How to Leverage Low-Income Federal Grants

The national government provides grants to eligible, low-income households and persons for financial assistance. These grants can provide assistance in financial hardship, a better quality of life for an individual and take a family out of poverty. Federal grants provide very valuable assistance by paying for specific living costs. This can include household bills and expenses related to higher education.

While each government grant program has a variety of qualifications, these grants have typically given funds to families that meet the low-income standard. It is also possible to receive assistance while you are on another government program, whether it be at a federal or state level. Some examples of these programs are the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Medicaid and the Housing Choice Voucher Program (HCV).

The Definition of Government Grants

The definition of these grants is to provide free money that typically does not have to be repaid. These grants are also generally used to go towards a certain expense like a utility bill, repairs for a home or education expenses.

Most grants are commonly given to low-income families or individuals, it is important to understand what every grant is about, as every grant has qualifications that must be met. For instance, certain grants will need a certain household composition in order to qualify, like a senior citizen. Other types of grants may only be available when the U.S. president has declared there has been a natural disaster.

Do you have to repay Government Grants?

As mentioned before, you typically do not have to repay a federal grant. Unless the grant is not used for what it was intended to be used for, the funds will not have to be repaid in full. For instance, there is financial aid available to students who qualify in the form of grants. 

But students must first meet the credit hours requirement in their courses in order to receive the funds. If the student does not meet the minimum, the grant will be changed into a government loan that will have to be repaid.  

About the Low-Income Home Assistance Program (LIHEAP)

This program, known as LIHEAP, gives low-income households and individuals with financial help for their heating and cooling expenses. Typically, LIHEAP payments are a lump sum amount provided to the household and are only given once a year. This useful government grant program is administered by the state government. The grant money for LIHEAP is usually available during specific periods of time in the year or until the money has been completely exhausted.

Many states also give priority to families who have a unique composition, like a family with young children, with a disabled person or persons or with senior citizens. When the grant money becomes limited, the assistance will be provided to families who meet the priority status.

Aside from providing non-emergency financial assistance with utility bills the program will provide emergency grants to keep households from having their utilities shut off. It is important to note that the funds provided by LIHEAP must only be used for heating and cooling. LIHEAP does not provide financial assistance for water and sewage expenses. 

When a household is approved for LIHEAP assistance, the grant will be directly spent on the heating and cooling bill of that household. There are particular states that give money directly to applicants who meet the criteria.

The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program not only helps families with their utility bills, but also helps fund home repairs. LIHEAP will provide financial assistance to make improvements to the homes of low-income families to make them more energy efficient. This home improvement process is known as weatherization and can reduce family expenses for heating and cooling. For this reason, it will minimize the family’s reliance on the LIHEAP funds. 

While the qualifications for LIHEAP can change from state to state, the main factor for determining eligibility is the income of a household. Therefore, if you have been getting help from a national or state program, there is a high probability that you will qualify for LIHEAP. Most national and state programs have similar requirements based on income and some examples are:

  • Housing Choice Voucher Program
  • Medicaid
  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
  • Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program
  • Supplemental Security Income (SSI)

If you need financial assistance, it is highly recommended to apply for LIHEAP immediately. There is an estimated 20 percent of households that can qualify to receive assistance. Finances are also very limited, so start your application for LIHEAP by calling your local LIHEAP office.

Learn About the Individuals and Households Program (IHP)

This federal program gives disaster-relief grants through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). This program only becomes active after the U.S. president declares the event of a natural disaster. These grants give valuable economic assistance to a family’s home repairs or towards the replacement of damaged features on a residence. The grant also provides temporary housing aid to households and individuals in need of assistance.

In order to be considered for benefits with IHP, you need to either be a U.S. citizen or an eligible non-citizen. In addition to this requirement, your household needs to meet these criteria:

  • Lost property in the area that is considered a disaster zone
  • The lost property must have been your principal place of residence and all the damages the house has must coincide with the natural disaster that occurred
  • Cannot access or live in your principal residence because of the damages or the destruction made by the natural disaster
  • Your home insurance policy cannot cover the loss or damages or the coverage will not account for the total damage the home has taken from the disaster

If you want to apply for aid with the Individuals and Households Program, you need contact FEMA for additional direction with this matter.

About Rural Housing Repair and Rehabilitation Grants (Section 504)

These grants are provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to eligible low-income households that have homes in dire need of repairs or improvements. These families do not have the funds necessary to take out a Section 504 loan. To become eligible, the household must have an income that is well below the poverty line and have one eligible senior citizen. Qualifying families can receive up to $7,500 in financial aid. 

Find Out About Grants for Low-Income Students

There are federal grants that can support your higher education if you meet the requirements. You must meet the citizenship status requirement and if you have other student loans, they must be in good standing. If you are interested in the higher education grants, you can complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).