Government hardship grants for individuals: Do they exist?

Man in office, looking up government hardship grants on computerImage: Man in office, looking up government hardship grants on computer

In a Nutshell

The federal government can provide benefits to help low-income families pay for food, housing and medical expenses. But there’s no such thing as a “government hardship grant” for individuals.
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If you’re struggling financially and looking for a government hardship grant, the first thing to know is that there’s no such thing as a “government hardship grant” for individuals, exactly.

In fact, if you get some sort of invitation to apply for a grant of free money from the government, there’s a good chance it’s a scam.

But there are government benefits that can help you pay for food, housing and healthcare. Read on to learn about what kind of help you can apply for and how to guard against fraud.

Can I get a financial hardship grant from the government?

The federal government doesn’t give hardship grants to individuals. Instead, grants of this nature go to state and local governments, colleges and universities, law enforcement agencies, research labs, nonprofit organizations and businesses. These grants aim to fund programs that will benefit certain groups or an entire community.

In some cases, nonprofit organizations that receive government grants may use the money to fund programs that help the people they serve. So it may be possible to find help from a nonprofit organization that receives federal grants.

‘Personal hardship grants’ are likely a scam

It’s not uncommon for scammers to pose as nonprofit organizations or even government agencies. Their promises of free money from the government are really just a ploy to trick you into giving them personal information — or even money, by getting access to your bank account.

Scammers may claim that you qualify to receive free money to pay for home repairs, business expenses, education costs or unpaid bills. You may encounter scammers through ads, phone calls or other forms of contact.

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission to help protect you from government grant scams.

  1. Don’t reveal your bank information to strangers. If scammers get their hands on your account number or password, they might be able to steal your money. For this reason, you should always keep your bank account info confidential — and don’t share it unless you’re familiar with the company and know why the information is necessary.
  2. You shouldn’t be charged upfront for a free grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it’s a scam, the FTC says. “A real government agency won’t ask you to pay a processing fee for a grant that you have already been awarded — or to pay for a list of grant-making institutions.” Look online or at any public library for free information about agencies and foundations that make grants.
  3. Do your homework. If you’re not familiar with the agency, look it up to make sure it’s real. You can also search for federal grants at to make sure the grant you’re being offered actually exists.
  4. Don’t be fooled by technology. Some scammers use technology to trick caller ID systems. They’ll make their calls appear to originate in Washington, D.C., when they actually could be anywhere — even in another country.

If you think you’re the victim of a government grant scam, you can go to the FTC’s website to file a complaint or call 1-877-382-4357. Reporting suspicious behavior like this can help authorities crack down on fraudsters.

4 ways the government could help you through financial hardship

Even though the government doesn’t give individual hardship grants, you might qualify for other government benefits if you’re struggling to make ends meet.

Government benefit programs are available to help people with a lower income pay for food, housing, healthcare and other financial needs.

Let’s look at some government programs that may provide financial help.

1. Food

If you’re struggling to put food on the table, the government offers several food-assistance programs that may help. Here are a few.

  • The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP Better known as food stamps, the SNAP program might help you pay for groceries. Eligible applicants can receive a benefit card they can use at certain grocery stores and farmers markets. To find out if you’re eligible, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s SNAP eligibility page.
  • National School Lunch Program — This program provides nutritional, discounted or free lunches to school children. To learn more, visit the USDA’s National School Lunch Program page.
  • WIC Program — This short-term program helps mothers and their young children get access to healthy food. It also offers nutrition counseling and can refer women to health, welfare and social services programs. Visit the USDA’s WIC eligibility requirements page to see if you might qualify.
  • Commodity Supplemental Food Program — This program helps senior citizens by providing a package of healthy food each month. Learn more on USDA’s Commodity Supplemental Food Program page.

For more details and information about additional government food-assistance programs, visit’s food assistance page.

2. Housing

The federal government offers several housing programs to help low-income families, people with disabilities, and senior citizens put a roof over their heads. Here are a few.

  • Public housing — These state-owned rental houses or apartments are intended for families living on a lower income, senior citizens and people with disabilities. To find out if you’re eligible for public housing, contact your local public housing agency, or PHA.
  • Housing Choice Voucher Program — Formerly known as Section 8, this program is administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, or HUD. It can help people living on a lower income pay for rental housing. To find out if you’re eligible for a housing voucher, or to apply, contact your local public housing agency, or PHA.
  • Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP — This program offers low-cost home improvements to help people who are living on a limited income lower their energy bills. It also helps them pay for heating and air conditioning bills. To learn more, visit the LIHEAP page.

3. Medical

The federal government also offers healthcare benefits for people with a lower income.

  • Medicaid — Medicaid provides free and discounted health benefits to low-income people and families.
  • Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP — Children who come from low-income families that make too much to qualify for Medicaid may qualify for the Children’s Health Insurance Program, or CHIP. (Eligibility requirements vary by state but usually depend on income). To apply, find a CHIP program by state.

4. Financial assistance

There are a couple of types of cash assistance from the federal government that are available to people in need.

  • Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or TANF — Better known as welfare, this program provides cash, child care and job training to low-income families for a limited period of time. To enroll in temporary benefits, apply at your local county or social services agency or call your state TANF office.
  • Supplemental Security Income, or SSI — If you’re a senior citizen or a person with a disability, this government benefit program might provide you with cash. To find out if you’re eligible, visit the Social Security Administration’s SSI eligibility requirements page.

Bottom line

The federal government doesn’t provide grant money directly to individuals for personal use.

But if you’re struggling to make ends meet, you might qualify for federal government benefit programs that can help you put food on the table, cover your living expenses and pay for healthcare. You should also check with your state to see what benefit programs are available.

And watch out for scammers who claim to provide government hardship grants. They may pose as legitimate charities or even government agencies in order to trick you into giving up personal information or your own money.

Not sure what you might qualify for? You can use the federal government’s Benefit Finder tool at to find benefit programs that may be right for you. The site provides information on programs for multiple types of needs, such as disaster relief, services for families and children, food and nutrition, healthcare or medical aid, financial assistance or loans, and more.

About the author: Tim Devaney is a personal finance writer and credit card expert at Credit Karma. He’s a longtime journalist who prides himself on being a good storyteller who can explain complex information in an easily digestible wa… Read more.