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Monday, March 28, 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 the related activities trace their history to the War on Poverty of the 1960s. They are currently administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

CSBG and related activities are now operating at FY2010 levels under the latest in a series of continuing resolutions (CRs) for FY2011. The current CR (P.L. 112-6) is the sixth temporary funding measure enacted since the beginning of FY2011; it expires on April 8.

The House passed legislation on February 19 (H.R. 1) that would have extended funding through the end of FY2011, but at sharply reduced levels for many programs, including CSBG. As passed by the House, H.R. 1 contained a total of $405 million for programs authorized under the CSBG Act; this included $395 million for the block grant (compared to the FY2010 level of $700 million) and $10 million for Rural Community Facilities (the same as the FY2010 level). No funding would have gone to Community Economic Development, and JOLI and IDAs would have stayed at FY2010 levels ($2.6 million and $24 million, respectively). On March 9, the Senate failed to pass the House version of H.R. 1 and also failed to pass a Senate amendment (S.Amdt. 149) that would have kept CSBG and related activities at their current (FY2010) levels for the balance of FY2011.

While final action on the FY2011 budget remains uncertain, President Obama released his FY2012 proposals on February 14, seeking $350 million for CSBG (a 50% reduction from FY2010). 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 $36 million in FY2010), $24 million for IDAs (same as FY2010), and no funding for Rural Community Facilities or JOLI.

According to state-reported data for FY2008 (the latest data available), the nationwide network of more than 1,000 local CSBG grantees served nearly 16.4 million individuals in 7.1 million lowincome 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 most of these programs expired at the end of FY2003. (JOLI is permanently authorized.) No reauthorization proposal has been introduced since the 109
th Congress.

Date of Report: March 21, 2011
Number of Pages: 27
Order Number: RL32872
Price: $29.95

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