Exploring Eligibility: Federal Grants for State and Local Governments

If you’re looking to apply for a federal grant on behalf of a state or local government, you have several paths open to you.

The first and most obvious is the Grants.gov Search feature that allows you to narrow and tailor your query by agency, category, funding instrument type, and – most importantly – by eligibility.

Exploring Eligibility blog series

For example, on the Grants.gov Search page, you can choose to search only for grants for city or township governments, county governments, state governments – or for any combination of the three.

When you find a grant opportunity that interests you, you should double-check that you are indeed eligible by reading the funding opportunity announcement (FOA) carefully.

At the time of this writing, cities, townships, counties, and states are eligible to apply for over 1,000 grant opportunities posted on Grants.gov.

What are the other ‘paths’ to finding local government grants?

Federal grants are also awarded to states as block grants or pass-through funding. Let’s tackle these terms one at a time.

Federal Block Grants

We discuss block grants in this article and highlight several examples, but suffice it to say that a block grant “refers to grant programs that provide federal assistance for broadly defined functions, such as community development or social services.” Further:

“Block grants allow the grant recipient more discretion than other grants in determining how to use the funds to meet a broader program goal. Federal block grants are typically for U.S. state or territory governments and allow these government entities to determine specifically how to allocate and spend the funding.”

For example, a federal block grant designed to boost state special education programs would be awarded to state governments to be dispersed at their discretion to cities, towns, or other local entities, depending on the federal grant’s requirements. In such a case, a city or town would apply for the federal grant through their state government – not through the federal government.

So my state also awards grants using funding from the federal government?

That’s correct. Another term that’s relevant is “pass-through funding”. This refers to…

“…funds issued by a federal agency to a state agency or institution that are then transferred to other state agencies, units of local government, or other eligible groups per the award eligibility terms. The state agency or institution is referred to as the “prime recipient” of the pass-through funds. The secondary recipients are referred to as “subrecipients.” The prime recipient issues the subawards as competitive or noncompetitive as dictated by the prime award terms and authorizing legislation.”

If you’re searching for grants on behalf of a local township, for example, you would apply through the “pass-through entity” – often the state government – to be a “subrecipient” of the federal grant.

The challenge with finding such federal funding at the state level is that your state might not have a single grants-focused website, like Grants.gov.

Finding Federal funding at the state level

In many cases, grants are posted by individual state departments or divisions. Take, for one example, the state of Florida. Grants for environmental programs can be found on the website of the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. Grants for cultural programs can be found on the website of the Division of Cultural Affairs.

That’s not to say, however, that every state takes the same approach.

Maryland, for example, has a website devoted to grants and lists all of its state grant programs on a single webpage.

It sounds like finding state grants isn’t always as easy as locating federal grants.

Unfortunately, this can be true in some cases. To find federal grant funding distributed at the state level, you will often have to do a bit more legwork.

We recommend conducting a variety of keyword searches on your state’s web portals – specifically, those portals or websites relevant to your funding needs.

We also recommend picking up the phone and calling a state government office whose focus intersects with your organization’s work. Ask about available grant programs and be sure to find out where the grant opportunities related to your work are typically published. After several such conversations, you will hopefully have a go-to list of websites to monitor for new grant postings.

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