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Tuesday, June 26, 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), and Individual Development Accounts (IDAs)—also support antipoverty 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).

CSBG and related activities are funded in FY2012 under the Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 112-74), at a combined level of $732 million. This includes $677 million for CSBG, $30 million for CED (of which up to $10 million may be used for the Administration’s Healthy Foods Financing Initiative), $5 million for RCF, and $20 million for IDAs.

President Obama submitted his FY2013 budget to Congress in February, requesting total funding of $400 million for CSBG and related activities. This includes a sharp drop in funding for the block grant from its FY2012 level of $677 million to $350 million in FY2013. Budget documents characterize this proposal as one of several “tough cuts to worthy programs” necessary to offset other spending increases in HHS. The Administration offered a similar request last year, which Congress rejected. In last year’s budget, 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 will 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. No action has occurred on this proposal.

The Senate Appropriations Committee on June 14 reported a FY2013 appropriations bill for HHS (S. 3295), which would maintain CSBG at its current level of $677 million. The bill also would provide level funding for CED ($30 million, with up to $10 million available for the Healthy Foods Financing Initiative), increase RCF to $6 million, and provide level funding for IDAs ($20 million).

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: June 21, 2012
Number of Pages: 32
Order Number: RL32872
Price: $29.95

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