Types of Government Assistance

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The U.S. government provides hundreds of billions of dollars in financial assistance to businesses, schools, organizations and individuals through more than 1,000 federal programs. The assistance can be direct cash outlays, but many other types of help are available, including loans, tax incentives and benefit programs like food stamps and unemployment benefits. State governments have assistance programs that mirror federal programs and expand on the available offerings. Several key government-sponsored websites offer useful tools for exploring the many types of assistance available.


A Wealth of Benefits

The federal government runs several well-known benefit programs to assist specific segments of the population, such as Social Security for retirees and disabled workers, Medicare for senior citizens, food stamps for low-income families and unemployment benefits for workers who recently lost their jobs. In addition, there are many less familiar benefit programs including assistance for veterans, farmers, homeowners, business owners or the disabled. Many of the available programs are jointly managed by the federal government and state and local governments. The benefits.gov website is a useful tool for exploring the wide variety of available government assistance programs.


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Available Grants

Uncle Sam annually gives away more than $500 billion through hundreds of grant programs. Almost all grant money is awarded to institutions such as universities, businesses, local governments and nonprofit organizations through agencies such as the National Institutes of Health and the National Endowment for the Arts. You can explore a comprehensive description of federal grant-making opportunities at the grants.gov website.


Loan Programs

There are more than 50 federal programs that provide loans or make it easier to repay loans for certain groups, like homeowners in danger of defaulting on their mortgage payments. In addition to student loans and several farm loan programs, the government also provides loans targeted to small businesses, disaster recovery, industrial development, energy efficiency and alternative energy projects. There are also loan programs aimed at particular groups, including Native Americans and veterans.


Tax Breaks

Congress and state governments have both created a variety of tax incentives as a form of government assistance, including tax credits, rebates and tax deferments. For example, families with qualifying children can take a $1,000 credit per child on their federal income taxes, while workers saving for retirement can put some of their earnings in tax-deferred savings accounts. The Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, lists dozens of tax incentive programs for promoting clean energy solutions.