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Grants For Minorities

Ethnic minorities in America face real economic challenges. Working families headed by a minority are twice as likely to be poor or low-income compared to working families headed by non-Hispanic whites.[1] Government agencies and private organizations have recognized this disparity, and there are programs in place to try to address it. Some of these programs do involve direct grants to qualified individuals or families.

Minority grants address the challenges facing underrepresented communities in various aspects of society. Some awards are highly competitive but quite lucrative, so it is wise to understand the range of opportunities to determine if there's a program that is right for you, your family, or your organization or business.

Let's start by agreeing to some definitions. A grant is an amount of money given to someone for a particular purpose. It does not have to be repaid as long as the recipient continues to meet the eligibility requirements. There are no fees. It is not a loan. It is not a gift because there are strings attached. The recipient must use the money for the purpose designated by the grantor.

There are two broad categories of minorities, ethnic and non-ethnic. Ethnic minorities in the US typically include African American, Hispanic, Asian American, and Native American. Examples of non-ethnic minorities are people with disabilities and women pursuing a male-dominated field.

Know the Grantors
The US government ultimately funds most grant programs, but applicants almost never deal directly with the Federal government. The law prevents the government from offering any money specifically for any group based on race, language, religion, gender, etc., a rule designed to prevent discrimination. The government cannot set up a program to benefit a particular ethnic minority, no matter how severe the need seems. They can and do give money to other organizations, often at the state or local level, who may fund programs that use more liberal criteria. In almost every case an applicant will deal with a local agency or organization that manages federal money, not with the government itself. That's a good thing because these local organizations are usually easier to reach and less bureaucratic than federal agencies.

Applicants must understand that the agencies and organizations giving out grants are accountable to some other agency that is funding them, often the US government. That means that there will always be a lot of paperwork and qualifications to meet. That's not the fault of the people at the local agency. There's money involved, and everybody up and down the line has to account for it and be responsible. You just have to work within the system, no matter how complicated it seems.

Identify the Types of Programs
Every grant has a purpose. Nobody is handing out money just for the fun of it! Here are some of the fields where money is likely to be available.

Business
Begin your search for a business grant with local agencies. Contrary to popular opinion and a couple of dozen websites, federal money is not available for upstart minority businesses. The US Small Business Administration does have an 8(a) Business Development program which can offer helpful advice, though it is not minority-specific. Many agencies offer small business loans, but you have to repay a loan. Some local and regional organizations offer small business grants to minorities. One of the better-known examples is Los Angeles based FAME Renaissance. A similar program may be available in your area.

Education
Federal education aid is based on financial need. They are not minority-specific, but because minorities make up a disproportionate number of low-income families, many minority students are eligible for direct assistance. You will have to fill out the Free Application For Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). For more information on government education grants, click here.

The government cannot offer minority-specific education grants, but other organizations can and do. Private foundations like the United Negro College Fund, the Hispanic College Fund, the NAACP, and the American Indian College Fund assist thousands of minority students every year. You can search online for these programs, but in many cases, the best source of information is the financial aid office at the college you plan to attend. They'll have information on all the national programs along with local or college-specific programs that you might not find in a search.

Housing
Housing assistance is characteristically based on financial need, not ethnicity, but as with student assistance, minorities make up a large number of qualified applicants. Most programs are funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) but administered by a local Public Housing Authority (PHA). One special grant that is available to Native Americans is the Indian Housing Block Grant Program which provides a range of affordable options on Indian reservations and Indian areas. To learn more about housing help click here to check out our guide.

For more on grants for minorities