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Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Social Services Block Grant: Background and Funding

Karen E. Lynch
Analyst in Social Policy

The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is a flexible source of funds that states use to support a wide variety of social services activities. States have broad discretion over the use of these funds. In FY2008, the most recent year for which expenditure data are available, the largest expenditures for services under the SSBG were for foster care, child care, and special services for the disabled.

Congress has passed a series of continuing resolutions to provide federal funding for FY2011, the most recent of which, P.L. 112-4, is scheduled to expire on March 18, 2011. Each of the continuing resolutions for FY2011 has maintained funding for the SSBG at the FY2010 rate of $1.7 billion, the same amount requested in the FY2011 President’s Budget. On February 19, 2011, the House passed H.R. 1, the Full-Year Continuing Appropriations Act. If enacted, this bill would maintain SSBG funding at the $1.7 billion level for FY2011. On March 9, 2011, the Senate voted to reject H.R. 1 and Senate Amendment 149 to H.R. 1 (in the nature of a substitute), which would also have funded the SSBG at $1.7 billion. While final action on the FY2011 budget remains uncertain, President Obama released his FY2012 Budget on February 14, 2011. The FY2012 President’s Budget proposes to maintain SSBG funding at $1.7 billion in FY2012. In fact, the SSBG has received annual appropriations of $1.7 billion in every year since FY2002. Since FY2001, annual appropriations for the SSBG have included a provision stipulating that states may transfer up to 10% of their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grants to the SSBG. In addition to funding from annual appropriations, the SSBG received supplemental appropriations in FY2006 and FY2009 for necessary expenses resulting from major natural disasters.

The SSBG is permanently authorized in Title XX of the Social Security Act (SSA). The 111
th Congress amended Title XX of the SSA in the health care reform legislation signed into law by President Obama on March 23, 2010, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA; P.L. 111-148). This law inserted a new subtitle on elder justice into Title XX, which was itself retitled as Block Grants to States for Social Services and Elder Justice. The health reform law also amended Title XX by establishing two demonstration projects to address the workforce needs of health care professionals and a new competitive grant program to support the early detection of medical conditions related to environmental health hazards. The purpose of this report is to provide background and funding information about the SSBG.

Date of Report: March 10, 2011
Number of Pages: 25
Order Number: 94-953
Price: $29.95

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