Search Penny Hill Press

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Social Services Block Grant: Background and Funding

Karen E. Lynch
Specialist 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 FY2009, the most recent year for which expenditure data are available, the largest expenditures for services under the SSBG were for child care, foster care, and special services for the disabled.

The FY2012 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 2055, P.L. 112-74) provided $1.7 billion for the SSBG in FY2012, the same level of funding as had been requested in the FY2012 President’s Budget. This is also the same level of annually appropriated funding that the SSBG has received 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 natural disasters.

In February 2012, the Obama Administration released its FY2013 budget, which proposed to maintain annual SSBG funding at $1.7 billion in FY2013. By contrast, the committee report (H.Rept. 112-421) accompanying the House-passed concurrent resolution on the FY2013 budget (H.Con.Res. 112) has recommended eliminating the SSBG in FY2013. In its critique of the SSBG, the committee report calls the SSBG a “duplicative” funding stream with “no evidence” of effectiveness. Critics of the proposal to eliminate the SSBG, such as the National Conference of State Legislatures, have argued that the block grant’s flexibility allows states to address the needs of vulnerable populations and respond to local concerns.

On April 18, 2012, the House Committee on Ways and Means marked up legislation to comply with a reconciliation directive included in Section 201 of the House-passed budget resolution for FY2013 (H.Con.Res. 112). The legislation includes a proposal, which was passed (22-14) by the committee, to repeal the SSBG. The legislation was transmitted to the House Committee on the Budget for inclusion in a larger reconciliation bill. On May 7, 2012, the House Committee on the Budget voted (21-9) to approve the Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012, which is the reconciliation package that includes the proposal to repeal the SSBG.

Under current law, the SSBG is permanently authorized in Title XX of the Social Security Act (SSA). The 111th 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 re-titled 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; the report does not provide detailed information on other programs authorized within Title XX of the SSA.

Date of Report: May 8, 2012
Number of Pages: 28
Order Number: 94-953
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.