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Wednesday, February 27, 2013

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.

Full-year FY2013 appropriations have yet to be enacted. However, a six-month continuing resolution for FY2013 (P.L. 112-175) provided funding for the SSBG through March 27, 2013. The continuing resolution (CR) maintained SSBG funding at the FY2012 rate of $1.7 billion, the same level of annual funding the block grant has received since FY2002. The CR also maintained a provision, included in annual appropriations laws since FY2001, allowing states to transfer up to 10% of their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families block grants to the SSBG.

In addition to annual appropriations, the SSBG occasionally receives supplemental appropriations to assist states and territories in responding to natural disasters, including in FY2006 and FY2008. More recently, the Obama Administration requested that Congress provide $500 million in supplemental funding for the SSBG to support states affected by Hurricane Sandy. On December 28, 2012, the Senate approved this request as part of a disaster supplemental package (H.R. 1 in the 112
th Congress, as amended). However, the House took no action on this bill, as amended by the Senate, prior to the end of the 112th Congress.

Meanwhile, as part of a separate budget reconciliation process, the House approved a bill in the 112
th Congress that included provisions to permanently eliminate the SSBG. This bill, The Sequester Replacement Reconciliation Act of 2012 (H.R. 5652), was reported out of the House Budget Committee (H.Rept. 112-470) on May 9, 2012, and agreed to by the House the following day. However, the bill was not taken up by the Senate prior to the close of the 112th Congress.

Under current law, 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 (ACA; 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: January 4, 2013
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: 94-953
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