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Normally the government takes our money. In some cases, however, it hands out cash. Here are 18 ways to get free money from the government.

Nothing in life is free, or so they say. But what if I told you that we know of 18 government programs where you really, truly can get free money (or services)? If you’re anything like me, I’ve probably piqued your interest.

Below are some of the ways you can get your hands on money that’s rightfully yours. We’ve also included was to find assistance and funds when you need it most.

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1. Find Unclaimed Money

Ok, full disclosure: this isn’t really a way to find “free” money. However, it can help you collect on funds you didn’t even know you were missing.

Simply visit unclaimed.org and enter your information to search whether you have money waiting to be returned to you. The National Association of State Treasurers created the site to connect consumers with forgotten funds. These can include insurance reimbursements, apartment deposits, forgotten savings bonds, old utility payment overages or deposits, or paychecks you never cashed.

You can search by specifics like your full name and address. Or you can even just browse the results from your last name alone. (I found a few unclaimed health insurance reimbursements for my mom this way, to the total of $400!)

2. Find Unclaimed Pension Funds

Okay, one more not-really-free-but-yours-already resource. If you’ve left a company due to acquisition, merger, or layoffs, you may have been too preoccupied with your next career move to remember pension funds. Luckily, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation (PBGC) can help you reconnect with this forgotten money.

Visit pbgc.gov to check your name and information against their database. There are currently almost 73,000 names on their unclaimed pensions list. So you may very well find some money you had forgotten all about!

3. Get Help With a Down Payment

One of the biggest hurdles in buying a new home is likely the down payment required. Luckily, the government is willing to provide help if needed.

Each state has its own funded down payment programs with unique requirements and benefits. To see the state-sponsored programs in your area, visit the FHA’s down payment grant page and search your state.

For example, Texas offers a statewide program that can cover down payments and closing costs up to 5% of the total mortgage price. They also offer a Hill Country-specific program for Travis County, if you’re looking to live “deep in the heart of Texas.”

4. Apply for Educational Grants

College is expensive. We all know that. In fact, the 2017-18 school year saw tuition averages of almost $35,000 for private colleges and just under $10,000 for state colleges. Ouch.

If you want to further your education but can’t afford the high costs of tuition, room, board, books, and more, an education grant might be a great option. The best and most broadly-offered funding source is the government’s Federal Pell Grant. This awards as much as $5,920 (2017-18 school year) to students each year that they qualify for need. And it doesn’t need to be repaid (unlike student loans).

In order to qualify, you’ll need to complete a FAFSA. You can view all of the details for the Pell Grant at ed.gov.

Beyond that, though, there are hundreds of excellent grants available to students based on interests, major or career sought, and even local areas. I was surprised to find that some organizations even offer grants to students who are left-handed!

You should, of course, shoot for the government’s Pell Grant first. But then fill out as many grant applications as you can find from other organizations and companies. A great place to find them is the College Grants Database.

5. Get Assistance with Childcare Expenses

Paying for childcare is expensive. For families in the D.C. area, where I live, the average annual cost is $22,658. That’s absurd and, frankly, impossible to cover for many families.

If you are employed and looking for assistance with childcare expenses, the government has a program to help. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services offers assistance in the form of the Child Care and Development Fund, which has state- and territory-specific allocations to assist with care expenses (typically for children 13 or under).

To find funding options for your area, visit the CCDF’s web page here.

6. Accept Healthcare Credits

Along with all of the confusion and frustration involved with healthcare in this country, we also get to deal with skyrocketing costs. This can make it difficult or even impossible for some folks to pay for much-needed premiums, especially as monthly prices continue to climb.

If you purchase coverage through the Healthcare Marketplace and meet certain income eligibility requirements, you can receive government assistance in the form of a tax credit. You also have options for this credit. You can either take it in equal allocations, allowing you to reduce (or eliminate) monthly premium payments, or you can “save” it for the end of the year. If you choose the latter, you’ll receive the credit in the form of a tax return when you file with the IRS.

Visit Healthcare.gov to learn more, qualify for your tax credit, and enroll in a health plan.

