Learning about Government Financial Assistance: Grants vs. Loans

Are you looking for financial assistance, but not sure where to start? Benefits.gov can help, but first you should know some basic facts.

Government financial assistance serves various important purposes such as job training, nutritional assistance, education, health care and other needs. To receive government assistance, you must complete an application and meet specific eligibility requirements as outlined by each program. Not all assistance programs provide cash payments, and may have conditions and limitations. Government financial assistance comes in many forms; two commonly searched items on Benefits.gov are grants and loans. Keep reading to learn the differences between the two.

Grants - Federal grants are awards of financial assistance to an individual and/or organization. Grants are used to carry out a government authorized purpose, and are not provided as personal benefits or assistance. Most grants are awarded to universities, researchers, law enforcement, cities, states, counties, and non-profit organizations. We recommend www.Grants.gov to search and apply for grants. There are also multiple resources on Grants.gov to guide you step-by-step through the Federal grant application process.

Loans - Are different than grants because they are awarded to an individual as a personal benefit or assistance. You are required to pay back a loan, often with interest. If you are interested in a loan program, you can visit www.GovLoans.gov - your gateway to loan information. Whether you are looking for student loans, help with housing or business needs, or disaster relief, GovLoans.gov can direct you to loan program information that's best for you.

Now that you know the basics about government financial assistance, what can Benefits.gov do for you? As the official benefits website of the U.S. government, we can help you start your benefits search by connecting you to assistance programs you may be eligible to receive. Visit our homepage and try the following options:

  • Use the Benefit Finder - Click "Start Now" to begin our confidential eligibility questionnaire. Your answers will instantly generate a list of benefits tailored to your specific needs across all 20 assistance categories.
  • Browse Benefits - Have a specific need? Select "Benefits" at the top of the page to browse benefit and assistance programs by category, state, or Federal agency.
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Help for Difficult Financial Times

If you are in need of additional assistance, visit USA.gov's bilingual online campaign entitled Help for Difficult Financial Times / Ayuda para superar dificultades econmicas. The campaign was launched in an effort to connect citizens with tools and information to help them cope with financial challenges. The websites USA.gov and GobiernoUSA.gov have compiled government resources for easy access to information in five main areas: jobs, housing, money/credit and debt, family, and health.

Parents: Check out USA.gov's comic strips that offer tips on how kids can help their families save money.