What is the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA)?

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) is a compendium of assistance programs offered by various U.S. government agencies to the American public.

The Basics of the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) 

Many of the U.S. federal government's 72 agencies and departments offer grants, loans, scholarships, property, counseling, and other kinds of assistance within the U.S. Recipients include individuals, state and local governments (including the District of Columbia), federally recognized Native American tribal governments, companies, and nonprofit organizations. These programs do not include foreign aid.

Key Takeaways

  • The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) is a compendium of assistance programs offered by U.S. government agencies to the American public.
  • The 2018 edition of the CFDA lists 2,293 domestic assistance programs, most offering some sort of financial aid.
  • The CFDA, which is available online at beta.sam.gov, offers details on the programs and contact info for the sponsoring agency.
  • CFDA-listed programs are identified by a five-digit number.

Since 1984, information regarding domestic assistance programs has been compiled by the General Services Administration, which publishes it in the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA). The CFDA is available online at beta.sam.gov (formerly CFDA.gov), and can be downloaded; the latest edition is dated November 2018.

As of that edition, the federal government offers a total of 2,293 domestic assistance programs. The Department of Health and Human Services by far outpaces other agencies, offering 521 programs, or 22.7% of the total. Other agencies offering a high volume of assistance programs include the Department of the Interior, the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Justice, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Examples of Programs in the CFDA

Many, but not all, programs offer financial assistance. Each program listed online is assigned a unique number by agency and program, enabling data and funding transparency. Each CFDA number contains five digits and appears in the following format: ##.###.

Examples of individual programs include the Department of Education's Federal Pell Grant Program (84.063), which subsidizes undergraduate education for students with financial need; the Department of Health and Human Services' Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (93.558) program, often referred to simply as "welfare," which supplements the earnings of low-income families with children; and the Department of Homeland Security's flood insurance (97.022) program, which is administered through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

These are multibillion-dollar programs, but smaller ones exist to benefit small businesses, for example. The Small Business Administration offers 23 programs, including the Federal and State Technology Partnership Program (FAST, 59.058), which is awarded "to strengthen the technological competitiveness of small business concerns in the U.S."

Once you identify a federal assistance listing that you’re interested in, you can link directly to grant opportunities on Grants.gov or follow up with that specific agency using the contact information in the CFDA.

Special Considerations for the CFDA

People are often unaware of all the types of federal assistance programs in existence, eligibility requirements, or how to apply. Not surprisingly, phone, internet, and social media scams have cropped up claiming to offer "easy government grant money" in exchange for personal information or (of course) a small fee.

The real CDFA does not solicit awards or applications. One quick way to sniff out a scammer: someone claiming to be from the "Community for Federal Domestic Assistance." No such organization exists; CDFA stands for the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance.