Budgeting Debt

Get Free Stuff From the Government: Is It Really Possible?

When times get financially tough, many people use budgeting tricks to save money and cut spending where they can. Others consider getting second jobs or a side hustle to make ends meet. However, people don’t typically consider the many items and services that the government provides at no cost. You might think that you need to have a dire financial need to get free stuff from the government. But there are all types of resources for free stuff that can help people at any economic level. 

In this article, we’ll share the details of some government freebies you may have never heard of. Does the government have free stuff for you? Read on, and find out now—It won’t cost you anything! 

Department of Health and Human Services  

It may seem like all you do is pay taxes to the government. But, several government programs exist to put some of that money to work directly for you. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is the best place to start your search for free stuff from the government. Over the past few years, the nation’s battle against a global pandemic has left people with different levels of economic uncertainty. Fortunately, HHS governs several programs that low-income families and single parents that need assistance can access: 

Help with Utility Bills 

Rising costs make basic needs more expensive—including utilities like gas, water, and electricity. The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) is a resource that helps needy families cover or reduce energy costs. LIHEAP supported programs in all 50 states can keep you safe and healthy during both the winter and summer months. Depending on your needs and where you live, LIHEAP helps with everything from lowering your energy bill to free stuff to help you weatherize your home. 

Daycare

Any parent can tell you that daycare is one of their largest expenses. In larger cities, costs for quality care programs can easily run over $10,000 annually. The Child Care and Development Fund is a great resource for low-income families. This HHS-administered funds programs in states, territories, and tribes to help families pay for daycare and afterschool programs. There are various grants available that offer financial assistance for child care. Your best bet is to contact the Child Care and Development Fund to find out more about what’s available in your state.

Food Stamps 

Food stamps were first used in the 1930s during the Great Depression to provide needy people access to groceries and utilize surplus foods from America’s farms. The Food Stamp Program is now the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides millions of people with food assistance every month. Instead of the blue or green books of food stamps, recipients now use government-issued EBT cards that work like credit cards at any grocery store. SNAP is a service administered by the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture. Their website allows you to check your eligibility for this program. 

Benefits.gov

Another stop on your search for free stuff should include benefits.gov, the official online benefits directory for the U.S. government. The site is a one-stop-shop for anyone looking to discover what available benefits apply to them. Users fill out a questionnaire compared to the criteria listings for over 1,000 Federally-funded assistance programs and benefits. 

Other Free Stuff From the Federal Government

The amount of free stuff available from the government is remarkable. You can save money and time with government resources already available to you, from scholarships to products. In addition to the big sources of funds, there are also a few unique services that you may not know about. 

Redeem Unclaimed Money 

The best free stuff around is free money. And there might be a stack of it somewhere with your name on it. It’s not uncommon for people to forget about refunded deposits, small inheritances, or even paychecks that people never cashed. These unclaimed funds get turned over to state governments. If you think you’re missing some money (or even if you have no idea), visit unclaimed.org to find your home state’s directory of unclaimed funds. There are billions of dollars returned to people every year. This year, you could be one of them!  

Free Maps 

Technology is amazing, but sometimes you need to take a break from it—especially when you’re on a well-deserved road trip. Our mobile devices make it easy to navigate any city. But it’s still tough to get a steady data signal in some parts of the nation. The best tool on any highway adventure is a good ol’ fashioned road map. And you can get one for free! Contact your state’s transportation department (DOT) to get information on where you can pick one up; lots of rest stops and libraries carry them. Some states will also mail one to your home.  

A Message From the President. Yep, THAT President.  

You may think that a shout from the most powerful person in the world is a big ask, but the President of the United States will send some best wishes to Americans celebrating their major milestones. Requirements may vary by the administration, but currently, the White House will send a signed greeting card to citizens celebrating 80th birthdays and above or couples celebrating a wedding anniversary over 50 years. The President will also sign a card congratulating you and your family for life events like births, adoptions, weddings, Eagle Scout Awards, and others. 

The only thing you have to do for this unique experience is ask for it. You can send your requests directly to the White House Greetings Office or contact your Senator or Congressional Representative to request a greeting. A response can take up to two months or more, so be sure to request this cool government freebie sooner than later. 

Government Grants

A grant is a sum of money given to fund a specific project or purpose. Unlike a personal loan, a grant does not require repayment. Grants come from charitable foundations, private trusts, and public resources. The federal government uses grants to provide government assistance to projects and initiatives that benefit communities with public services and economic stimulation. 

Types of Grants

The federal government issues two types of grants. They can either be discretionary grants or formula grants.  

Discretionary grants are distributed by government agencies, usually on a competitive basis. That means that these grants require applications that will be reviewed against others by an individual or panel of experts in the related field. These grants are awarded based on the applicant’s ability to meet or exceed certain criteria. 

On the other hand, formula grants don’t require competition. Usually, these grants are federal dollars distributed to charities, nonprofit groups, and state and local governments. Those funds become available through each entity’s application process. 

Grants.gov

Grant.gov is a website that is becoming the go-to destination for those seeking federal grant money. Currently, it hosts the bulk of applications for many agencies, but soon, all federal agencies will be required to use it. Several of the larger agencies have already set deadlines for transitioning over. The site’s main purpose is to streamline the grant application process by providing the opportunity to apply for multiple grants with fewer application submissions. 

Free Government Grants = Scams To Avoid

There are many offers out there of money in the form of free government grants, but beware—these offers may be scams. Scams can come your way through online ads and spam emails. You can also receive phone calls offering free federal grants from scammers using fake caller IDs to look like a government agency. 

How Grant Scams Work

In an attempt to bait you, fake grant offers will promise you just about anything. They will tell you that the federal government is sitting on millions of dollars just waiting to use for things like college tuition, starting a business, making home repairs, or catching up on bills. 

Criminals target your data in a free government grants scam. For example, a commonly used trick tells the victim that they could receive a special grant. But, they need to supply their Social Security Number to see if they are “eligible.” A scammer will ask for a bank account number to cover “processing fees.” You could even be asked to pay those fees with a cash gift card or electronic transfer. 

How To Fight a Government Grant Scam

The best way to avoid a grant scam is to know the facts. While many government grant programs are available, none of them make any effort to call, email, or connect with anyone who may qualify. Government grants are for specific things, and each one requires an application. And since those applications require specific information, you should never provide personal information on anything other than an official application from the government agency’s office or website. Any combination of your driver’s license, Social Security, or banking information is all an identity thief needs to wreak havoc on your life. 

If a scammer has already duped you, you’re not alone. Thousands of people fall victim to grant scammers every year. The best thing you can do is to act quickly. Contact your bank or company you used to send money and report the transaction as fraudulent. You can get the charge reversed if you prove the scam. 

If you think you are the victim of a scam, be sure to report it. Reporting the scam to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will help the government build a case against the criminals. Even if you don’t get your money back, your information can help the government identify patterns and share data to prevent other crimes. 

These Aren’t Government Freebies. You Already Paid For Them.

No matter your need, take the time to discover what assistance or products are available from the government at every level—local, state, county, and federal. Government agencies can provide you with resources from basic needs to business skills. For many people, asking for help is difficult. They may feel they don’t need a “handout” from the government or believe that assistance will drain resources. However, nothing could be further from the truth: you and every other American taxpayer fund government services and benefits. You pay your taxes so that the government can support citizens like you. So when you have a need, and you’re not sure that installment loans or another financing option can help, you consider what kind of free stuff the government has waiting for you. 

References: 

Government Benefits Search| benefits.gov
Government Grant Scams | FTC Consumer Information
Grants 101 | Types of Funding | Office of Justice Programs