How To Find Grants for Single Mothers: Get the Help You Need

Learn About Financial Aid, Scholarships & Free Money

As a single parent, it can be hard enough to make it through the day while trying to work and raise a family—never mind finding the time and energy to look for grants and other financial aid. If you're having a hard time finding private or government grants for single moms, don't give up: From business and college grants to housing grants that can assist with daily expenses such as food, utilities and rent, money for single mothers is out there. The trick to finding it is knowing where to look.

It takes patience to locate grants. You’ll find that there are business, housing and college grants for single mothers. However, you have to find the right resources to help you locate this financial assistance, and it's important to be aware of scams—for example, those that ask for money up front or "guarantee" they'll send you money. Keep in mind, too, that in many cases the money will not be advertised as "grants for single mothers"—but often there are grants for low-income individuals for which you can qualify. Just because the money isn’t described as “college grants for single mothers” doesn’t mean it’s not a source of financial assistance. Before you begin searching for grant money, consider all of the categories that you may qualify for because this will help open your eyes to the various avenues that may lead you to money for your schooling.

Finding financial aid forgrants for single mothers single mothers isn’t easy—you still have to work to locate and apply for private or government grant money. Mary Anne Britton of Parents Without Partners talks about this challenge. She says, "There are opportunities out there, but you have to be tenacious, and you have to be your own advocate.”

Britton, who is vice president of Family and Educational Programming for the international organization, put herself through college while raising two children and working; she has also helped other single parents find private and government grants.

Here's a guide to starting your search for housing, business and college grants for single mothers, from sources including the government, local housing authorities, corporations and colleges. You'll find that many grants for going back to school, starting a business, or those that help with housing costs are based on the applicant’s income, age or other factors. Before you apply for financial assistance, be sure to read all of the instructions and information carefully so you don't end up wasting your time—the most precious resource of all. Apply for housing, business and school grants with these steps.

Grants for Housing Expenses

There has been an increase in homeless families across the country, many of whom are headed by single mothers. Even those who have been able to keep a roof over their heads can find it hard to keep up with housing expenses. Therefore, many single moms are looking for local or government grant money. It can take some digging to find the right sources that offer housing assistance. The good news is, there are several federal programs that can help. The programs usually channel funding through state or local authorities.

These agencies offer various government grants for single mothers and other low-income individuals. The following should provide some solid leads.

  • Housing Choice Voucher Program. Through public housing agencies around the country, the federal government provides financial aid for single mothers in the form of vouchers that help cover the costs of rent. Options are not limited to subsidized housing, but your income level, rent and chosen apartment must meet certain guidelines in order for you to qualify. (A program called the Veterans Affairs Supportive Housing Program combines this grant money with clinical services.) Find out more from your local public housing agency, which should also be able to explain other options for financial assistance for single mothers.
  • State and Local Agencies. While the federal government has several programs intended to help build or repair low-income housing, the funding is usually distributed to local governments or nonprofits, not to individuals—and often not as financial aid for single mothers. But that money is ultimately intended to help low-income families, so if eligible, these may be another place to look. Programs such as the USDA's Rural Development Housing and Community Facilities, HUD's Home Investment Partnerships, and the Homelessness Prevention and Rapid Re-Housing Program all provide funding this way. To find this type of help for single mothers near you, visit the National Council of State Housing Agencies. Don’t miss out on the government grant money for single mothers.

Grants for College

These are some of the most sought after grants out there. School can be a great way to increase your earning power, but in the short run, if you don’t apply for financial aid, it sure can feel like it's leaving you without a penny. The good news is, whether you're just starting college or heading back after some time away, there are plenty of resources available to help with the costs (which can be overwhelming, to say the least). Education grants can be used to cover not only tuition, but also expenses such as college housing, textbooks and even computers. Availability and restrictions of grants for single moms going back to school vary widely. Don’t forget to look at available private and government grant money.

