In most countries of the world, ex-offenders usually find it difficult to integrate into the society and in some cases find it difficult to pick up jobs hence they are left to start their own businesses. But you will agree with me that starting a business doesn’t come cheap.
You have to raise start-up capital and finding startup capital might not come easy because most people would not want to trust an ex-offender. So also, if as an ex-offender you want to go to school, you might find it difficult to raise money because you have to work hard to win the trust of people or organizations who can sponsor you or loan you money to go to school.
But there is good news, as an ex-offender, there are specific grants you can access if you want to start a business. A grant is a way the government funds your ideas and projects. Grants support critical recovery initiatives, innovative research, and many other programs listed in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA).
Available Grants for Ex-Offenders to Start Business
Here are some of the available grants that an ex-offender can access if they want to start their business;
One of the grant opportunities that an ex-offender can access in the United States is the grant offered by Grants.gov. The Grants.gov program was established in 2002, as part of the President’s Management Agenda.
Managed by the Department of Health and Human Services, Grants.gov is an E-Government initiative operating under the governance of the Office of Management and Budget. The three general types of federal grants to state and local governments are categorical grants, block grants, and general revenue sharing.
GrantWatch is yet another reliable grant database that an ex-offender can access to start their business in the United States. The GrantWatch is what you can call a grant system, and the system features details on nearly 28,000 grant programs, including almost 1,200 small business grants.
As an ex-offender, you will need to subscribe to the service to access the full database. Membership costs between $18 per week to $199 per year. However, there is a free membership option available that can provide you with limited information about some grants at no cost.
Federal Small Business Grants
One good thing about the Federal Small Business Grants is that ex-offenders are not exempted from accessing the grant. Please note that as an ex-offender, you may not find many federal grant programs designed to help former felons get a second chance either.
If you are interested in federal business grants, consider searching Grants.gov first. Beyond small business grants, remember that you may be able to access other types of federal grant funding as well. You can as well take advantage of the Pell Grant.
This is a need-based form of federal student aid that might help you. You could use a Pell Grant to cover the cost of schooling for traditional college classes or trade-related training that could provide you with the certification you need to start your desired business.
State and Regional Small Business Grants
Another grant that ex-offenders can access if they want to start their business in the United States is the grant that is offered by their state. In the United States, most states, counties, and cities may also have small business grants available for entrepreneurs.
You may also be able to find grant programs designed with ex-offenders in mind (or at least those that don’t exclude people with felony records) by searching for resources through organizations such as economic development centers, local churches, or religious organizations, and state, county, and city government websites.
For example, New Mexico offers its residents several stimulus and recovery programs. The state’s Business Recovery Grant Program provides recipients with up to $100,000 in grant funding to cover rent, lease, or mortgage payments. There are many small business grant programs available in various locations throughout the U.S.
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest
FedEx Small Business Grant Contest is yet another grant opportunity that ex-offenders can access if they want to start their business in the United States. Through the FedEx Small Business Grant Contest, ten small businesses receive grants of up to $50,000 and $4,000 in FedEx Office print and small business services. Other winners may receive smaller business grants (up to $20,000) and other perks as well.
Your Correctional Facility
Another grant program that ex-offenders can access if they want to start their business is the grant that is offered by their correctional facility. This is how it works, if you are currently incarcerated, take advantage of any resources that exist inside the prison system before your release.
Interestingly, many correctional facilities in the United States have programs that help inmates gain job skills that can also be useful in starting (and running) a small business. For example, you might be able to learn how to use various software apps or take a technical course.
7. Your Community
Lastly, another grant program that ex-offenders can access if they want to start their business is the grants offered by their community. Most communities have programs designed specifically to help ex-offenders start businesses especially small-scale and locally-based businesses. The following resources can help you find out if any programs exist near you:
- Your state government website/offices
- Your county government website/offices
- Your city government website/offices
- Local churches, temples, or other religious organizations
- State and local economic development agencies/organizations
Most charity organizations that offer grants usually work with community leaders and you might just find one in your community. Trust me, this is a great place to start when looking for business grants as an ex-offender in the United States.