How to Get Free Government Money: Your Comprehensive GuideFree Stuff
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We all need help from time to time, and many people may not realize how much help you can get from the government, including free government money.
There are countless programs that can provide you with free money or assistance with the things that you and your family need.
Many of these assistance programs are funded by taxes, meaning that they can be utilized by almost anyone in need.
If you’re in need of help and don’t know where to turn, these government programs are a great place to start.
While they may have specific requirements in order to qualify for the free money or service, they are certainly worth looking into.
Here’s how to get free money from the government and what you need to know about these programs.
Child Care Assistance
Child care costs are extremely expensive, and even with the help of some tax-deductible expense accounts potentially offered through health insurance plans, families often have a tough time paying for adequate child care.
In fact, child care costs alone can be tens of thousands of dollars per year.
For those of us not in high-income households, that kind of cost can be impossible to cover.
The Child Care and Development Fund was created to help families provide adequate care for their children through assistance funds.
The program provides funds to states and territories, and those funds are typically only available to those in low-income households.
CCDF was founded not only to assist with child care, but to give parents the opportunity to search for jobs, attend classes, and improve their careers by getting back into the workforce with the help of child care financial assistance.
Requirements vary from state to state, so be sure to review all eligibility requirements to see if this could be an option for you.
How to Get Unclaimed Free Government Money
While searching for unclaimed money isn’t technically the government providing you with additional money to help pay for bills and other expenses, the government does have a system that makes it much easier to search for any outstanding funds due to you.
These typically include service refunds from deposits, such as a deposit that has been released on your phone service or cable bill, but can also include reimbursements, overpayments, and even uncashed paychecks.
There are multiple ways to search for money that is owed to you, including a state-to-state search through unclaimed.org.
You can search by your name and address to quickly pull up anything that may be owed to you, or you can do a broader search with fewer criteria to manually review information.
For example, entering your name and current address may miss entries that were tied to your old address, so it’s always a good idea to do multiple searches with various search criteria.
When companies are not able to locate consumers that they owe money to, that money doesn’t go back into the company’s pocket. It’s turned over to the state to be held until the person is found.
You can also make a claim on a previously unclaimed tax return that would result in a tax refund.
Whether you forget to file the return or a paper return gets lost, you can search to see if back taxes are owed to you.
Hundreds of millions of dollars in unclaimed funds are simply sitting there, waiting to be collected.
Free Tax Return Prep
If you’re not confident in your own tax preparation abilities, the IRS does offer free tax preparation services for those who meet eligibility requirements.
Tax preparation fees can be hundreds of dollars, and while those fees are often taken out of your tax refund, preparation services can still be a major expense.
If you meet income, age, or disability requirements (you only need to meet one requirement), you can receive tax preparation services completely free.
Submit Destroyed Currency
Nobody likes folding laundry just to find a pocket full of cash that has been ruined in the washing machine.
Did you know that you can actually submit your destroyed currency to the U.S. Treasury Department and have that money replaced and sent back to you?
The Treasury Department replaces millions of dollars in damaged money every year.
As long as the serial number is legible, the money will be replaced. All you need to do is submit a claim and send the money to the Treasury Department.
Return times can vary from just a few months to multiple years.
Help with a Down Payment
Owning a home is part of the American Dream, but many people struggle to come up with the required down payment to purchase a home.
While mortgage payments can often be the same or even lower than the cost of rent in some areas, the down payment can be a major hurdle for many prospective homeowners.
The great news is that there are programs that can help homeowners, whether they are first home buyers or not.
When saving to buy a house, there is no set rule that requires a 20% down payment.
While putting less than 20% down on a home may require you to pay Private Mortgage Insurance (PMI) to protect the lender, it can make the burden of saving for a down payment much easier if you don’t have to save 20% of the purchase price of a home.
For example, a loan backed by the Federal Housing Administration (known as an FHA Loan), requires as little as a 3.5% down payment.
This can mean the difference between purchasing a home and renting for multiple additional years.
While an FHA loan isn’t necessarily free government money for individuals or families, there are additional down payment assistance programs that do give home buyers monetary assistance.
Each state has its own down payment grant program that home buyers can take advantage of.
Typically, the grants are available for a portion of the down payment of a house, which can be a major help for many buyers.
While there are some income, purchase price, and credit score requirements, these programs can be extremely generous, and may only require repayment if you refinance or sell your home within the first five to seven years.
There are some states that even have county-specific programs, so be sure to check down payment grants for your state.
Leverage Tax Credits
Tax reform has completely shaken up the tax structure, reducing some tax credits while increasing others.
That being said, one of the top tax credits available today is the health care tax credit.
If you’ve purchased healthcare through the Healthcare Marketplace, there are potential tax credits that you can take advantage of either throughout the year when you pay your premiums, or at the end of the year during tax time.
By choosing to allocate your tax credit to your monthly premium cost, you can reduce or even eliminate your monthly healthcare premium.
The other option is to save it until you file your tax return, which can cause a sizeable increase to your tax refund.
Whether you need to cut back on monthly costs or want to supplement your tax refund, you should certainly take advantage of this program if you qualify.
With costs of healthcare on the rise, this government assistance program can help low to moderate income families manage healthcare costs and get their family the care they need.
Grants for Education
The cost of an advanced education can be extremely high, and the current student loan crisis is only getting worse.
Finances often hold people back from pursuing further education, but there are ways to get free money from the government to help finance your education.
These grants are provided without the need to pay back the funds, and you can receive as much as $6,095 per year through the Federal Pell Grant program.
That amount typically changes each year, and is set at $6,095 for the 2018 – 2019 academic year.
How much you receive depends on your income, enrollment status, and the cost of attendance, but you do have the opportunity to receive the full grant amount if needed.
