7 Government Small Business Grants to Apply For in May 2024

Secure your small business's future by applying for one of these popular government grants.

Seeking funding is a right of passage for many small business owners. While there are endless private and government-backed loans to choose from, if you’re looking to evade strict repayment terms and steep interest rates, it could be worth considering government business grants.

Government business grants are financial awards issued by federal, state, or local authorities. There are thousands of grants up for grabs through government website portals, but since this type of financing is designed to support the public, their eligibility criteria tend to be quite specific.

If you’re interested in pursuing this type of finance, we round up some government grants small businesses can apply for in May, including their specialisms, funding limits, and deadlines. We also offer some advice for writing your application, to make sure your proposal is as competitive as possible.

In this guide: 

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1. Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) program

  • For: Small businesses interested in carrying out innovation research
  • Funding limit: Over $2 million
  • Deadline: September 5, January 5, and April 5

The Small Business Innovation Research program was designed by the Small Business Administration to encourage US businesses to engage in Federal research and development. The competitive program is open to select small businesses and specifically encourages participation from women and socially or economically disadvantaged persons.

To be eligible for the SBIR program, your business must be for profit, be over 50% owned by permanent residents of the US, and have fewer than 500 employees. To apply for the grant, you need to register your business with SBIR, if you haven’t already, submit a proposal before one of the program’s tri-annual deadlines, and then respond to feedback and refine your concept if necessary.

Learn more about the SBIR grant, and how to apply here.

2. Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) programs

  • For: Small businesses that have paired up with a research institution
  • Funding limit: Over $2 million
  • Deadline: September 5, January 5, and April 5

Like the SBIR, the Small Business Technology Transfer program is a government program focused on developing innovative solutions to pressing problems across the US. This type of funding aims to facilitate cooperative research and development efforts research between small business concerns and non-profit US research institutions, with the potential for commercialization of innovative technological solutions.

However, unlike the SBIR, this program requires the small business applicant to be teamed up with a non-profit research institution already, which typically takes the form of a university or Federal Laboratory. The STTR program is also focused on the transfer of technology from the research institution, rather than just the research alone.

Aside from being paired with a research institution, STTR’s eligibility criteria are nearly identical to SBIR’s.

Learn more about the STTR grant, and how to apply here.

3. Women-Owned Small Business (WOSB) Federal Contracting Program

  • For: Women-owned businesses
  • Funding limit: $4 million for service contracts and $6.5 million for manufacturing contracts
  • Deadline: Rolling

The Women-Owned Small Business Federal Contracting Program was designed to build a level playing field for female business owners. The contracts are designated for specific industries where female-owned businesses are underrepresented. You can see which industries are eligible for the grant program here.

To be eligible for this program, you need to run a small business, have the business be at least 51% owned and controlled by US women, and have an economically disadvantaged woman manage the day-to-day operations and make long-term decisions.

Learn more about WOSB, and how to apply here.

4. 8(a) Business Development Program

  • For: Socially and economically disadvantaged business owners
  • Funding limit:$7 million for acquisitions assigned manufacturing NAICS codes and $4.5 million for all other acquisitions
  • Deadline: Rolling

The 8(a) program is a nine-year program created by the SBA to financially support firms owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals. It’s designed to span nine years and helps eligible businesses access new business paths from government contracting.

Since the creation of the program in 1970, it has helped disadvantaged businesses gain access to billions of dollars in funding. To be eligible for the government grant, you must run a small business, be at least 51% owned and controlled by US citizens who are socially and economically disadvantaged, have a personal net worth of under $805 thousand, and demonstrate good character.

Learn more about the 8(a) business development program, and how to apply here.

5. HUBZone Program

  • For: Small businesses in historically under-utilized business zones
  • Funding limit: $3.5 million for products and services, and $5.5 million per contract for manufacturing
  • Deadline: Rolling

The HUBZone program is a SBA initiative designed to promote economic development and job growth in historically underutilized business zones (HUBZones). The program does so by offering financial grants to business owners operating within these communities.

To be eligible for this business grant you need to run a small business, have the business be at least 51% owned and controlled by a Community Development Corporation, an agricultural cooperative, an Alaska Native corporation, a Native Hawaiian organization, or an Indian tribe, have its main office located in a HUBZone, and have at least 35% of it employees living in the HUBZone for at least 45 days before applying.

Learn more about the HUBZone program, and how to apply here.

6. Small State Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI)

  • For: Small businesses run by socially and economically disadvantaged individuals
  • Funding limit: $20 million
  • Deadline: Rolling

The Small State Business Credit Initiative is a federal program designed to support entrepreneurship across the US. The grant program is provided by the US Department of the Treasury and was expanded by President Biden’s American Rescue Plan Act in 2021, providing an extra $10 billion in funding to eligible businesses.

In addition to providing capital support to small businesses, SSBCI can also provide technical assistance to eligible businesses through its Technical Assistance (TA) Grant Program. The SSBCI is available to businesses owner-occupied small businesses with 500 employees or less, and is specifically tailored to small businesses owned and controlled by socially and economically disadvantaged (SEDI) owners and very small businesses with less than 10 employees.

Learn more about the SSBCI program, and apply here.

7. U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA)

  • For: Small businesses run by minorities
  • Funding limit: Up to $350,000 for the first 10 months
  • Deadline: Rolling

The U.S. Department of Commerce Minority Business Development Agency (MBDA) is a Federal grants program designed to promote the growth of minority-owned businesses. The ultimate aim of the program is to provide minority business enterprises (MBEs) with access to funds, contracts, and market opportunities both in the US and globally.

To be eligible for MBDA assistance, a business must be owned or controlled by one or more socially or economically disadvantaged persons. The majority of business owners must also identify as racial minorities.

To apply for an MBDA business grant, you need to register your business with SAM.gov and Grants.gov if you haven’t already, align your proposal with the stated requirements, and submit your application before the deadline.

Learn more about the grant, and how to apply here.

Tips For Perfecting Your Government Grant Application

Government grants offer a golden opportunity to businesses looking to grow or recover their business. However, due to the competitive nature of the financing, you need to ensure your grant proposal is polished and stands out from the crowd.

We understand that writing a grant application might seem like a daunting process, especially if you’re a first-timer. So, to give your proposal the best chance possible of succeeding, take heed of these pointers below.

  • Give yourself enough time – You don’t want to be writing a grant application against the clock. Writing a proposal can take much longer than you expect, so to account for unexpected hold-ups we recommend giving yourself at least 45 days to complete your written application.
  • Follow the instructions carefully – Don’t go off-piste when writing your application. Make sure you include all the information requested by the agency, and present it in the correct format.
  • Be as concise and clear as possible – Ensure your application is written in clear, simple language, and use as many candid examples as possible to paint a clear image for your reader. If you use any graphs or imagery, make sure you label them clearly as well.
  • Keep the audience in mind – The likelihood is that the reviewer won’t already be familiar with your business. To make sure you won’t gloss over necessary information write the proposal for an audience that’s hearing about your business for the first time.
  • Develop a proofreading strategy – You don’t want to hamper your application’s success with silly mistakes like typos or grammatical errors. So, to ensure your proposal looks polished carefully proofread the application or outsource the service to a professional.
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Written by:
Isobel O'Sullivan (BSc) is a senior writer at Tech.co with over four years of experience covering business and technology news. Since studying Digital Anthropology at University College London (UCL), she’s been a regular contributor to Market Finance’s blog and has also worked as a freelance tech researcher. Isobel’s always up to date with the topics in employment and data security and has a specialist focus on POS and VoIP systems.
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