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6 Free Loans, Grants, and Programs for Small Businesses

4 minute read

Devon Taylor

By Devon Taylor

We have great news for any small business owner or budding entrepreneur that wants to grow their business. There are multiple low-cost — or free — loans, grants, and other government assistance programs available right now. You might be able to take advantage of these programs to inject some cash into your small business. Searching online for federal stimulus programs or government grants is a great place to start.

Even if you’re not looking to expand your small business, some of these programs are designed to help offset the financial losses you probably suffered during the pandemic. Regardless, it’s definitely worth applying for these, since they usually don’t require any sort of repayment. While there may be some conditions on how you spend the money, you never want to turn down free money. You should conduct an online search for what loan or grant programs your small business might qualify for.

Federal Stimulus Aid

You probably already received this one. President Biden signed a historic $1.9 trillion Covid-19 relief package into law back in March 2021. It would send direct payments of up to $1,400 to individuals. It also extended unemployment insurance supplements by $300 a week. The package also funded vaccine rollouts in the U.S., plus earmarked funds for rental and utility relief.

Technically, the Federal Stimulus package wasn’t targeting small businesses. However, there was no rule saying what you had to use the money for. You were more than welcome to use it as an investment in yourself.

If you didn’t receive the payments in 2021, you should look into why via your IRS.gov account. You may still be able to claim it.

Government Grants

There a good number of government grants that target certain segments of the population. For example, if you were formally incarcerated, are a female person of color, live in an inner-city, or are a part of an other minority, there may be opportunities for you. Some grants are designed to help out small businesses, while others focus on education.

Like most grants, you don’t have to pay these back. The government considers it an investment in the citizens, hoping your small business grows and stimulates your local economy. You can find out more information right here, so start searching online for grants in your state, specific to your own industry or personal situation. The official Grants.gov will also help you search out the right grant to apply for.

Government Contract Assistance

The federal government spends billions every year. A lot of that spending is on goods and services contracted out to third-party companies. For example, they hire construction contractors to build federal buildings. On a smaller scale, they hire local contractors for political meetings and conventions. Small businesses can bid on these contracts, but are often priced out by larger, more efficient outfits.

Luckily, the government offers some programs to even the playing field a bit. For example, the federal government awards 3% of all their contracting to businesses owned by service-disabled veterans. They have similar programs for women-owned small businesses and companies owned by socially or economically disadvantaged people.

Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program

If your business deals with natural resources in any way, you can get some of that federal money. The five categories included in the Small Business Association Natural Resource Sales Assistance Program are:

  1. Timber and other forest products;
  2. Strategic materials;
  3. Royalty oil;
  4. Leases involving rights to minerals, coal, oil, and gas, and;
  5. Surplus real and personal property.

This program uses set-asides to make sure small businesses get their fair share of government sales or leases. Small businesses get to bid on set-asides first, before the major conglomerates come in on the open market. The SBA.gov website has more details about whether your business qualifies, and how to take advantage of this program.

General Small Business Grants

It’s not just the government that offers grants. Non-profit organizations and traditional corporations also dole out money to small businesses that meet specific criteria. For example, the Business Warrior Small Business Loans programs provides loans of $5,000 to $50,000, with really cheap rates to small companies who struggle to get loans from traditional banks.

There’s also the:

The grants or prizes range from $25o to $25,000 for most of these programs. In order to apply, all you need to do is perform a few qualifying tasks, such as fill out a form or take an online course.

Industry-Specific and Diversity Small Business Grants

Some grants cater to specific industries or demographic minorities. For example, maybe you have an online craft store on Etsy that suffered during the pandemic. You could apply to the Etsy Emergency Relief Fund, set up by CERF+, a non-profit dedicated to helping artists.

Annother example is Amazon’s Black Business Accelerator Program, geared towards helping black Amazon sellers. It offers financial support, grants, mentorship, advertising credits, and promotional support.

There are also specific non-profit grants for:

No matter what your small business does or your personal background is, it’s worth searching around the web for grants or low-cost cost loans that can help you business reach the next level.

Rido / Shutterstock

Devon Taylor

Managing Editor

Devon is an experienced writer and a father of three young children. He's simultaneously trying to build college funds and plan for an eventual retirement. He's been in online publishing since 2013 and has a degree from the University of Guelph. In his free time, he loves fanatically following the Blue Jays and Toronto FC, camping with his family, and playing video games.

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