Policy Brief

Support the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG)

ACTION NEEDED:

Urge your members of Congress, especially those who serve on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees, to maintain funding for the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program at or above the FY 2016 level of $715 million through the annual appropriations process. CSBG is funded through the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education appropriations bill. Additionally, urge your members to support reauthorization of CSBG, which expired in 2003, to provide greater certainty for counties in the long term.

BACKGROUND:

CSBG is administered by the U. S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families and supports activities that mitigate the root causes of poverty. CSBG-eligible activities vary depending on local needs, but often include services related to educational attainment, obtaining and maintaining employment and self-sufficiency, budget planning, obtaining adequate housing and promoting greater community participation. Most CSBG funding is distributed to states, which must pass through at least 90 percent of the funds to eligible local entities.

Counties play an integral role in administering CSBG. The program operates in 99 percent of the nation’s counties through a network of over 1,000 eligible public or private entities. Eligible entities are primarily Community Action Agencies (CAAs) designated under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (P.L. 88-482). Local elected officials or their representatives must by law make up one-third of the CAA board of directors; these boards are responsible for ensuring that agencies continue to assess and respond to the causes and conditions of poverty in their communities, achieve anticipated family and community outcomes and remain administratively and fiscally sound.

According to the latest CSBG Annual Report, published by the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP), in FY 2014 the CSBG network served 15.9 million individuals living in poverty, with 18 percent more people obtaining employment through CSBG Network assistance than in FY 2013. The CSBG Network served 5.2 million children in FY 2014, while over 20 percent of CAA program participants were 55 years or older. The flexibility of the block grant allows CAAs to take a two-generation approach to combatting poverty.

CSBG received $715 million in funding for FY 2016, the highest level of funding the program has received in its 34-year history. Funding for the program between FY 2001 and FY 2015 ranged from $600 million to $700 million.

NACo opposes proposals to convert CSBG into a competitive grant program because doing so would disadvantage smaller local entities who do not have the resources to employ grant writers. Further, because states are allowed to use a percentage of their CSBG allocations for discretionary grants, the program already has a competitive component.

key talking points

  • The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is distributed to states to fund activities that have a measurable and potentially major impact on the causes of poverty. States must by law pass 90 percent of funds to eligible local entities.
  • CSBG allows counties and their Community Action Agencies (CAAs) to design and implement anti-poverty programs tailored to an individual community’s needs, including programs that employ a two-generation approach.
  • In FY 2014, the CSBG network served 15.9 million individuals, including 5.2 million children.
  • Converting CSBG into a competitive grant program would disadvantage smaller communities that lack the capacity to hire grant writers. Further, CSBG already has a competitive component, as states are allowed to use a percentage of their allocation for discretionary grants.

For further information, contact: Eryn Hurley at 202.942.4204 or ehurley@naco.org