grantsMany constituents contact me after seeing infomercials touting so-called "free" government money. I hate to burst the bubble, but there is no free government money. Grants almost always require matching funds of at least 25 percent, and it is sometimes much higher. Also, very few federal grants are available to individuals, and individuals cannot apply for federal grants that are intended for organizations.

Many of you have probably seen the late-night infomercials by Matthew Lesko, who wears suits littered with question marks. Many of my constituents don't realize this, but the information about grants in his books is lifted straight from a government publication that anyone can look at for free in any public library or online. It is called the Catalog for Domestic Federal Assistance, or CFDA. The site also has a link to this document.

I would caution folks not to be swayed by claims of free or easy government money. The Better Business Bureau in Washington, DC, has warned consumers to be careful, and the New York State Consumer Protection Board has warned that Lesko's ads are misleading.

The federal government has one single website that contains everything you need to know about federal grants. It is free and anyone can look at it. has information on every grant offered by the federal government. There are more than 1,000 grant programs through 26 federal agencies.

If you are interested in seeing what federal grants are available, you can sign up for an e-mail alert through You will get an e-mail each time a new federal grant is offered, and you can seek notification about only those grants that interest you. If you decide to apply for a federal grant, you must register online, but you can browse and search for grants without registering.

Again, most federal grants are not available to individuals. Instead, they are offered typically to the following organizations:

  • Government Organizations
  • Education Organizations
  • Public Housing Organizations
  • Non-Profit Organizations
  • For-Profit Organizations (other than small businesses)
  • Small Businesses

Small business loans and small business grants may be awarded to companies that meet the size standards that the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has established for most industries in the economy. The most common size standards are as follows: 500 employees for most manufacturing and mining industries; 100 employees for all wholesale trade industries; $6 million for most retail and service industries; $28.5 million for most general & heavy construction industries; $12 million for all special trade contractors; and $0.75 million for most agricultural industries.

The SBA generally does not offer grants, and the SBA does not offer grants to start or expand small businesses. Instead, it offers a wide variety of loan programs. Grants that are awarded by the SBA are generally designed to expand and enhance organizations that provide small business management, technical, or financial assistance. These grants generally support non-profit organizations, intermediary lending institutions, and state and local governments.

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