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Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG): Background and Funding

Karen Spar
Specialist in Domestic Social Policy

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG) provide federal funds to states, territories, and tribes for distribution to local agencies to support a wide range of community-based activities to reduce poverty. Smaller related programs—Community Economic Development, Rural Community Facilities, Job Opportunities for Low-Income Individuals (JOLI), and Individual Development Accounts (IDAs)—also provide grants for anti-poverty efforts. CSBG and some of these related activities trace their history to the War on Poverty of the 1960s. The programs currently are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

President Obama submitted a budget request for FY2011 on February 1, 2010, proposing total funding of $760 million for CSBG and related activities ($700 million for the block grant, $36 million for Community Economic Development, and $24 million for IDAs). Of the $36 million requested for Community Economic Development, up to $20 million would go to a new multiagency Healthy Food Financing Initiative. The Administration requested less in total funding for CSBG and related activities for FY2011 than was provided for FY2010 because both Rural Community Facilities and JOLI would be eliminated. Moreover, the Administration is not seeking to continue the special funding provided to CSBG under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5).

ARRA appropriated $1 billion for CSBG and required states to distribute 99% of these funds to local eligible entities (generally known as Community Action Agencies). The law further required states to use 1% of the CSBG/ARRA funds for “benefits enrollment coordination” activities, to identify and enroll individuals and families in federal, state, or local benefit programs for which they are eligible. ARRA funds must be obligated by September 30, 2011.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on August 2, 2010, reported S. 3686, a FY2011 spending bill for the Departments of Labor, HHS, and Education. The bill includes a total of $792 million for CSBG and related activities ($700 million for the block grant; $55 million for Community Economic Development, of which up to $20 million may be used for the Healthy Food Financing Initiative; $10 million for Rural Community Facilities; $2.6 million for JOLI; and $24 million for IDAs). The House Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations Subcommittee approved FY2011 funding levels on July 15, including $800 million for the CSBG; however, recommendations for CSBG-related activities have not been released.

Subsequent to enactment of ARRA, Congress passed a consolidated appropriations law (P.L. 111- 117) that provided a total of $773 million in regular funding for CSBG and related activities in FY2010 ($700 million for the block grant, $36 million for Community Economic Development, $24 million for IDAs, $10 million for Rural Community Facilities, and $2.6 million for JOLI). The conference agreement directed HHS to report to the House and Senate Appropriations Committees on the use of the benefit enrollment coordination funds provided under ARRA and whether they achieved their intended purpose.

The legislative authorization of appropriations for CSBG and related activities expired at the end of FY2003, although Congress has continued to fund the programs through annual appropriations laws. No reauthorization proposal has been introduced since the 109
th Congress.

Date of Report: August 31, 2010
Number of Pages: 23
Order Number: RL32872
Price: $29.95

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