7. Get Free or Reduced Healthcare for Your Kids

If you are having trouble paying for health care for your children and meet low-income requirements, you may be eligible for free or reduced coverage through InsureKidsNow.gov.

Here, you can learn more about services like CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) and local Medicaid programs. You can also find health care providers in your area–even dentists!–and apply for your state’s specific programs.

8. Get Assistance With Utilities

The average American spends over $300 a month for basic utilities. It’s easy to see how these bills can be difficult to manage for some–especially in the summer or winter months. The government’s LIHEAP (Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program) provides funds to those in need across the nation.

These grants are available to assist residents with their heating and cooling expenses. They are managed through state programs (funded by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services). To search for your state’s available programs and aid, visit the LIHEAP website here.

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9. Winterize Your Home

Do you need assistance with updating and improving your home to winterize it? You may be able to get government it as a grant through the U.S. Department of Energy.

The Weatherization Assistance Program Technical Assistance Center (WAPTAC) can connect you with state-specific grant programs for home improvements to reduce energy expenses. If you have children, a family member in the home with a disability, or are over age 60, you’ll get preference for approval. In fact, the DOE estimates that as many as 20-30 million homes are eligible for weatherization grants.

10. Low-Cost or Free Phone Service

If you meet income requirements for eligibility, you may be able to take advantage of the Lifeline Program. This is the FCC’s free and reduced-cost cell phone grant. This allows access to cell phones and service for safety, well-being, and job-related needs.

The amount you’ll get per month varies by need. But you can choose from a number of cell service providers if you qualify. Eligibility requirements are as follows:

To learn more and see if you’re eligible, visit the FCC’s Lifeline website here.

11. Avoid Foreclosure

Since the housing crash of 2008, it seems that we all know someone who has been affected by a foreclosure. If you are at risk of foreclosure yourself, there is a program to help.

Called HOPE (run by the Home Ownership Preservation Foundation), this program offers assistance in setting up plans that allow you to stay in your home. They also offer advice if you’ve been the victim of a mortgage scam or if you are interested in a mortgage modification.

You can call their hotline at 888-995-HOPE or visit 995hope.org to learn more to see how this foundation can help you for free.

12. Get Free Tax Preparation

Tax filing time is just around the corner, but some of us may need a little help with preparing our taxes. Unfortunately, tax pros can be quite pricey.

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If you meet low-income requirements, you may qualify for free tax preparation help through the IRS’s VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) initiative.

Assistance is generally limited to those who make less than $54,000 a year, persons with disabilities, or those with limited English-speaking abilities. However, the program is available and free to all, so it can’t hurt to apply for help.

If you are age 60 or older, you can also take advantage of the TCE (Tax Counseling for the Elderly) program, another IRS initiative. This program offers free assistance for those nearing retirement who have questions about their pensions, retirement, income, and taxes.

To learn more and apply for assistance, visit the IRS’s website here.

13. Replace Damaged Currency

If your dog destroyed your wallet or your toddler took a pair of scissors to your bank withdrawal, you aren’t necessarily out of luck. Don’t throw those shredded bills in the trash just yet!

You can sometimes replace currency too damaged to be spent it at your local bank branch. If it’s so mutilated even they won’t take it, though, you can also send it to the Bureau of Engraving and Printing for replacement.

You’ll need to submit a claim online. The process can take between three and 36 months (depending on how bad of shape the money is in). So don’t expect a quick fix. However, this is a great solution for currency you may have thought was just a loss.

14. Apply for Unemployment

If you’ve been laid off or otherwise lost your job, you may be eligible for unemployment assistance while you’re looking for a new position. The Department of Labor offers temporary benefits to workers who find themselves unemployed through no fault of their own, until they are able to find suitable, replacement employment.

To see if you are eligible for one of these Federal-State programs and apply for benefits, visit the DOL’s website here.

Related: How to File For Unemployment (And What It’s Like)

15. Pay for Necessary Home Repairs in Urban Areas

If you are 62 years of age or older, live in an urban area, and meet income requirements, you may be eligible for a government grant to complete improvements on your home.

