicants.
Academic Competitiveness Grants
Academic Competitiveness Grants are hybrid need- and merit-based grants for first and second-year college students.
You must be a Pell grant recipient, be enrolled in a two or four-year institution, and have a GPA of 3.0 or higher.
National SMART Grant
The National SMART Grant is The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent. This is for third and fourth-year college students.
You must be receiving a Pell grant, must be majoring in the STEM fields or high-demand foreign languages, and must be academically talented.
Grants in Exchange for Service Obligations
Some federal grants are given out in exchange for service obligations after graduation. This is done in the nursing and teaching fields.
Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education (TEACH) grants are given to students who agree to work in areas that have the most need for teachers.
A student has to make a four-year commitment.
There are nursing scholarships given out to students who make a two-year commitment to work at a hospital that has a critical shortage of nurses. If you don’t honor the service obligation, the scholarship reverts to a conventional loan.
Iraq and Afghanistan grants are given out to students who lost a parent serving in the military, and the Montgomery G.I. bill provides college reimbursement in exchange for military service.
Money for Childcare Costs
The prohibitive cost of quality childcare often puts it beyond the financial reach of low-income households.
That’s where the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) Act comes in. First created in 1990, it’s a program offered by the US Department of Health and Human Services that provides subsidies for a parent to pay for childcare while the parent works.
The Office of Child Care (part of the Department of Health and Human Services) oversees CCDF. CCDF was always seen as a way to support parents who wanted to work or attend school, but had no way to pay for childcare.
But now, it’s universally recognized that quality childcare not only makes it possible for a parent to work, but can also make a positive difference in a child’s development. You may be eligible if you’re working and have kids under the age of 13 living with you.
The Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act created the Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) in 1996. This consolidated money from CCDBG and the Social Security Act into a single, unified federal child care funding stream.
The Office of Child Care administers CCDF within the Department of Health and Human Services.
Money for Healthcare
If you paid for insurance through the Health Insurance Marketplace and qualify, you might be able to get Premium Tax Credits (PTCs).
These are advance credit payments and are paid directly to your insurance company, so you don’t have to spend as much out-of-pocket. To get this credit, you must meet specific requirements and file a tax return.
Here are the requirements:
- Have a household income that doesn’t exceed predetermined limits.
- Cannot file a tax return using the status “Married Filing Separately.”
- There’s nobody else in the world who can claim you as a dependent.
Also, during the same month, you or a family member:
- Have health insurance through a Health Insurance Marketplace.
- Aren’t able to get affordable coverage through an eligible employer-sponsored plan.
- Don’t qualify for coverage through a government program like Medicaid, Medicare, CHIP, or TRICARE.
- Pay the share of premiums not covered by advance credit payments.
Visit healthcare.gov to learn more.
Medicaid and CHIP
Millions of kids and teenagers are eligible for free or low-cost care through Medicaid and CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program).These programs allow kids to get routine checkups, needed immunizations, and dental care to keep healthy and robust.
Even if you couldn’t get coverage for your child in the past, you might be able to get it now. Eligibility requirements and personal circumstances change all the time.
To learn more about these programs, visit insurekidsnow.gov.
Help with Heating Bills
LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) is managed through state programs and funded by US Health and Human Services.
The LIHEAP program is also known as fuel assistance. It gives eligible households money to pay a portion of their heating bills. Homeowners and even some renters are eligible.
To qualify, you have to meet household size and gross annual income requirements. Household income cannot exceed 60% of the estimated median state income.
Visit the LIHEAP website to get more information about this invaluable program.
Weatherize Your Home
WAPTAC (Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center) can give you money to weatherize your home. It’s estimated that 20-30 million homes are eligible.
These grants are offered by the US Department of Energy. If you have children, a person in your home with a disability, or are over 60 years old, you’ll get priority over individuals who don’t fall into one of these three groups.
To apply for assistance, you need to contact your state weatherization agency to see if you qualify. Each state sets its own eligibility criteria. Under the guidelines, you’re automatically eligible to receive weatherization assistance if you receive Supplemental Security Income or Aid to Families with Dependent Children.
If you’re approved, the first step in the process is an energy audit. This is done by your local weatherization agency.
This could be a local government agency or a contractor trained in how to do an energy audit.
After the audit is done, the auditor will provide you with a list of recommendations. Then, the work will be done.
Free Cell Phones
Lifeline is a free government benefit program that offers affordable phone service to eligible Americans. This grant is administered by the FCC.
If you go through Q Link Wireless to sign up for Lifeline, you’ll get a smartphone for free. You’ll also get free monthly calling and data, and unlimited texting.
You can qualify based on household income. If you receive SNAP or Medicaid, you’ll probably be eligible too. There are no bills, no credit checks, and no fees, and signup is quick and easy.
If you’re facing foreclosure, Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HOPE) wants to help you to stay in your home.
While HOPE isn’t a government organization, they’re approved by HUD. What they are is a nonprofit agency dedicated to guiding consumers onto the path of sustainable homeownership and improving their overall financial health.
HOPE will also help you if you’ve been victimized by mortgage scammers.
They’ve helped over 9 million people avoid the horror losing their homes to creditors. When you call their hotline, a foreclosure prevention specialist will work with you to create a comprehensive action plan uniquely tailored to your specific financial circumstances.
They’ll help you create a realistic budget to reduce and responsibly manage your payment obligations. To take them up on their offer, call their hotline at 888-995-HOPE or visit 995hope.org.
Free Tax Assistance
The IRS administers a program called the Volunteer Income Tax Initiative (VITA). This program offers free tax assistance if you meet their low-income requirements.
Assistance is limited to those who make less than $54,000 a year, those with limited English-speaking abilities, and persons with disabilities.
The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) program, also administered by the IRS, offers free advice on pensions, retirement, income, and tax preparation to those age 60 or over. To learn more and to apply for the program, visit the IRS’s website.
Repair Your House
The Rural Housing Repair Loans and Grants Program helps homeowners in rural areas pay for for home improvements and renovations.
To qualify for the loan program, you must meet the low-income requirements, and be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident living in a rural area. To be eligible for a grant, you must meet all the criteria for the loan program and also be 62 years old or older.
The loans are for 20 years at 1% interest. They give you to $7,500, and because they’re grants, you don’t have to repay them.
You can only use them to remove or repair health or safety hazards. These are things like getting rid of lead paint or making structural repairs. To learn more, visit the Rural Housing website.
If you really need one, there are a bunch of ways to get a helping hand from our government. If you use them, you’re not a moocher. You’re merely using resources our country magnanimously offers its citizenry.
So take advantage of them if you have to!
We live in a great country, and I’m proud of the array of programs it offers to help out its people at no cost to them.
If you’re a parent trying to get back into the workforce and need someone to watch your kid, see if you’re eligible for free childcare. Or, if you’re a farmer and need help fixing a roof that’s on the verge of caving in, give Rural Housing a call.
Which of these ways have you used before and which ones do you recommend?
Let me know in the comments!