The government has spent more than a trillion dollars on stimulus and bailout programs. Will all this spending fix our economic ills? The jury is still out. But we do know that many Americans are asking “Where’s my share?!”
The good news is that there is something in these spending programs for everyone--if you know where to look. Ken and Daria Dolan of Dolans.com show you how to get your piece of the government giveaways that can benefit you and your family.
The Pell Grant is fantastic government giveaway that can help make college affordable. A Pell Grant is truly FREE money -- you do not have to pay a penny of it back. A new bill added another $15.6 billion in Pell Grant funding and increased the maximum award to $5,350 in the 2009-2010 academic year and to $5,550 the following year. The Department of Education has all the details you need on eligibility and how to apply.
The stimulus program (otherwise known as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009) added an extra $2.9 billion to the Weatherization Assistance Program. This program can help you get ready for winter with up to $2500 in free “weatherization” improvements for your home if you qualify. This could include insulation, caulking, a hot water heater blanket, repairs to your heating/cooling system and more.For full details on the plan, visit the U.S. Department of Energy’s Weatherization Assistance Program.
If you are unemployed, you may be able to get 65% of your health insurance premium paid for by Uncle Sam. Anyone losing a job between September 1, 2008 and December 31, 2009 is eligible for up to nine months of coverage under this program. When you lose your job, you are entitled to continue your health insurance coverage through your employer for one year under what is commonly called COBRA. There is $26 billion set aside to help workers who lose their job pay for their COBRA premiums by requiring them to pay just 35% of the premium with the government covering the rest. Contact your state’s Department of Insurance to learn how to take advantage of this program.
If you own a small business that is struggling during this recession, here’s a government giveaway that can help. On June 15, banks began taking applications for the America's Recovery Capital (ARC) loan program. An ARC loan is a $35,000 interest-free loan. Even better, it has no fees, deferred-payments and is fully guaranteed by the Small Business Administration.The goal is to help small businesses keep their doors open while they (and the economy) get back on track. You can use the loan to pay principal and interest on existing debt. Here’s the crazy part…the program is not seeing as many applicants as it thought it would, so they are still taking applications. Learn more from the SBA before it’s too late!
Some good news for a change if you have student loans! Two changes can help you erase that loan debt. For starters, on July 1, 2009, the interest rate on new student loans dropped from 6.8% to 5.6% and will plunge to 3.4% in 2012 as mandated by Congress. Second is the new Public Loan Forgiveness Program. Work full-time for 10 years in public service, and your student loan debt is forgiven. You have to have made 120 monthly payments and only Direct Loans (such as Stafford Loans, Federal Direct Consolidation Loans, etc.) are eligible. Get all the details of the Public Loan Forgiveness Program.
As a small thank you to our men and women in uniform, the IRS has a program called Free File that offers free tax preparation for military members with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of less than $54,000. Most military installations also have volunteers who offer free tax filing help to all active duty members as well as retirees. Check your local base for more information.
You can now get up to $2,760 per year in tax-free transportation benefits from your employer. The stimulus package almost doubled the amount of tax-free transportation benefits you can receive from your employer, from $120 per month to $230 per month. Learn how to take advantage of this free tax prep for military members. You won't pay federal or payroll taxes on these benefits, which can include transit passes, vouchers or fare cards, commuter parking costs, van-pooling and more.
If you are looking for a job, you need all the help you can get these days. Your state’s employment services agency may be able to help. The stimulus program earmarked $400 million to go toward state employment services that match individuals with available jobs. This funding is being used by state agencies as well as Career One-Stop centers in each state. Find out how your state can help you in your job search by contacting your state employment agency. Unfortunately, every state calls its employment agency something different, so here is a handy source with links to every state’s agency.
On the heels of the popular Cash for Clunkers program, the government plans a new program focused on appliances. EnergyStar products -- you've surely seen that yellow label on new appliances -- use 10-30% less energy than regular models. In an effort to spur lagging large appliance sales and improve energy efficiency, the government is offering rebates when you buy a new appliance. Last year Americans saved more than $19 billion on energy bills thanks to energy star products. Details are still a little sketchy, but here is what we know: There is $300 million to be awarded by November and the program should start late this year or early next. Each state will receive $1 per state resident. The rebate is expected to be between $50-$200 for qualifying purchases. We'll be sure to give you all the details the minute they are finalized.
We all get frustrated when we see ways the government wastes our hard-earned money, but today we’ve shared some fantastic government giveaways that can benefit you and your family. Learn about other fantastic freebies and ways to find free money at Dolans.com.