Government Agencies & Programs

Government Agencies and What They Do

Government agencies regulate many aspects of our daily lives, including education, transportation, social services, taxes and the environment. Employees of government agencies help develop public policy and enforce local laws and regulations.

There are hundreds of federal, state and local government agencies. Some examples include the U.S. Department of Labor, which helps steer labor policy and administers the federal unemployment insurance program. The Federal Housing Administration sets standards for construction and underwriting and insures home construction loans. The U.S. Department of Education, meanwhile, recognizes education accreditors, guarantees and issues student loans and sets educational standards. Here a few more federal agencies:

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

The EPA acts to protect the environment so that people living in the United States have safe air, water and land. The EPA does this through studies, developing policies, education, and enforcing existing regulations and laws. Monitoring greenhouse gases, waste management and developing protection against radiation are some of this agency's other duties. The EPA also provides grants for research and program development meant to clean up communities to protect citizens' health and well-being.

Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF)

The ATF is a federal law enforcement agency that addresses crimes involving firearms and explosives as well as illegally produced or distributed alcohol and tobacco products. In addition to law enforcement powers, the ATF also provides education and guidance in the manufacture and sales of the items it regulates, including the shipping and import of explosives. It also issues licenses to gun dealers.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

Outside of the Internal Revenue Service, the SSA is perhaps the other federal agency most Americans will deal with at some point. The SSA is responsible for the management of the Social Security retirement and disability programs as well as the Supplemental Security Income public benefits program that assists very low-income disabled and elderly people.

In some cases, individuals who apply for social security benefits have their claims denied. They may want to seek legal help to appeal. Lower level appeals take place within local Social Security offices, but may eventually reach a federal courthouse to be heard by a judge.

Applying for a Liquor License

Liquor licensing can be tricky with multiple layers of regulations that govern the sale of alcohol. Businesses that sell alcohol directly to consumers, but do not manufacture it, often must apply for a license or permit.

When a business wants to import alcohol, or wants to produce it, it may need a state license before opening the business. Businesses that produce wine, beer or spirits may also need to comply with federal and local laws. Federal enforcement typically falls to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

While individuals can work directly with government entities, consulting with an attorney may be beneficial.

The information on this page is meant to provide a general overview of the law. The laws in your state and/or city may deviate significantly from those described here. If you have specific questions related to your situation you should speak with a local attorney.

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