woman on laptop taking notes
There are many grant programs available to small businesses, depending on a variety of qualifying factors. — Getty Images/Deagreez

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, businesses of all kinds have struggled to get by, especially new businesses. However, if you’re not able to secure the financing you need to get your business off the ground, the U.S. government has programs that might help. There are many federally funded grants and programs designed to bolster American small businesses, especially during these tough times.

Some grants are designated for minority, veteran and women entrepreneurs, while others are earmarked for all small businesses that may want to work on government projects. Each type of grant or federal contracting option has different requirements, but you may qualify for more than one program.

To help get started in your search, here are six free federal grant and contracting programs available to startups and small businesses.

Grants.gov

First and foremost, businesses that are looking for grants should start their search at Grants.gov, which offers the most comprehensive database for federal grant options. Given there are thousands of grants to apply to, there are many opportunities here for companies from all backgrounds. However, before applying for a grant, make sure you are eligible. Grants.gov lists federal grants from agencies including the Department of Energy, Department of the Interior, Health and Human Services, National Science Foundation, NASA and more.

There are countless U.S. government grants for various types of small businesses, many offering funding beyond the startup process and unique to specific regions. If you know where to look, you may find that the government has a grant program that can help bridge the gap between a dream and a growth opportunity.

Service-Disabled Veteran-Owned Small Business Program

The federal government seeks to award at least 3% of all federal contracting dollars to such businesses annually, so this program helps with meeting that target. This federal contracting program offers funding to small business owners who are service-disabled veterans.

In order to be eligible, you must be a small business, be over 50% owned/controlled by one or more service-disabled veterans, have day-to-day operations and long-term goals managed by at least one service-disabled veteran and have a service-connected disability.

Small Business Innovation Research Program (SBIR)

The SBIR offers grants to small businesses so they can participate in federal research and development that has the potential for commercialization. It’s a highly competitive awards-based program that helps businesses achieve scientific excellence and technological innovation.

To qualify for SBIR grants, you must operate a for-profit company and it must be more than 50% owned by

  • at least one U.S. citizen or permanent resident aliens of the U.S.,
  • other for‐profit small business concerns, or
  • multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, private equity firms, or a combination (no one such firm can own or control more than 50% of equity).

There are countless U.S. government grants for various types of small businesses, many offering funding beyond the startup process and unique to specific regions.

Small Business Technology Transfer Program (STTR)

Similar to SBIR, the STTR program focuses on funding research in the research and development arena. However, what separates the STTR is that it “requires the small business to formally collaborate with a research institution.”

To qualify for STTR grants, you must operate a for-profit company and it must be more than 50% owned by

  • at least one U.S. citizen or permanent resident aliens of the U.S.,
  • other for‐profit small business concerns, or
  • multiple venture capital operating companies, hedge funds, private equity firms or a combination (no one such firm can own or control more than 50% of equity).

USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program

The USDA Rural Business Enterprise Grant Program offers technical assistance and training to small businesses that have less than 50 workers, less than $1 million in gross revenue, and are located in rural areas. Grant money is intended for projects benefiting rural public entities, including towns, state agencies, nonprofits, higher education institutions, rural cooperatives and federally recognized tribes.

Women-Owned Small Businesses (WOSB) Federal Contracting

The federal government seeks to award at least 5% of federal contracting dollars to women-owned small businesses annually. Through this SBA funding program, the Office of Women’s Business Ownership provides support to women entrepreneurs by offering business training, counseling, federal contracts and access to credit and capital. Their goal is to offer equal opportunities for all women in business.

In order to be eligible, you must be a small business, be over 50% owned/controlled by women who are U.S. citizens, and have day-to-day operations and long-term goals managed by women.

Additional resources

While the above programs are certainly a good start when it comes to grants and funding options, there are also additional resources that may be helpful especially for minority- and women-owned businesses. These include:

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Follow us on Instagram for more expert tips & business owners stories.

Reopening Your Business

Join us Wednesday, September 23 at 1 p.m. ET for our virtual CO— Blueprint: Recruiting and Managing Employees in a Virtual World.



Published September 14, 2020