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Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG): Background and Funding

Karen Spar
Specialist in Domestic Social Policy and Division Research Coordinator

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 and are administered at the national level. CSBG and some of these related activities trace their history to the War on Poverty of the 1960s. They are administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

CSBG and related activities are currently operating at FY2010 levels under the latest in a series of continuing resolutions (CRs) for FY2011. The current CR (P.L. 112-4) was enacted on March 2 and expires on March 18, 2011.

The House passed legislation on February 19 (H.R. 1) that would extend funding through the end of FY2011, but at sharply reduced levels for many government programs, including CSBG. As passed by the House, H.R. 1 would provide a total of $405 million for programs authorized under the CSBG Act; this would include $395 million for the block grant (compared to the FY2010 level of $700 million) and $10 million for Rural Community Facilities (which is the same as the FY2010 level). No funding would go to Community Economic Development, and JOLI and IDAs would remain at their FY2010 levels ($2.6 million and $24 million, respectively).

While final action on the FY2011 budget remains uncertain, President Obama released his FY2012 budget proposals on February 14, seeking $350 million for the CSBG next fiscal year (a 50% reduction from FY2010 levels). Coupled with this request is the stated intent to move toward a competitive program; states would award block grant funds among local agencies on a competitive basis, rather than the long-standing mandatory pass-through to designated “eligible entities.” The Administration also requested $20 million for Community Economic Development (down from the FY2010 level of $36 million), $24 million for IDAs (the same as FY2010), and no funding for Rural Community Facilities or JOLI.

When President Obama submitted his FY2011 budget request more than a year ago (on February 1, 2010), he proposed 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). The Administration requested less in total funding for FY2011 than was provided for FY2010 because both Rural Community Facilities and JOLI would have been eliminated. The Administration also did not seek to continue the $1 billion in funding provided to CSBG under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, P.L. 111-5).

According to state-reported data for FY2008 (the data available), the nationwide network of more than 1,000 local CSBG grantees served nearly 16.4 million individuals in 7.1 million low-income families. Local entities reported spending CSBG funds for emergency services (19%); activities to promote self-sufficiency (16%); activities to promote linkages among community groups and other organizations (15%); education (12%); employment (10%); housing (8%); nutrition (7%); income management (6%); health (4%); and other services or activities.

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


Date of Report: March 3, 2011
Number of Pages: 26
Order Number: RL32872
Price: $29.95

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