GOVERNMENT WEBSITES: SOMETHING FOR EVERYONE

Estes Park, Colorado

Imagine that you are hiking and you come across a rare Mohave Desert Tortoise. Did you know that you can get a free app from a government web page that allows you to not only submit information on your findings, but also learn all about this threatened species?

These days, government web pages are the primary way that civilians interact with their government. Here is a list of 12 citizen-friendly and engaging Federal sites that will help you find what you need in a quick, efficient and often fun way:

1. NASA @ Home and City
This interactive and animated site allows visitors to learn how technology developed by NASA for space exploration has found wide applications in American homes and aspects of everyday life. Freeze-dried foods, flame-retardant material and shock-absorbent foam used in sports helmets are a just few examples.

2. USA.gov
It’s a tall order to design a website that’s the go-to source for everything which the government has to offer. USA.gov has done a pretty impressive job of it by creating a portal that uses simple language with only five initial choices, including Get it Done Online!, Explore Topics and Find government Agencies. Also featured are a surprising number of free apps.

3. Federal Citizen Information Center
For more than 40 years, the Federal Citizen Information Center (FCIC) has been a one-stop source of answers to questions about consumer problems and government services, offering free, low cost and online publications and posters. A quick perusal turned up: Funerals: A Consumer Guide, Frog Protection: A Homeowner’s Guide, How to Make Adoption an Affordable Option and Backyard Composting: It’s Only Natural.

4. Grants.gov
Grants.gov is the center for information on over 1,000 grant programs and provides access to approximately $500 billion in annual awards available to nonprofit organizations. Applicants can find grant opportunities, register, apply for and track their grants.

5. BAM! Body and Mind
BAM! Body and Mind, the kids’ site from the Center for Disease Control, is a health and safety resource that drives home important topics such as germs, nutrition, puberty and emotional issues by using colorful graphics with clear and attractive text.

6. Benefits.gov
Benefits.gov offers online access to assistance programs using an eligibility prescreening questionnaire or "Benefit Finder." This is used to evaluate the user’s situation and compare it with the criteria for the over 1000 assistance programs available. Each entry provides the visitor with the next steps to apply for the chosen benefit. Also has links to state programs.

7. National Archives
Considering the fact that the National Archives had a gargantuan task organizing hundreds of years of documents and information and making them accessible to the public, their website is a marvel. The page is understated, with only five choices to get the user on the right path.

8. Recreation.gov
Recreation.gov’s motto, “Your gateway to discover America’s great outdoors!” is a good way to describe this daydream-inspiring website. Make reservations for campsites and explore opportunities for activities including boating, biking, horseback riding, visiting historic sites or wildlife viewing. All are searchable by geography. You can also find great articles, such as 9 Reasons to Start Ice Fishing, the Ansel Adams Wilderness Area and Romantic Adventures.

9. National Atlas
National atlas.gov is a GIS-based resource that depicts American patterns, conditions and trends with data from 20 Federal organizations. Make your own layered map with Mapmaker by combining geography with variables such as crime rates, Amtrak stations or food stamp recipients. You can also print out all kinds of maps or order wall maps.

10. Occupational Outlook Handbook
We’ll be seeing a lot of the online version of the Occupational Outlook Handbook because the print version is no longer being published. The good news is that the site is easy to use and still has profiles of hundreds of occupations that include working conditions, employment projections for the coming decade, pay, what they do and how to become one. There’s also information on the best paying, fastest growing and most plentiful jobs (projected).

11. CIA World Factbook
Favored by librarians, the Factbook provides information on the people, government, economy, communications, military and transportation issues for 267 countries. The regional maps, flags and country comparisons are great for school reports.

12. USASpending.gov
Now that you've paid your taxes, you can find out where all that money's going, thanks to the Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. The Office of Management and Budget has established a single, searchable website providing award information including name and location of the receiving entity, the amount and funding agency.

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