The Rural Housing Repair Loans and Grants program offers both loans (repaid over 20 years at 1% interest) and grants (free money that doesn’t need to be repaid) to homeowners in rural areas. The grants are for up to $7,500/ You can use them to remove or repair health or safety hazards (such as lead paint, collapsing structures, etc.).

To learn more or apply for a grant and/or loan, visit the Rural Housing info page here.

16. Refunds for Past FHA Mortgages

If you had an FHA-insured mortgage in the past, the U.S. Housing and Urban Development Department (HUD) may owe you a refund. You can search the HUD database to see if you’re eligible for a refund through their website. You’ll need at least your last name or your FHA case number to search.

17. Food Assistance

The government offers a number of programs that give low-income families nutrition assistance and education on healthy eating.

These programs include WIC (for women, infants, and children), SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), programs for seniors, and various food distribution options. If you are interested in learning more, visit the Nutrition.gov page here.

18. SSI for Elderly or Disabled Individuals

If you are temporarily or permanently disabled, have a child who is disabled, or are over age 65 (with or without a disability), you may be eligible for supplemental security income (SSI) benefits.

These benefits are limited to those that meet certain income requirements. If you have worked long enough to qualify for Social Security benefits, you may be able to collect both Social Security retirement benefits and SSI benefits.

To learn more, visit the Social Security Administration’s page here.

Things to Remember

It’s important to keep a few things in mind when seeking out free money from the government (or anywhere, really).

First off, a Google search for “free money” is almost sure to net you some scam results. You need to ensure that any website you are visiting–especially if you give them your personal information–is a trusted entity. This means searching for .org, .gov, and similar web addresses. You should also make sure that the program is indeed government-sponsored.

If a website is offering you free money, make sure it explains how you’ll get said money. What is the application process? What are the eligibility requirements? Is the site transparent in explaining the process and what’s offered?

Also, make sure it doesn’t ask you for any sort of up-front money or fees in order to apply for free funds. No legitimate government program will ask you for money to receive assistance.

Free money is out there in various forms. Just be careful where you look and who you trust–if it sounds too good to be true, it just might be.

Author Bio

Total Articles: 100
Stephanie Colestock is a respected financial writer based in Washington, DC. Her work can be found on sites such as Investopedia, Credit Karma, Quicken, The Balance, Motley Fool, and more, covering a range of topics such as family finances, planning for the future, optimizing credit, and getting out of debt. She is currently working toward her CFP certification. Her full portfolio can be found at stephaniecolestock.com.

Article comments

Julie Syracuse says:

Hi Rob,
You are correct, there is no such thing as FREE money. Our hard earned money was taken in TAXES, so these are not free. Maybe to the recipient, but not the taxpayer.

Adolfo robledo says:

I need money right away I need help

Taswala Williams says:


zulaihat says:

I have problems

Randall A Brown says:

Well I’ve just got released from prison know how to cut grass good need help on how to get these grants for felons in any way thanks very interested

Bobby Rathburn says:

Wanting to start a small business.

Marcelle says:

Where can i find a small bussniess grant ?

Mattie Mincey says:

Looking fir grant money to start a small business, what to do?

Janet Johnston says:

I want to start a clothing store

Norm says:

Is this for real or what!!!

Darlene Brace says:

I’m a healthy, active senior wanting to start a business. I am on S.S. & have no savings & need money. Where can I go?

WRXDave says:

As an entrepreneur who has started or been a principal in several multi-million dollar small businesses….
This isn’t as easy as you may think it is.

But – if you are serious, go to meetup,com or download their app – look for local meetup groups for entrepreneurs, business owners, starters, groups in your business areas. – usually most areas have groups on “how to obtain new business funding”, VC money, etc.

You should also contact your local city or county office of economic development and any community education resources for help or education they can provide you on how to start a business.

There is more information available online on how to start and fund a business than I could ever begin to list.

Any bookstore has endless books on how to do it.