Students who are interested in the Federal Pell Grant need to complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, also known as the FAFSA.
When you fill out the FAFSA, you’ll also have the opportunity to receive state and local-level educational grants that you qualify for, potentially unlocking even more free money to pay for your education.
Student Loan Forgiveness
The total student loan debt in the United States is sitting at a staggering $1.5 trillion.
With the average student graduating with over $30,000 in student debt, traditional repayment plans can be financially crushing for those just joining the workforce.
While federal student loans and most private student loans do offer a grace period after graduation, additional assistance is often required.
If you work in the public sector or for an approved non-profit organization, you can have your student loan balance forgiven after 10 years of employment.
You need to make 120 on-time payments and be consistently employed in a qualifying position in order to qualify for forgiveness.
If you meet these requirements, any outstanding balance after the 10-year timeframe is forgiven, meaning you no longer are responsible for the debt.
It’s important to note that any balance that is forgiven can be included as earned-income, which can greatly increase your taxes due for that year.
However, if you’re struggling to keep up with your student loan payments or you don’t want to refinance your student loan payments for a period longer than 10 years, this program can help you get student loan relief.
Business capital is a hurdle that small business owners have to navigate in order to successfully launch a business.
Much like a down payment on a house, amassing the necessary funds to launch a business is often much easier said than done.
You can receive a business grant if you are starting a business in the tech or research field.
Startup costs for these industries are extremely high, but these businesses are in high-demand to push research and development.
Even if you’re not starting a tech business, there are other federal and state grant programs available to help your business launch successfully.
Utility and Bill Assistance
If you’re struggling with your utility bills, you can get government assistance to help you catch up and pay for your essential utilities.
More specifically, you can receive assistance paying your energy and phone bill each month.
As temperatures rise and fall, energy costs can skyrocket, especially in extreme-weather areas.
Through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, those in low-income households can receive financial assistance to pay for their energy bills.
This program is facilitated by the Department of Health and Human Services and is administered at the state government level, meaning there may be specific eligibility requirements for each state.
You’ll have to meet location, income, and household requirements to be eligible to receive assistance, but if you are struggling with your energy costs, it’s something to explore.
For assistance with your phone bill, the Lifeline program is a federally-funded initiative that can help supplement your phone costs.
You receive a supplement to your cell phone or landline bill depending on your income. Those that do qualify for the program but make the maximum income to still be eligible will still receive $9.25 toward the cost of their phone bill, according to the program.
Monthly bills and expenses can quickly pile up and get out of control. If you’re unsure of what to do about your high energy costs or you need assistance with your phone bill to stay in touch with your loved ones, these programs can help.
Energy Efficiency Credit
The Residential Renewable Energy Tax Credit is a newer tax credit that rewards homeowners for making updates that are environmentally-friendly.
Those that make qualifying home upgrades can receive up to 30% of the total cost of upgrades as a tax credit.
Not only does home energy-efficiency save you during tax time, but energy-efficient upgrades can help you save money on energy costs every month.
Some qualifying upgrades include:
- Solar panels
- Solar-powered water heaters
- Wind turbines
- Geothermal energy upgrades
Depending on the size and the cost of these home upgrades, you can achieve significant tax savings.
This tax benefit doesn’t give you free money, but it reduces your tax burden during tax season and gives you a great incentive to make environmentally-friendly upgrades to your home or business.
Utilize Unemployment Benefits If Necessary
If you lose your job, you aren’t without any assistance.
Whether you’ve been laid off or you’ve lost your job for some other reason, you can apply for state unemployment benefits.
This assistance provides you a small income while you search for another job.
Losing a job is often financially difficult, but taking advantage of unemployment benefit options can help you focus on securing another position rather than worrying about paying your bills.
While unemployment won’t fully replace your income, it can be very useful in the short-term.
These benefits are intended to be temporary, and you typically need to submit proof that you’re actively searching for employment.
You may not receive benefits if you were separated from employment due to disqualifying reasons, such as misconduct on the job.
Assistance with Food
Families that are in need of assistance to purchase food may qualify for one of multiple food-assistance programs.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) is available to those who meet state-dictated household and income guidelines.
Under this program, participants receive a program debit card that is loaded with funds every month and can be used for purchasing food.
While most stores will accept these cards, you may want to verify with your local store to make sure they accept a SNAP benefits card as payment.
Another program is the Women, Infant, and Children food assistance program (WIC), which is a federally-funded program available for pregnant mothers, as well as children under 6 years old.
Like SNAP, families need to meet certain income and household requirements to be eligible to receive program benefits, and participants will receive a debit card that they can use to purchase food.
Additional Family Needs
Another robust assistance program that can help struggling families is the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program (TANF).
This program offers multiple avenues of support, from food support to housing assistance depending on the specific needs of each family.
Each state has federal funds allocated for the TANF program, and you can find more information about your state benefits here.
Watch Out for Scams
With so many opportunities for free government money or assistance available, it can often be difficult to tell what’s a scam and what’s real.
Unfortunately, there are tons of scams out there that attempt to steal your identity or money, and actively advertise to try to get consumers to give up their information.
If you see an advertisement for free government money programs or you are contacted about financial assistance, be wary of being asked for an application fee, entering your information on a site that does not end in .gov, or if you can’t find the program online.
Always do your research before attempting to participate in these programs to prevent falling victim to a scam.
Do you know of other ways or useful tips on how to get free money from the government, or do you have any experience with these programs? Let us know in the comments!
Logan is a practicing CPA and founder of Choice Tax Relief and Money Done Right. After spending nearly a decade in the corporate world helping big businesses save money, he launched his blog with the goal of helping everyday Americans earn, save, and invest more money. Learn more about Logan.