The federal government has added a feature to its benefits.gov website that makes it easier for American Indian and Alaska Native tribes, organizations and individuals to find federal benefits and services for which they may be eligible.
The Native One-Stop portal lists 32 programs available to AIAN tribes and individuals including benefits such as Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) Financial Assistance and Social Services. Direct Home Loans for Native Americans, Health Professions Pregraduate Scholarship Program for Indians, Housing Improvement Program, and Weatherization Assistance Program for Low-Income Persons.
The portal also selects from those 32 programs the 14 from which AIAN youth may benefit, including Assistance for Indian Children with Severe Disabilities, Indian Health Service (IHS) Preparatory Scholarship Program, Indian Higher Education Grant Program, and Native American Congressional Internships, and makes them easily accessible through a separate link.
Clicking on the title of a program leads to a page that gives a brief description of the program, general program requirements and next steps, which include a description of the application process and program contact information. The program contact may be a phone number, but more often it is a website. Often the website or a link in the program contact section will take you to an online application.
Most of these opportunities are open to tribes and tribal agencies and organizations, but some, most notably the scholarship and grant programs, are open to individuals.
A very important caveat regarding this site is that it is NOT a one-stop portal for all benefits available to AIAN tribes, agencies or individuals. The site lists only those programs (with a few exceptions such as the weatherization assistance program) that are restricted to AIAN recipients.
However, myriad other federal benefits are available to AIAN populations because those benefits are not restricted by race or ethnicity.
Fortunately, the benefits.gov website includes a feature to help find those other programs. The benefit finder is accessible from the first page of benefits.gov.
It works like this: The potential applicant fills out several pages of online information, beginning with core questions such as “What types of benefits are you looking for? What is your date of birth? and so on. At the end of the questionnaire, a button will take you to a list of benefits for which you may be eligible and that list will most likely include programs that are not included among the programs listed at Native One-Stop.
The benefit finder is extremely sensitive to the information the applicant provides. If, for example, an applicant says that he is a high school graduate not enrolled in a college, he will get different answers than if he says he is a high school graduate who is enrolled in college. Submitting two different sets of information would allow the applicant to see the benefits to which she might be entitled now, as well as the benefits to which she might be entitled when she was enrolled in college.
The Benefits.gov website provides other ways to find programs. A Browse by Category button gives a list of 74 education/training programs, for example, though it does not show for which you could be eligible.
A Browse by State button provides an interactive map. Clicking on a state will bring up a list of federally-funded but state-run programs in that state.
An applicant could also browse by federal agency to find out, for example, what programs the U.S. Department of Education offers.
Benefits.gov has a wealth of information on benefits and services. However, it requires the person using it to be thorough in searching to find all programs that could be useful and to be persistent in completing the application process.