OK – some very hard truths –

Your question covers pretty basic stuff- If you had done just the work to learn how to start and run a real business, then you might not have needed to ask this here. If you just have an idea, but are not doing the work needed to turn dreams into realities -then it is unlikely your idea, no matter how great, will turn into a real business.

Jenise says:

I am a home owner just making my bills . I have a serious problem my bathroom is in bad shape . I need help and money to pay for the repairs

faye williams says:

I own my home and I need grant money for Home Improvement I am disabled and I am on disability I don’t have the money to pick up my home I can’t get no loans anywhere because of my credit and I don’t get that much a month from disability so I was trying to get grant money to improve my home will you please help me

shelly quinn says:

Don’t know where u live but the county by me has loans that are based on your income n I was on unemployment not making enough to make my house payment so they waited my monthly payment. But u pay them back if u refinanced or sell it. It’s intrest Free I’m in ohio

WRXDave says:

If you are on Medicaid you may qualify for a home assistant (depends on your disabilities) for a few hours a week that can help with cleaning your houuse/cooking/etc.

Contact meals on wheels to see if you qualify (same with any crisis food panty/services), which you may qualify for even if you don’t get food stamps/etc.

You DONT want a loan! It does not sound if you can pay it back, you would end up having your house repossessed if you don’t.

See my answer above for the Raccoon lady for more ideas. This article gave you several ideas (such as habitat for humanities, etc).

Carreras says:

My father passed away unexpectedly & My 2 boys & I lossed his house & our home…I was his live in caretaker/caregiver _ could use some direction on where I can turn to for help….

Kevin Scott says:

How can a person like me try to get money from the government

rachel colby says:

I would like to know if I can up to 10.000 for Christmas presents

Katie says:

Seriously??? If you need 10,000.00 for Christmas presents, I would deal with one problem at a time and tackle that one first!

Bobby Rathburn says:

Wanting to start a small business.

Kathleen Elliott says:

Hello,j am 53 yrs. Old and I am in dire need if help . For what you ask well due to being diagnosed with PTSD due to TRAMA I am unable to work plus depression anxiety. So getting back into the work force is not going to happen . So I need help with my RV that I now have been Force to live jn

Gaelen says:

go to gov/grants.gov. They have home improvement grants for you under health and human services I think. also they have a ton of grants on there for people with health issues due to trama. Have you been in any service or just military? Go check there you can not only get grant for home improvements but ones for other needs as well. Just take your time filling out the form. If you have trouble once you get the application they probably have a person or number you can call for help. Have you applied for disability? good luck

Thomas E Sulser says:

In 67 n owe back taxes state n fed. How?can I get help I’m now retiring n work 2 days aweek

gaelen says:

I have heard of two solutions for you the first is call the IRS and tell them you want to make one lump sum payment to pay off what you owe, I’ve heard of them makeing a considerable deduction on the final total sum . Secondly there are attorneys out there that will help you with that. Just go online and find a debt consolidator and they can take a big bite out of what you owe.

Roy Mader says:

I owe the IRS about $19,000 from 2017 taxes. Can I get this reduced. I sm paying $300 monthly but it is an extreme hardship

D. Jenkins says:

Speak to someone at the IRS about an OIC-offer in comprise to get what you owe reduced, it will have to be paid monthly or a lump payment

Kymberley ettel says:

Get ahold of the forgiveness program for taxes and student loans to see if you qualify.

Nancy says:

Benefits.gov also student loan repayment options

Jill says:

Is there really a government loophole for anyone to collect over a 1000.00 monthly?
If so,where do I sign up???🤷‍♀️

Angela Mack says:


Wendy Spiegeland says:

My husband recently passed away we didn’t have any life insurance policies I’ve lost the house and had to sell almost all of our belongings just to survive I’m disabled but wasn’t on disability because when my husband is alive he took care of all of our bills I am on the verge of being homeless I’ve been staying with friends but I have no money no job no vehicle if anyone knows of any kind of government assistance that can help me get on my feet before I’m completely homeless I’m 50 years old and opportunities for me or what they used to be any help would be appreciated thank you

Kymberley Ettel says:

Hello, Was your husband ever in the military? If so,Maybe check there. What about any Social Security for your husband? Or check. Unclaimed property hey you never know. Good luck to you.

