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Term Definition

On this website, we use the term agency to mean any Federal department, commission, or other U.S. government entity. Agencies can have multiple sub-agencies. For example, the National Park Service is a sub-agency of the U.S. Department of the Interior.


Assignment of appropriated federal funds to specific states, territories, tribes or local units of government. Note: Not all agencies allocate disaster funds in advance of obligations.


A publicly available document by which a federal agency makes known its intentions to award funds. Announcements may be known as program announcements, notices of funding availability, solicitations, or other names depending on the agency and type of program.


The process by which Congress designates and approves spending for a specific purpose (e.g., a project or program). Most government spending is determined through appropriation bills each year. These bills must be passed by Congress and signed by the President.

When an appropriation is not passed by Congress before the beginning of the fiscal year, a “continuing resolution” (often referred to as a “CR”) may be enacted to avoid a government shutdown. A CR is a law that provides stopgap funding for agencies until their regular appropriations are passed.


Money the Federal government has promised to pay a recipient. Funding may be awarded to a company, organization, government entity (i.e., state, local, tribal, federal, or foreign), or individual. It may be obligated (promised) in the form of a contract, grant, loan, insurance, direct payment, etc.

Award Amount

The amount that the Federal government has promised to pay (obligated) a recipient, because it has signed a contract, awarded a grant, etc.

See also:

Award Type

The Federal government can distribute funding in several forms, including contracts, grants, loans, insurance, and direct payments. Award Type is a classification that provides more information about the structure of the award. Examples include:

  • Purchase Order (a type of contract)
  • Definitive Contract (a type of contract)
  • Block Grant (a type of grant)
  • Direct Loan (a type of loan)