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Thursday, December 5, 2013

Community Services Block Grants (CSBG): Background and Funding - RL32872

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 currently funded through January 15, 2014, under an interim continuing resolution (P.L. 113-46) that generally maintains funding at FY2013 levels, including certain reductions made as a result of the March 1, 2013, budget sequestration and an across-theboard rescission required to keep discretionary spending within statutory limits. Full-year FY2013 funding was provided by P.L. 113-6 and generally maintained funding at FY2012 levels, reduced by sequestration and the across-the-board rescission.

After making the reductions, HHS announced that FY2013 funding levels for CSBG and related activities totaled $687 million, including $635 million for the block grant, $28 million for CED, $5 million for RCF, and almost $19 million for IDAs. This compared with a total of $732 million in FY2012, including $677 million for the block grant, $30 million for CED, $5 million for RCF, and $20 million for IDAs.

President Obama submitted his FY2014 budget to Congress on April 10, 2013, proposing $350 million for CSBG, $19.5 million for IDAs, and zero for other related activities. The request for CSBG marked a sharp drop from recent funding levels, although the Administration made the same request for FY2012 and FY2013 and Congress rejected the proposal both times. The FY2014 budget marked the first time the Administration proposed terminating the CED program. However, it would continue funding the Healthy Food Financing Initiative (which has been partially financed with CED funds) through a Treasury Department program. The White House previously proposed eliminating RCF, but Congress has continued to provide funding each year.

In previous budgets, the Obama Administration has signaled its intent to move CSBG toward a competitive program, in which states would direct funds toward local agencies that meet certain standards, rather than via the current mandatory pass-through to all “eligible entities.” The Administration’s FY2014 budget reiterated this intent, stating that HHS would work with Congress to develop “core” federal standards to measure local performance. If an eligible entity failed to meet these standards, the state would conduct an open competition to replace that entity.

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 16 million people in almost 7 million low-income families in FY2012. States reported that the network spent $14.5 billion of federal, state, local, and private resources, including $610 million of regular federal CSBG funds and more than $10 billion from other federal programs.

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 annual appropriations. No legislation to reauthorize CSBG has been introduced since the 109
th Congress.

Date of Report: November 19, 2013
Number of Pages: 33
Order Number: RL32872
Price: $29.95

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