  • Pell Grants. These need-based federal college grants are disbursed directly to students (some of them single mothers) to cover general college-related expenses up to a certain amount. Pell Grants for single moms and other students change each year. (The current cap is $5,550.) Although Pell Grants are not just for single moms, this is a great way to get the financial assistance that you may need. Like many college grants, you must apply by completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (known as the FAFSA). Note: When they say "free" application, they mean it; you can fill this form out directly and should not have to pay anyone to do it for you, unless you so choose. Not all federal grants are free. This is one of the rare free applications that you’ll find out there.
  • Other Federal Grants. The federal government has several other school grants for single moms, most of which require you to be Pell Grant-eligible and fill out the FAFSA (see above). Here is a list of grants. The Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant is for those with exceptional financial need and offers $100-$4,000. The Academic Competitiveness Grant is for single mothers who completed secondary school after 2005. This grant offers financial aid that can be as much as $750 in the first year or $1,300 in the second. The National Science and Mathematics Access to Retain Talent (SMART) Grant (for third- or fourth-year students) offers up to $4,000. The Teacher Education Assistance for College and Higher Education is great if you’re looking for grants for students who want to prepare for a career in teaching. You can get as much as $4,000 with this option. However, not all financial aid comes free. In this case, it must be repaid unless you teach for four years in a low-income or high-need area. Another option for single mother grants is the Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant for students under 24 whose parents died in service after September 11, 2001. Although this may not apply to a large population of women, it’s worth mentioning. This money is equal to the Pell Grant maximum, which changes yearly. Single moms aren’t the only people who can qualify for these grants, but it’s a great place to start looking for financial aid. Check the Web for more full descriptions and eligibility information about grants for single mothers to go to college.
  • National and Local Scholarships. Generally merit-based rather than need-based scholarships are similar to grants in that they don't need to be repaid. Many national corporations and associations offer educational scholarships, including Google (They offer grants for single moms going to school for computing and technology development.); AARP (They have financial aid for single mothers over 40.); the Jeanette Rankin Foundation (You can find grants for women over 35.); and the Association for Women in Science. In addition to these, you may also find local or state grants. The federal government also has a searchable database of scholarships that you may want to check out. (Many of these grants are specific to certain colleges.) Be sure to check with local organizations and schools to see if they offer financial help, too. As always, beware of scams; you should never have to pay money to win money. The free grants are probably your best bet.
  • Your Company. If you work and are going back to school, check with your employer to see if they have any grants for single mothers. An estimated 60 percent of U.S. companies offer tuition assistance as an employee benefit. The IRS currently allows companies to provide up to $5,250 a year per employee (though not all are so generous), so your employer may be able to help you out. There are organizations that help single mothers in South Carolina, Michigan, Oklahoma and most other states. As previously mentioned, not all grants are free. Be aware that many education grants usually come with strings attached: Your academic performance will often set the bar for how much money you get. Some companies ask you to pay the costs and then reimburse you later. Other companies have a requirement that you work for them for a certain length of time after you've completed your education before they’ll agree to offer you money for college. If those requirements work for you though, you may be able to take advantage of the company’s grants for college.
  • Your College. Colleges often have grants and other financial help for single mothers. These are available for accepted students, and some are even specific to single mothers. The money can help with the costs of textbooks, computers, tuition, housing and more. Be sure to check with the financial aid office of schools you are interested in attending to find out what grants are available. If you only need help with a portion of your schooling, such as computers, the financial aid office should be able to help you learn how to find grants for school technology things as well. "There are grants all over, but you have to ask," says Britton of Parents Without Partners. "It's not like they offer it up.” So when looking for loans, grants, or scholarships for moms, don’t forget to check out the school you’re attending as well.

Grants to Start a Business or Change Careers

Whether you're seeking technical training or are ready to start a business of your own, you may want to apply for grants to help get you on your way. Many grants are available through non-profit organizations for entrepreneurs, as well as through states such as Florida, Minnesota, Virgina and more. The federal government has more information on financial aid of single mothers, including a searchable Small Business Loans and Grants Tool. And don’t forget that if starting your business requires you to attend school again, you may also qualify for educational grants.

  • PeaChic. As part of its commitment to women in business, this magazine, launched in 2010, offers small grants of $500 to $1,000 to help women start or expand a business. This may not be a huge amount of money, but it's a good source of financial aid. PeaChic offers single moms money to help cover expenses such as supplies, marketing, or other necessary parts of making a business succeed.
  • Huggies MomInspired. Twice a year, the diaper giant awards grants of $1,000-$15,000 to support innovative products or start-up businesses. Ideas don't have to be diaper-related, although the winners so far have been primarily parent- and child-related. Although this is not specifically geared towards offering financial help for single moms, it’s definitely a place to find money for your business.
  • American Association of University Women. This national network of individuals and institutions offers several different grant opportunities and financial assistance for single mothers, including a Career Development Grant for graduate studies and technical training and a Community Action Grant for projects that foster equity for girls and women.
  • Small Business Administration. Although it does not offer grants for single moms, or any individuals for that matter, the Small Business Administration's Office of Women's Business Ownership is an excellent source of information on how to start and finance a business.

Grants for Daily Expenses

From food to heat to health insurance, these federal programs are a great way to get financial aid. Paying for the everyday necessities can definitely add up—especially if you only have one income—so applying for extra money can help you rest easier. Some of these options have been in place for decades, while others are more newly created. State and local organizations can make life's daily challenges a little more bearable for single mothers and others. Here’s how to find grants to help single mothers pay for those daily expenses.

  • Women, Infants and Children. The mother of all federal programs, known as WIC and run by the USDA, has provided food, health-care referrals, and nutritional advice for women and children up to age five since its creation in 1972. In addition to food packages, the program also provides coupons that can be used at farmers' markets.
  • Children's Health Insurance Program. This federally funded program provides financial help for single mothers, schools, health-care providers and others to help uninsured children get coverage. Contact your state health agency or type your state and "CHIP" into a search engine to find out more about how you can take advantage of this government assistance.
  • Food Stamps. Nearly 40 million Americans now put food on their tables with help from this federal program, formally known as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Benefits are calculated based on your family size, income, expenses and other factors. Food stamps help many families and are definitely a source of single parent grants.
  • Families First/TANF. Through its Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program—which used to be known as Aid to Families with Dependent Children, and more commonly as welfare—the federal government provides monthly benefits for income-eligible families. This is a very common assistance program. Benefits and guidelines vary; for details about how this program can provide help and support for single moms and to find your state office, put "TANF" and your state into a search engine.
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program. Need help paying your utility bills? This federally funded program, whose benefits vary depending on household size, income, fuel type, and the region where you live, could offer the financial assistant for single mothers you’ve been seeking.
  • Health and Human Services Offices. Contact your state's Health and Human Services office for more information on grants and other programs, including state-specific grants that can help cover child-care costs. To locate government resources for single moms in your state office, put your state and "Health and Human Services" into a search engine.

By starting with these ideas and organizations, you should be able to find reputable sources of grants for single mothers. Locating housing, business and college money may seem daunting, but once you get started, you’ll find there is a lot of assistance available. You can get financial aid from schools, companies and the government to help with feeding your family, paying your rent, or supporting your goals of going back to school or starting a business. After checking out the requirements, you’ll most likely discover that you qualify for both paid and free grants to help with housing assistance, business expenses, or student aid. With a little luck and a lot of persistence, you can access free money—and find a way to worry a little less.

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