It sounds too good to be true because it is. Although there are grants available to help those in need, they aren't designed to help you tackle your debt. While there aren't personal grants or government loans to pay off debt, you may be able to find relief through help with your utility bills or by refinancing your mortgage or student loans.
Grant to Pay Off Debt
Grants are designed to stimulate the economy or help those in need. For that reason, if you have $30,000 in credit card bills you want to pay off, you won't find any resources willing to hand you money. Instead of a grant to pay off debt, your only option will probably be a loan that you'll have to pay back. For paying off personal debts, look for a reputable lender that will offer you a low interest rate and an affordable monthly payment.
You won't get help with your excess credit card bills, but if you qualify, you may be able to find assistance with debts like utility bills and even student loans. This type of help is based on income, so be prepared to provide pay stubs or tax records. You'll also find this kind of assistance is designed to be short term, giving you extra time to get back on your feet.
Available Government Grants
The federal government offers grants to help those who need it. But to qualify, you'll need to fall into one of the areas covered by those grants. If you're a military veteran or single mother, you're more likely to get help, for instance. There are also programs geared toward helping those who have been through a disaster.
To see what grants are available to you, go to Benefits.gov. You can find opportunities specific to disaster relief or housing and public utilities, or you can go straight to the financial assistance section. Many of the opportunities come from state governments, so you'll need to filter through quite a few to find those available to you.
Available Local Grants
If you need assistance with utilities, there may be programs that can help. You'll need an income-related reason before you'll be approved but start by getting in touch with the various utility companies. If that doesn't help, research one of the following programs:
- The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program offers assistance with energy costs.
- The FCC's Lifeline program helps customers with phone service.
- Medicaid and CHIP may be able to help with medical bills.
Instead of looking for government loans to pay off debt, it's important to search for organizations set up to help. The government often channels this money to organizations that ensure the money goes to those in need. First look at community organizations, which specialize in offering help paying bills and job training. The latter can be valuable if you've lost your job and finding a new one will help you pull yourself out of debt.
Grants to Pay Student Loans
If you're one of many consumers dealing with a large bill for your education expenses, there are grants for student loans. Typically, these are designed for those who agree to fulfill a need somewhere. Medical professionals and educators can get forgiveness of large chunks of student debt for agreeing to work in areas of the country where their services are desperately needed. If you're open to moving, this may be a great way to improve your financial standing.
Those who are in professions where demand is high don't necessarily have to find a grant to help with student debt. If you've chosen a career where there's a talent shortage, and you can move to an area where there's more demand than supply for the type of work you do, you may be able to leverage student debt payoff during the interview process. Knowing of grant programs available for those in your profession can help you state your case, though.
Government Grants for Older Houses
Owners of older homes should check house information year built to see if you may be eligible for a repair grant or loan. The Section 504 Home Repair program issues funds for home repair to lower-income residents who need to fix health or safety hazards. You may also qualify for one of these grants if you're an elderly homeowner.
The grants are issued by the United States Department of Agriculture Rural Development in amounts of up to $7,500. You may also qualify for a loan of up to $20,000 or combine both for assistance of up to $27,500. You'll have 20 years to repay the loan, but you'll have to be unable to get an affordable loan from any other source. You can check eligibility and find a local USDA loan specialist at rd.usda.gov/browse-state.
Government Loans for Debts
If you can't find a grant, there's always the option of taking a loan to get out of debt. You'll need to be careful with this, though, as there are debt consolidation scams that can get you into even more debt without resolving your issues. Although there aren't government loans to pay off debt, there may be a way you can take advantage of government programs to get out of debt.
The government backs loans through lenders for qualifying homebuyers through the Federal Housing Administration. If you own a home, and it's your primary residence, you may be able to refinance your home through an FHA-backed loan and use the money you save on your mortgage each month to pay off your debts. You may also qualify to refinance your student loans through a private borrower, helping you save money and removing the government from the equation.
Finding Unclaimed Money
Before you start searching around for grants, take a second to check for money the government is holding for you. Consider the various homes you've lived in and the house information year built for everywhere you've owned property. It's possible you overpaid something like your mortgage. You may also have money from a savings or checking account or investments, among other sources.
As with looking up house information year built, you'll search for unclaimed property on your state's website. However, you can also get to it through a central portal, located at Unclaimed.org. Click on Conduct a Free Online Search and be directed to a map that helps you get to your own state's unclaimed property search page.
Avoiding Free Money Scams
You may see ads promising a free list of grants to pay off debt, whether it's in the classifieds or online. The Federal Trade Commission warns that these "money for nothing" offers are scams and advises consumers never to pay money for access to information on free grants. You should also be very cautious about giving financial information to any unverified source.
A newer iteration has scammers calling you directly to let you know you're eligible for a government grant. The grant is supposedly a reward for being such a good citizen, but the government offers no such program. The caller will ask for bank account information to be able to deposit the supposed funds, as well as a processing fee of $250. Consolidating your debts into one low-interest loan is a great idea, but a reputable lender or low-interest credit card is a safer bet than a loan consolidation service.
- USA.gov: Help with Bills
- Need Help Paying Bills: Charities and Organizations That Can Help With Paying Bills
- Student Loan Planner: 11 Grants to Pay Off Student Loans Faster
- USDA: Single Family Housing Repair Loans & Grants
- Lending Tree: How to Avoid Debt Consolidation Scams
- FHA.com: FHA Refinance
- NerdWallet: Refinance Your Student Loans
- FTC: Government Grant Scams
- NerdWallet: Don’t Get Taken by Government Grant Scams