In the United States, federal assistance is defined as any federal program, project, service, or activity provided by the federal government that directly assists or benefits the American public in the areas of education, health, public safety, public welfare, and public works, among others. The assistance is provided and administered by federal government agencies, such as the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, through special programs to recipients.
In order to provide federal assistance in an organized manner, the federal government provides assistance through federal agencies. It is the agency's responsibility to adequately provide assistance, as well as manage, account, and monitor the responsible use of federal funds which were utilized for that assistance. The agencies then supply the assistance to beneficiaries, such as states, hospitals, poverty-stricken families, etc., through hundreds of individual programs.
Programs administer assistance by "granting" or "awarding" a portion of the assistance to recipients. These are called federal grants or awards. Recipients must first apply for the award directly to the federal agency which administers the program. The agency must then determine the amount of assistance to be awarded and notifies the recipient of the award. Given the enormous size of federal assistance provided, the Federal government has designed different types of grants, each with its own unique way of awarding and operating. These include project grants, formula grants, and earmark grants.
Due to the extensive amount of assistance provided by the federal government, the Federal agencies rely on numerous monitoring activities performed by themselves, pass-through entities, and external sources. The most common monitoring procedure used is the single audit, which is an annual examination of a recipient's operations and records in order to determine whether or not the recipient complied with laws and regulations applicable to the assistance received.