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Trends and Projections for U.S. Federal Government Grant Funding, Part 1 of 2

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 @ 15:03 PM / by Alisyn Franzen

(This article is part one of a two-part series on the trends and projections for U.S. federal government grant funding. Part two of this series will highlight the effects of the recent U.S. federal government’s sequestration cuts and predictions for the future of grant funding.)

In the United States, there are 26 federal agencies that offer more than 1,000 grant programs annually. These programs are placed into 21 different categories. (For a full list of the 26 federal agencies that provide grants and the various grant categories, click here.)

The uncertain state of the U.S. economy and the most recent announcement of sequestration cuts have raised many questions about the future of the federal government’s grant spending. In this article, we highlight government grant funding trends over the past several years, and we discuss what these trends might mean for grant funding and the grant funding process. We also examine the potential impact of the recent sequestration.


How has government grant spending changed over time?

According to, which defines grants as “funds awarded to a non-federal entity for a defined public or private purpose in which services are not rendered to the federal government [and] … includes Cooperative Agreements,” a decade ago (FY 2003), the federal government spent $493.7 billion on grants. In FY 2008, that amount had decreased to $419.5 billion; by FY 2012, $537.1 billion was spent, showing a significant increase in how much was spent between FY 2008-2012. The chart below shows the total amount of money, in billions of dollars, that the 26 government agencies have spent on grant funding over the last five years.


If one further breaks down these numbers, he or she will notice that federal grant spending peaked in FY 2009 ($664.4 billion). Much of that year’s increase can be attributed to the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, which was enacted in February 2009. As of March 1, 2013, approximately $250.8 billion has been paid out since the act’s enactment. Since then, there have been major cuts, with some federal agencies suffering more than others.

The information in the graph below is from and represents how much the federal government spent on grants from the top 10 funding agencies, and how much each of those agencies spent during each of the last five fiscal years (2008-2012), in billions of dollars. The lines show movement of each agency within the rankings from year to year.


After looking at the table above, it is obvious that the Department of Health and Human Services is consistently the top grant-awarding government agency each year, followed by either the Department of Transportation or the Department of Education. Historically, over all funding fiscal years, the top three funding agencies have been the Department of Health and Human Services ($3,927.9B), the Department of Transportation ($672.9B), and the Department of Education ($622.3B). (Lifetime numbers are not included in the chart above.) The fourth most-funded agency is the Department of Agriculture at $295.8B, which demonstrates an enormous gap from the $622.3B that the #3 Department of Education has awarded over its lifetime.

By examining the numbers in the above graphs, one will notice a definite downward trend in the amount of money being spent by the government to fund programs that have long relied on federal support. In part two of this blog, we will discuss how sequestration cuts will potentially further affect federal grant funding and what these trends mean for grant funding and the grant funding process.

While grant funding continues to be jeopardized by cuts, one thing stands true – The Grant Helpers are here to help you wherever you need it most. If you have a simple question, feel free to ask one of our experts. If you would like help in finding funding, writing a grant, developing programs, or in any other part of the grant writing process, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experts today. We have experts in municipality, educational, and non-profit areas, and our initial advice and consultations are always free.

Topics: grant trend, funding trend, federal grant budget, government grant budget, government spending, government grant, federal grant, federal spending, sequestration cut, sequester cut

Alisyn Franzen

Written by Alisyn Franzen

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