Learning about Government Financial Assistance Series: Small Business Programs
In our continuing series about government financial assistance, we last presented an article about Federal student aid. In conjunction with National Small Business Week celebrated in May, Benefits.gov wants to help budding entrepreneurs and small business owners learn more about their options when growing a business. According to SBA.gov, more than half of Americans either own or work for a small business, and they create about two out of every three new jobs in the U.S. each year.

The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) offers many Federal programs to help lessen the difficulties with funding a small business. These programs come in three forms; grants, loans, and venture capital.

First, 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 for starting and expanding a business. Grants for small businesses are only offered for specialized fields such as, non-profits, educational institutions, and those in state/local government for economic development. These grants are not considered "free money", and usually require the recipient to match funds or combine the grant with other forms of financing such as a loan. For more information, please visit SBA's website about different types of funding. If you are interested in exploring additional grants that are available, please visit Grants.gov.

Loans are different than grants, because they are awarded to an individual and/or organization as a personal benefit or assistance. It is important to note that you are required to pay back a loan, with interest. The SBA loan programs consist of various categories such as starting and expanding businesses, disaster, export assistance, veteran/military community, and special purpose loans. The loans that are offered cater to many different stages or scenarios a business may experience. For example, the Microloan Program provides very small loans to start-up, newly established, or growing small business concerns and certain not-for-profit childcare centers. To explore additional types of loans that are offered, you can visit GovLoans.gov - your gateway to loan information. To view additional SBA programs, we encourage you to visit their Federal agency page on our site.

Lastly, Venture Capital is a type of financing that addresses the funding needs of entrepreneurial companies that cannot seek funding from more traditional sources. These investments are typically for a longer-term, and the investors actively monitor the business since more is at stake. If this is something you or your business can benefit from, the process to find venture capital and further information can be found on SBA's Venture Capital page.

Now that we've covered the basics behind government financial assistance for small businesses, Benefits.gov hopes to even further assist you with information you may need to successfully grow your business. Start by using the Benefit Finder, our anonymous prescreening tool, to access program information for benefits you may be eligible to receive.