How to Get Free Government Money you Never Pay Back

The federal government will tell you that it does not award grants to individuals for personal use. Instead, the funding flows to states, universities, and organizations to foster a public service or stimulate the economy.

However, the definition of a grant suggests otherwise: free money that you never have to pay back. When viewed through this broader lens, the opportunities abound.  

First, follow the links found in our listing of government grants that utilize just a smidgeon of poetic license to fit the definition of free cash sent directly to individuals.

Second, scour another listing of ways the federal government indirectly provides free money through state agencies to help low-income families pay personal bills.

List of Government Grants for Individuals

Scanning through a list of government grants for individuals surfaces a handful of opportunities to find free money that you do not have to repay. Remember that most federal funding flows to universities, state agencies, and organizations rather than directly to people – but every rule has exceptions.

Hardship Grants

We begin our list with hardship grants where government entities provide free money that individuals do not have to pay back. At least three alternatively-named programs help people experiencing unemployment, health challenges, and other financial difficulties.

Unemployment Benefits

Individuals experiencing financial hardship because of job loss can get unemployment benefits through their state government. It is free money you do not have to pay back.

Since each state crafts unique unemployment rules regarding good cause reasons for termination, you do not want to miss any opportunities to tap into this resource. Below are two scenarios where you might qualify after a delay.

Disability Benefits

Individuals experiencing financial hardship associated with lost income connected with a disability have up to four places to turn for government help. In each case, you get free money that you do not have to pay back.  

  1. Seven states have mandatory temporary disability programs that replace a portion of income while you are unable to work for a covered medical condition
  2. Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) pays a cash benefit to workers across the country when a medical condition prevents them from performing job duties for at least twelve months
  3. Supplemental Security Income (SSI) supports low-income individuals with few resources who never earned money via employment
    1. Babies born prematurely
    1. People with mental health disorders
  4. Workers Compensation Insurance replaces a portion of income and helps with medical bills after on-the-job accidents

TANF

Specific individuals experiencing financial hardship for any reason can tap into a third government program: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

The TANF program provides monthly cash payments to low-income families with children to help them achieve economic self-sufficiency. Recipients do not have to repay the money.

Find TANF contact information in your state online.

IRS Grants

Any list of government grants for individuals should include the free money that low-income families do not have to repay under an alias: refundable tax credits via the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

A refundable tax credit means that the IRS could write you a check even if you have zero income tax obligations in a given year.

Money for Parents

The first IRS grant on our list provides parents with free cash they do not have to repay via the refundable Child Tax Credit. Families do not want to miss out on this boondoggle!

The American Rescue Plan revised the Child Tax Credit for 2021, and future legislation could extend these benefits in later years.

  • The amount each family receives is much higher
    • Children under 6: $3,600
    • Dependents under 18: $3,000
  • Eligible taxpayers will receive advance payments of half of their estimated amount during 2021

Complete the online non-filer tool to begin receiving advance payments if you did not file taxes in previous years to alert the IRS about your dependent children.

Money for Low-Income

The second IRS grant on our list offers low-income families free money they never have to repay through the refundable Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC).

Individuals and families with incomes below specified thresholds may qualify for the EITC if they have earned income as defined by the IRS. The maximum amount you can claim breaks out as follows.

  • No qualifying children: $1,502
  • One qualifying child: $3,618
  • Two qualifying children: $5,980
  • Three or more qualifying children: $6,728

Money for Students

The third IRS grant on our list provides college students with free money they do not have to pay back via the partially refundable American Opportunity Tax Credit (AOTC).

Individuals might qualify for the AOTC if they paid qualified higher education expenses during their first four college years. The maximum amount is $2,500 per year, broken down as follows.

  • $1,500 non-refundable: reduces any tax obligation
  • $1,000 refundable: IRS sends a check even when you owe $0 in taxes

Money for Insurance

The fourth IRS grant on our list provides moderate-income individuals and families free money to purchase health insurance via the refundable Premium Tax Credit (PTC). You do not have to repay the funding provided you do not underestimate your future earnings during enrollment.

Sign up for Marketplace Health Insurance at Healthcare.gov. Follow the prompts to estimate how big the PTC will be, paying close attention to two critical inputs.

  1. The number of people in your household
  2. Modified Adjusted Gross Income (MAGI) of all household members

Grants for Covid-19

Our list of government grants of individuals includes an entry that could soon become extinct or continue indefinitely: Covid-19 Economic Impact Payments (Stimulus Checks). The nature of pandemics makes forecasting impossible.

