17 Legit Ways to Get Free Money from the Government
Scammers use the promise of free money to wrangle personal information out of their victims. Rest assured, you can trust these government programs.
Find new benefits
The benefits.gov Benefit Finder does the grunt work for you by searching your state’s benefit programs to find out which ones you might qualify for. You’ll enter information such as your income, military status, health conditions, and more, and the site will reveal the benefit programs you might apply for, such as nutrition programs and career development aid. Plus, make sure you know these surprising things senior citizens can get free or discounted.
Save money on heating and cooling
The Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program gives states grants to help low-income families have more energy-efficient homes. By sealing cracks, insulating pipes, replacing windows, installing efficient lighting, and more, households could save more than 20 percent on energy bills for hot water and indoor temperature control. Visit waptac.org to find out what your state can offer. (Your request will be nothing compared to these crazy things the government wasted money on.)
Receive money for your energy bill
Becoming energy-efficient isn’t the only way government money can save money on your bills. The Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) sends cash grants to utility companies to help families who risk losing heat in their homes because they’re unable to pay. Visit the LIHEAP contacts list to learn how to get in touch your state representative. Here are 11 more genius ways to save on household bills.
Get unclaimed pension payments
The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation is in charge of making sure retirees whose pension plans ended still get paid. To find out if you or a loved one is owed money, search the name on the Unclaimed Pensions page of pbgc.gov.
Discover unclaimed property
Every state has its own program to match forgotten assets up with their owners. In fiscal year 2015, for instance, state governments had $7.8 billion worth of unclaimed property on file and returned $3.2 billion to its owners. To find out if you have any rightful property you didn’t know about, visit that National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (NAUPA) site at unclaimed.org, which will direct you to your state treasury’s unclaimed property page. If you think you might have assets across more than one state, visit missingmoney.com, which is a NAUPA-sponsored search engine.
Claim your tax refund
Filing for a refund is a no-brainer, but millions of dollars in federal tax refunds go unclaimed every year, like after taxpayers switch addresses. If you expected money back but didn’t see a check within six weeks, you can call the IRS (though expect a long wait) or check your refund status online.
Replace ruined money
Whether your bill has been water damaged, burned, or nibbled by pests, you’re not out of luck if your money isn’t usable anymore. The Treasury Department recovers $30 million worth of damaged currency every year. As long as more than half of the bill is identifiable, or you can prove that the missing portions are totally destroyed, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing will reimburse you if you submit a claim. Just be warned: Wait times can range anywhere from six months to three years.
Free yourself of student loans
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As long as you’ve made ten year’s worth of monthly payments for your student loans and are working full-time for a government agency or not-for-profit organization, you might not need to pay the rest. Visit the Federal Student Aid office to find out if you qualify for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness Program. It’s not a quick end to student loans you’ve only had for a few years, but having the balance wiped out of a long-standing payment plan with government money could help massively. Find out real parents’ advice for sending kids to college without taking out loans.
Recover from a scam
If you’ve been scammed—like when entering a sweepstakes that turns out to be fake or being gypped by a misleading online shopping company—the government could help get your money back. File a claim with the Federal Trade Commission and if the agency sides with you, it might be able to send you a refund. Watch out for these phone scams that steal your money to avoid the problem in the first place.
Ask for free tax return prep
The IRS’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance is a free service that helps you make the most of your tax refund. Anyone with disabilities, who speaks limited English, or makes less than $54,000 is welcome to join. Bring the right documents, and an IRS-certified volunteer will guide you through the process. Check the location finder for your local spots and hours. Don’t miss these other 32 things tax accountants won’t tell you for free.
Accept a grant for your new home
Low-income households hoping to buy a home might qualify for a federal grant or loan. Most states have programs offering to chip in for down payments, usually for first-time homeowners. You can find some of your state’s programs at fha.com, a privately owned site that assists hopeful future homeowners. For instance, San Diego’s CalHome Program offers up to 17 percent of property price for a down payment and up to $10,000 for closing costs.
Get help with childcare
Childcare is important—but expensive. Average annual baby care can cost anywhere from $4,822 in Mississippi to $22,631 in Washington, DC. Thankfully, the Child Care and Development Fund offers support to low-income families. Find out how much you could be offered by finding your state on the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Child Care. Helping children is arguably way more important than these 11 bizarre things the government spent money on.
Ask for a business grant
You might already have known small businesses could get low-interest loans, but the government will sometimes even give grants, which don’t need to be paid back. The Small Business Innovation Research fund will offer grants, mostly to research and development and high-tech ventures. Agencies post solicitations on sbir.org, and if eligible, you can submit a proposal with the hopes of being selected for their grants. Check out these other quick ways to make extra cash.
Recover a lost bond
Are you missing a savings bond because it was lost, stolen, or destroyed? Fill out an FS Form 1048 with as much information as you can. If your case is confirmed, the Treasury Department will send you a payment or replacement bond.
Get a discount on your phone bill
Certain families living below the poverty line or participating in government programs such as Medicaid might be eligible for a discount on their phone bills. The Federal Communications Commission’s Lifeline program offers $9.25 per month for a household’s landline or cell phone bill (but not both). Visit the program’s site to find out if you qualify. Just don’t fall for these money-saving “deals” that are total scams.
Apply for student loans
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If you or a loved one is an undergraduate student, you might be eligible for a Pell Grant, which isn’t a loan, so you never need to pay it back. Once you’re enrolled in classes, fill out a Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) form every year of study to find out if you’re eligible. The maximum amounts change every year, but the 2017-18 grant offers up to $5,920 for the year.
Seek temporary assistance
If you have a family to take care of but have run into bad luck and need a helping hand while struggling with a low income, the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program can help. If you qualify, you could receive food assistance, transportation reimbursement, job seeking help, and more. Visit the Office of Family Assistance to find out how to apply in your state.