It's rare that grant money can be obtained to help pay bills while unemployed. Many people believe there is free money available whenever someone in trouble, but that's not how most grants work.
What Is a Grant?
While a grant may be used for financial assistance, it's rare for an individual to receive a grant simply for daily living expenses. More likely, a grant is used for a charitable purpose or for the common good. For example, if someone picks up weekly groceries at a food bank, it's possible that food bank has received a grant to provide goods and services. Grants are usually given for projects that help many people, not just one person.
In some cases, individuals can apply for grants to:
- help start a business with a public service angle
- receive additional funds for college
- provide additional equipment or assistance to someone with disabilities
To obtain a grant, someone must first complete an extensive application process which details the purpose for the grant and how the funds will be administered. Then, there needs to be a form of measurement that confirms not only that the grant funds were used for the designated intent, but also the impact of the grant on the intent.
There simply isn't grant money available for individuals to use how they please, regardless of their financial circumstances. Unfortunately, many people fall for scams regarding grants and other free money opportunities by signing up for websites or buying books that promise to tell them all about the free money to be had. Most of the time, these scams simply list discounts or other common services, not true grant possibilities. Grants.gov, a clearinghouse for grant information, says it best: "Although there are many grants on Grants.gov, few of them are available to individuals and none of them are available for personal financial assistance."
To find out about real assistance, go to reputable local, state, and federal agencies.
Government Agencies That Provide Assistance
When you're not working, even if you receive unemployment benefits, it can be difficult to make ends meet. So it might be helpful to consider other forms of assistance to help you and your family through this unfortunate period.
- Food Stamps: Known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, it provides a base of food assistance.
- WIC: An extension of SNAP, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, or WIC, offers supplemental food assistance, medical screenings, and social services referrals.
- LIHEAP: The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program helps people offset the high cost of heating bills during the winter.
Take time to look at the Benefits.Gov website to find out more about resources for government assistance to help pay bills while you're unemployed.
Other Assistance Organizations
Even during the most difficult economic times, there always seems to be a church, food pantry, or community assistance program available to provide a helping hand. These organizations are terrific resources not only for assistance, but also to help you stay connected to the community.
- Angel Food Ministries is a national program that extends food assistance through various churches. You do not need to be affiliated with a particular religious organization to receive goods from the program.
- The Salvation Army Food Pantry and the Salvation Army Thrift Stores are wonderful resources available in almost every city in America.
- Catholic Charities across the U.S. provide assistance with everything from food and housing to counseling and educational support.
For more specific services, you may be eligible to receive assistance from one of these organizations.
- Safelink, an extension of the Lifeline Across America program, provides cell phone assistance to low-income families.
- The Neediest Cases Fund is primarily based in New York City, but additional communities follow a similar assistance model, including Chattanooga, Chicago, Des Moines, Indianapolis, and others. For a set period of time, usually between November and January each year, a collective of organizations help people and families in distress by providing specific assistance such as a new bed for a child with disabilities, helping tenants relocate after eviction, and even job offers. Talk to service agencies in your area to see if there is a distress fund for which you can register.
- JobCorps is just one of many job and career training programs to help people move forward. While JobCorps is specifically designed for young people, other agencies have additional services for adults, such as Opportunity.gov, which offers unemployed people receiving benefits education and job training assistance.