The Internal Revenue Service sent free checks that recipients did not have to repay in three waves of Economic Impact Payments and could do so again in the future.

RoundIndividualDependent
3/20$1,200$500
12/20$600$600
3/21$1,400$1,400

File for a Recovery Rebate Credit online if you did not receive an Economic Impact Payment or got less than the total amount per the schedule.

Free Loans

Free loans you do not have to pay back are a hidden entry on our list of government grants for individuals. Federal and state agencies provide free funding to first-time homebuyers under a pseudonym: down payment assistance.

Down payment assistance programs can come in various forms, and low-income families typically qualify more readily.

  • Grants: money you never have to pay back with no strings attached
  • Forgivable Loans: 0% second mortgages you do not have to repay provided you stay in the home for a specified period or longer
  • Deferred Payment Loans: 0% interest second mortgages that you do not have to repay until you sell the property or refinance

The US Department of Housing and Urban Development publishes an online list of down payment assistance programs broken down by state.

College Grants

Any list of government grants for individuals should include the most familiar entry: student financial aid to help people attend college. While the dollars flow from the Department of Education directly to the school, the funding benefits the person attending classes.

Complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA®) as your first step towards possible grants, scholarships, work-study programs, etc. Low-income households typically qualify for the most help, as their expected family contribution is less.

IDA Grants

Individual Development Accounts (IDA) appear last on our list of grants because the federal government began defunding the benefit in 2017. However, some programs are still active.

An IDA grant provides free government money (matching $1 for every $1 saved by a client) that recipients never have to pay back to help them purchase one of four assets.

  1. Car
  2. Home
  3. Start or support a business
  4. Post-secondary education or training

For example, select groups can still receive IDA matching funds.

Free Grant Money for Bills and Personal Use

Federal and state governments often funnel grants indirectly to low-income individuals for personal use. In most cases, a local agency doles out the free money you do not have to repay in the form of benefits that lower specific household expenses.

Each program operates using an alternative name connected to specific expenses.

Repair Bills

The government provides free grant money to help low-income families living in rural and urban areas reduce personal home repair bills. Disadvantaged groups such as senior citizens, veterans, and disabled individuals can tap into these programs.

Charities help with home repairs, as do a host of government programs.

  • City housing agencies
  • USDA housing preservation program for rural areas
  • USDA section 504 for elderly individuals
  • Three Veterans Administration initiatives

Medical Bills

The federal government provides free grant money to each state that distributes the funding to help low-income families with personal medical, vision, and dental bills.

Medicaid is a federal program administered by each state that provides healthcare across the country to families and children living in poverty. However, because each state determines what benefits to offer, adults might find it challenging to find participating providers.

Energy Bills

The federal government also provides free grant money to state agencies that dole out the funding to local low-income families to lower personal energy bills (heating, cooling, lighting, appliances, etc.).

Three programs combine to lower the cost of purchasing and operating HVAC equipment and household appliances.

  1. The Department of Energy oversees the Weatherization Assistance Program (WAP), improving homes’ efficiency and lowering electric and gas costs.
  2. The US Department of Health and Human Services administers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) that helps families pay utility bills.
  3. The Environmental Protection Agency runs the Energy Star (ES) program that offers rebates to purchase efficient appliances and HVAC equipment.

Grocery Bills

The federal government provides free grant money to state agencies that, in turn, use the funding to help low-income families lower personal grocery bills.

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP or Food Stamps) provides nutrition benefits to augment the food budget of needy families to purchase healthy fare at grocery stores.

Apply for SNAP in the state where you live.

Water Bills

The federal government also provides free grant money to state agencies that distribute the funding to low-income residents to help them lower personal water and sewer bills.

The US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) administers the Low Income Household Water Assistance Program (LIHWAP).

Find a local LIHWAP agency by following the online map published by HHS.

Housing Bills

The federal government also provides free grant money to state housing agencies that distribute the funding to low-income families to lower private apartment rental bills.

The Department of Housing & Urban Development (HUD) administers the Housing Choice Voucher Program (Section 8), subsidizing monthly rental charges for qualifying families.

Apply for Section 8 vouchers at your local Public Housing Agency.

Phone Bills

The federal government also provides free grant money to companies to help individuals (one person per household) reduce personal phone and internet service bills.

The Federal Communications Commission administers the Lifeline program, which makes communication more affordable for low-income consumers. You might be eligible to receive $9.25 per month ($34.25 if on tribal land) towards cellular services.

Apply through the online Lifeline National Verifier to connect with a certified supplier.