Michelle says:

You may be entitled to survivors benefits from the social security office. Also, try Catholic charities or salvation army for any other grants or benefits you may be eligible for. Also, the dta office could help with food. Good luck and I hope this helps.

Jean Marsh says:

Need Grant 7

Tonya Helton says:

Where to begin I was marred 17 yrs thats alot of work by it’s self I was in a bad car accident and shattered my leg I was in a wheelchair for a couple years I got addicted to drugs and he was addicted to cheating to make a long story I went to prison for a couple years I know that saved my life however I had worked from the time I was 14 I got taxes that year I drawed taxes for alot of years when I was locked up he claimed me on taxes and forged my name when I came home I had worked and told him i was filing our kids we uses the same tax place he beat me to it and claimed our son that I had custody of she said i could claim anyway i let it go I never recieved my taxes that year not even state and never got a letter I filed self employed anyway I thought he had something to do with that then I was out of work for awhile when I was in rehab I was tought when you do good good thi

Things happen well thats not tŕue because I Hitchhiked to work every day for 8 months never missed aday I even broke my foot and wore a boot for 6 weeks never called in ll

I bought a car got a better job working hour so away anyway tax time came i worked all year finally Could get on my feet I had w2s well I got my state back but was audited can you believe it said I have to go to a government office just to show my face cant just send them copies of my stuff thats 2years now I cant win for losing I cant get ahead I have no way to get to one when I called for an appointment I was told rhey didn’t have any now it’s tax time again and I dont want to get them done because I know it’s a waste of time I need this money so bad its not funny im homeless cant find a job I have no car and there’s no way I’m getting custody of my grandson my disabled son is with my mom whose no better off I need to catch a break for once I’ve worked so hard for it to be taken sincerely willing to listen to some advice Tonya Helton

me says:

have you heard of free legal services?

Patricia Foster says:

How can i get a free grant for my home repairs,,house dropping,floors weak,front porch rails are not safe, need some siding,need gulters rain water sailing under house,I’m 53 on disability and i can’t afford these repairs

JLo says:

Maybe you should sell….

G Lew says:

Actually if her home is paid for, her Property Taxes & Insurance could cost less than she can rent an apartment for. Also she might be getting other assistance with energy costs, food, Medical. She could lose benefits if she sells her home for a profit. She’s in a very difficult spot that many who become disabled after purchasing a home find themself in.

Jean Marsh says:

Need new boiler


My daughter’s husband left her and left her owing over $7000 in back mortgage payments. Where can she get help she needs to catch them up and get going in the right direction? Her credit is in the toilet as you can well imagine.

C says:

Maybe it’s just best to go bankrupt in that case. Start over.

Joyce Benoit says:

I am on Section 8 and have found a nice little house for myself but I don’t have $1200.00 for the security deposit, I was not hip to the fact they would want the last months rent for the deposit,I guess this comes from years living in apartments, my question is….is there a fund that would help me pay the security deposit ? I live off my disability and that does’nt even add up to $800.00 a month so getting a loan is out the question, so I was thinking maybe a government loan or a grant

Looking forward to a reply

Joyce Benoit says:

I made comment on Sept 7th asking for advice to no avail it seems I pressed on the reply and it sent me here really would like some advice if you can thankyou

Karen K Weiner says:

I’m currently living in a rental property. I haven’t paid 2 months rent because I have asked to fix a problem: I have raccoons living in the roof. They have been living there since I moved in. The landlord has done nothing and the raccoons are tearing up my ceiling trying to get into the house. He wants the rent but won’t fix the problem, what should I do? I can’t afford to move. I’m on SSDI and have no savings.

G Lew says:

Actually if her home is paid for, her Property Taxes & Insurance could cost less than she can rent an apartment for. Also she might be getting other assistance with energy costs, food, Medical. She could lose benefits if she sells her home for a profit. She’s in a very difficult spot that many who become disabled after purchasing a home find themself in.