How to get free money

June 16, 2008 5:45:09 PM PDT
Mention free money and you get everyone's attention. That's certainly the case when you talk about grant money from the federal government.But the truth is, while those funds are available you have to do some work to get the money. Last week we showed you a woman who got a grant check in the mail, even though she never applied for the money.

It turned out the check was a fake and part of a scam. However there are real programs out there to get real grant money, but be warned, it takes effort.

You can expect a big crowd when the topic is free money. The 200 people in a crowded room we visited all want the same thing, a government grant. Many are like Linda Vega, a small business owner facing mounting fuel costs.

"Owning a small business, a lot of my profits are going to fuel and labor, and I know that there are grants to subsidize labor costs," she said.

Others belong to non-profit organizations like Ralph Marchesano, a chaplain with the Disabled American Veterans.

"We help them with expenses and if there is initial stuff as they come back they might need some cash or whatever," Rev Marchesano said. "That's what the local chapters do."

For many of the people here the next step in the process will be to go to the Internet. The federal government has dozens of sites that offer funding, but you have to register, then file a formal application. It's a process that takes time and financial planning.

"If you did not apply for a grant, you are not going to get a grant and it is not the kind of thing that drops from the sky," grant advisor Susan Turnbull said. "It's not going to happen."

While the federal government has billions available, it usually goes to those who have plans to share the money with others, not to individuals who may need help paying a power bill.

"Those non-profits frequently can assist you with those problems, but you usually have to go to them," Turnbull advised.

There are about 1,000 federal grant programs administered through 26 federal agencies. Navigating through the process can be tricky and remember, you'll have to write a grant proposal to get the money.

"It is a very formal process, there is huge competition, this is not an easy process," said Representative Nick Lampson (D) of Sugar Land. "Don't anyone think there is going to be Manna from heaven and dollars awaiting you."

Again, the money usually goes to non-profit agencies, local governments and small businesses. There is going to be another grant workshop Tuesday. If you'd like to look through some of the grants available and information on the workshop, we have that information for you on The Consumer Blog.

So can an individual get a grant?

Usually the money going to a person will go to a researcher curing cancer. Again, the money is not going to come to you if you never applied for a grant so be on the lookout for scams because we have recently seen them in our area.

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