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Finding and Receiving Grants from the Federal

Given the enormous size of federal assistance provided, the Federal government has designed
different types of grants, each with its own unique way of awarding and/or operating. Every program
is designed with a specific recipient in mind. Certain programs have restrictions on who may receive
the assistance because of the nature of its activity or service. Examples include health-related research
grants which individuals may be eligible so long as they satisfy certain criteria, such as that they have
a professional or scientific degree, 3 years of research experience, and be a citizen of the United

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• Project grants are awarded competitively. Project Grants include funding of specific projects
for fixed or known periods. Project grants can include fellowships, scholarships, research
grants, training grants, traineeships, experimental and demonstration grants, evaluation grants,
planning grants, technical assistance grants, survey grants, social services, the arts, health care
assistance and construction grants.

• Formula grants provide funds as dictated by a law. Formula Grants include allocations of
money to States or their subdivisions in accordance with distribution formulas prescribed by
law or administrative regulation, for activities of a continuing nature not confined to a
specific project. Examples of this type of grant include Aid to Families with Dependent
Children and the Job Training Partnership Act, and the Work Incentive Program. These can
be sub-categorized as either Categorical or Block, such as the Community Development
Block Grant (CDBG). : Grants given to eligible agencies through an allocation governed by
the authorizing legislation. These grants are sent directly to the states, who disburse the funds
according to the formula.

• Categorical grants may be spent only for narrowly defined purposes and recipients often
must match a portion of the federal funds. Funds kept aside under the provisions of law,
regulations or statute for use by some organizations which qualify for some category.

• Block grants combine categorical grants into a single program. Formula funds that are not
allocated to a specific category and are more flexibly distributed. The grant seeker applies
directly to state for these funds, and state sets up procedures for their disbursement. Examples
of this type of grant include the Community Development Block Grant and the Alcohol, Drug
Abuse, and Mental Health Services Block Grant. Recipients of block grants have more
leeway in using funds than recipients of individual categorical grants.

• Earmark grants are explicitly specified in appropriations of the U.S. Congress. They are not
competitively awarded, and have become controversial because of the involvement of
political lobbyists used in the process of awarding them to recipients.

• Direct Payments for Specified Use funds include financial assistance from the Federal
government provided directly to individuals, private firms, and other private institutions to
encourage or subsidize a particular activity by conditioning the receipt of the assistance on a
particular performance by the recipient. One example of this type of assistance is the Section
8 Housing Choice Voucher program.
• Direct Payments with Unrestricted Use funds include financial assistance from the Federal
government provided directly to beneficiaries who satisfy Federal eligibility requirements
with no restrictions being imposed on the recipient as to how the money is spent. Included are
payments under retirement, pension, and compensatory programs.

Non-financial Assistance

• Sale, Exchange, or Donation of Property and Goods include programs which provide for
the sale, exchange, or donation of Federal real property, personal property, commodities, and
other goods including land, buildings, equipment, food and drugs.

• Use of Property, Facilities, and Equipment includes programs which provide for the loan
of, use of, or access to Federal facilities or property wherein the federally owned facilities or
property do not remain in the possession of the recipient of the assistance.

• Provision of Specialized Services includes programs that provide Federal personnel directly
to perform certain tasks for the benefit of communities or individuals. These services may be
performed in conjunction with non-federal personnel, but they involve more than
consultation, advice, or counseling. Examples include the legal representation provided by the
“Protection of Voting Rights” and the “Civil Rights of Institutionalized Persons” programs.

• Advisory Services and Counseling includes programs which provide Federal specialists to
consult, advice, or counsel communities or individuals to include conferences, workshops, or
personal contacts.

• Dissemination of Technical Information includes programs that provide for the publication
and distribution of information or data of a specialized or technical nature frequently through
clearinghouses or libraries.

• Training includes programs that provide instructional activities conducted directly by a

Federal agency for individuals not employed by the Federal government.


A recipient of federal awards or funds is defined as any non-federal entity that receives federal
assistance and which is part of, and/or located within, the United States and its territories and
possessions. Recipients are grouped into six main categories.

• State governments - This category includes any of the 50 States of the United States and the
District of Columbia (Washington, D.C.), or any agency or instrumentality of these
governments, with the exception of institutions of higher education (colleges and universities)
and hospitals.

• Local governments - This category includes any county, parish, municipality, city, town,
township, village, State-designated Indian tribal government, local public authority, school
district, special district, intrastate district, council of governments, sponsor group
representative organizations, and other regional or interstate government entity, or any agency
or instrumentality of a local government, which are located within the U.S.
• Territories and possessions - This category includes the Commonwealths of Puerto Rico and
the Northern Mariana Islands, the Virgin Islands, Guam, Trust Territory of the Pacific
Islands, and American Samoa.

• Indian Tribal governments - This category includes the governing body or a governmental
agency of any Indian tribe, band, nation, or other organized group or community (including
any Native village) within the U.S. and its territories. These must first be certified by the U.S.
Secretary of the Interior as eligible to receive assistance under special programs and services
provided through the Bureau of Indian Affairs.

• Non-profit organizations and institutions – This category includes semi-public, public and
private institutions of higher education and hospitals, Native American Indian Organizations,
and any other semi-public and private nonprofit organizations. However, Federally funded
research and development centers are excluded from this category.

• Private individuals – This category includes Native Americans, homeowners, students,

farmers, artists, scientists, consumers, small businesses, refugees, aliens, veterans, senior
citizens, low-income persons, health and education professionals, builders, contractors,
developers, handicapped persons, and the physically afflicted. Examples of direct assistance
to these individuals include Section 8 vouchers, Pell Grant scholarships, and disaster relief
awards, among many others.