Life in America is difficult, and it’s especially difficult for a single parent shouldering the burdens of child-rearing, healthcare, food, lodging, and financial security. Life shouldn’t just be about surviving, either. You want to thrive, not just survive. You want opportunities for advancement, improvement, providing better lives for you and your children, but when the challenges of everyday life already exert such a toll, how can you improve your own or your child’s life with a new career path or further education? Sometimes it can all be too much, and you shouldn’t be ashamed to ask for help. Fortunately, help is out there in the form of government, nonprofit, and private institutional grants.
There are very few grants specifically for single parents. The government, in particular, cannot discriminate against married couples. However, many grants are based on income and expenses, and single-income families with high child care costs are among those most likely to qualify. There are also privately funded grants specifically for single parents.
Grants and Grant Application
A grant is any financial aid or other assistance given to a person by a corporation, educational institution, trust, or foundation. You don’t have to pay them back, there is no interest, and grants are tax exempt. That doesn’t mean you can just run off to Vegas with your new cash. The money or assistance awarded to you comes with specific guidelines for its use.
Grants are not easy to get. If they were, we’d all have one! For the best chance at success, follow this three-step rule:
The last part is particularly important. Very few people will be successful on their first try. You have to be persistent, learn from your failures, and keep on trying. Giving up after one rejection is a sure way to get nothing.
Many websites specialize in helping you find grants to suit your needs. GrantForward is a great example. You go to the website and create a profile, which enables you to check out options that suit your needs or match your chosen keywords. You can contact associations directly through GrantForward.
Check the eligibility requirements before you apply. If you don’t meet them, they won’t even consider your application. Organizations want to support specific types of candidates, and they rigorously screen out those who do not meet their qualifications. Move on and find something that fits.
Let’s look at some different types of grants. There’s a list of links to organizations discussed here at the end of the article.
For Food or Living Expenses
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) helps low-income families achieve self-sufficiency. Each state receives federal government funds to provide financial aid and services to eligible families. TANF provides job training, education, counseling, and emergency funding services to such families. TANF eligibility requirements vary by state, but all states require applicants to have dependent children or to be in their last three months of pregnancy. You must also be a resident of the state in which you apply, be a U.S. citizen or an eligible noncitizen.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) is a federal assistance program for pregnant women and new mothers. These funds help eligible women purchase nutritious food, obtain affordable health care, and attend classes on breastfeeding and proper nutrition. Only pregnant women, women facing nutritional risk, and their children (5 years of age or younger) are eligible for WIC. Applicants’ income must also be at the poverty line, or fall below 185 percent of it.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) helps low-income people and their families afford nutritious food. To qualify, an applicant’s countable resources (like a bank account) cannot exceed $2,000. For people who are 60 years of age or older, the maximum is a little higher, at $3,250. Remember, Supplemental Security Income (SSI), TANF, and retirement or pension plans are not countable resources, so don’t hesitate to apply for SNAP coverage even if you receive benefits from these programs. However, if you already receive SSI, TANF, or other assistance, you will have to pass an income test. These tests are quite comprehensive, so it’s best to take a look at the SNAP webpage for more information.
Grants for Education
If you want to become a teacher, the Teach Grant might be right for you. It provides up to $4000 a year for students who are on track to become teachers. There is a condition: For at least four years, you must teach in a high-need field at an elementary school, secondary school, or other educational service agency for low-income families. You must finish these four years of mandatory service within eight years of completing your teaching program, or the money will become a loan.
National Science Foundation (NSF) Grants support students in the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) fields. Every year, the NSF supports individuals geared towards advancing the science and engineering industries. Eligibility criteria depend on each specific program, so be sure to review these requirements thoroughly before applying. If you work in the STEM fields and you want to build a better future for your children and our world, please check out the NSF website.
The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) grant and the Academic Competitiveness Grant (ACG) encourage high school students to pursue more challenging courses, which in turn helps them to be more successful in college, potentially majoring in difficult disciplines like foreign languages and STEM courses. All eligible students must be U.S. citizens and hold a GPA of at least 3.0, and applicants have to be enrolled in schools that offer four-year degrees. On top of that, SMART requires that their applicants also receive the Pell Grant (see below).
Pell Grants are awarded to qualified individuals who complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). To be eligible, you must be enrolled (full-time or part-time) in a college or university, and also demonstrate your financial need. This program is funded by the federal government to cover the costs of tuition and other college-related expenses. Students who are approved receive annual education-related financial aid until they graduate.
You need to be an undergraduate student seeking a bachelor’s degree or a post-baccalaureate teacher certification to qualify. All applicants must also prove their financial need. All you have to do to apply is complete the FAFSA (see above).
The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) can be a great help in paying higher education costs. Only certain schools receive the FSEOG, so you’ll need to confirm that whatever university you attend, or plan to attend, offers FSEOG coverage. You must also complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). If you happen to receive the Pell Grant as well, you’ll need to use that first before applying for FSEOG assistance.