Search Penny Hill Press

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

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 (CED), Rural Community Facilities (RCF), Job Opportunities for Low-Income Individuals (JOLI), and Individual Development Accounts (IDAs)—also support anti-poverty efforts. CSBG and some of these related activities trace their roots to the War on Poverty, launched in the 1960s. Today, they are administered at the federal level by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2012 (P.L. 112-74), provided full-year funding for CSBG and related agencies for FY2012. The law maintained the block grant and RCF at approximately their FY2011 levels, provided an increase for CED, eliminated JOLI, and reduced spending for IDAs. Specifically, after implementation of an across-the-board rescission of 0.189%, the act provides approximately $677 million for CSBG (which is just slightly less than FY2011); $30 million for CED (up from $18 million in FY2011, but up to $10 million of the FY2012 appropriation may be used for the Administration’s Healthy Foods Financing Initiative); $5 million for RCF (same as FY2011); no funding for JOLI (which had received $1.6 million in FY2011); and $20 million for IDAs (down from $24 million in FY2011).

President Obama has submitted his FY2013 budget request to Congress, proposing a sharp reduction in funding for CSBG from its final FY2012 level of $677 million to $350 million. Budget documents characterize this proposal as one of several “tough cuts to worthy programs” necessary to offset other spending increases in HHS. The Administration also sought a reduction to $350 million for CSBG in FY2012, but Congress rejected that proposal. In last year’s budget request, the Administration signaled its intent to move CSBG toward a competitive program, in which states would award block grant funds among local agencies competitively, rather than via the mandatory pass-through to designated “eligible entities” contained in current law. The Administration’s latest budget documents clarify this intent. The FY2013 budget states that HHS plans to work with Congress to develop “core” federal standards, to be augmented by the states, which would be used to measure performance of local agencies. If an existing eligible entity failed to meet the standards, the state would immediately conduct an open competition to replace that entity in serving the affected community.

The National Association for State Community Services Programs conducts an annual survey of states on the activities and expenditures of the nationwide network of more than 1,000 CSBG grantees. According to the most recent survey, the network served more than 20 million people in more than 8 million low-income families in FY2010. States reported that the network spent $16.2 billion of federal, state, local, and private resources, of which $653 million were regular federal CSBG funds and $811 million came from a one-time appropriation to CSBG under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). In FY2010, the network spent almost $9.1 billion from other federal programs, plus $2.1 billion provided to other federal programs by ARRA.

The Community Services Block Grant Act was last reauthorized in 1998 by P.L. 105-285. The authorization of appropriations for CSBG and most related programs expired in FY2003, although Congress has continued to fund these programs through the annual appropriations process. No legislation to reauthorize CSBG has been introduced since the 109th Congress.

Date of Report: February 15, 2012
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL32872
Price: $29.95

Follow us on TWITTER at or #CRSreports

Document available via e-mail as a pdf file or in paper form.
To order, e-mail Penny Hill Press or call us at 301-253-0881. Provide a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover card number, expiration date, and name on the card. Indicate whether you want e-mail or postal delivery. Phone orders are preferred and receive priority processing.