Policy Brief

Support the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG)

ACTION NEEDED:

Urge your members of Congress, particularly those who serve on the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, to protect the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) and support full funding.

BACKGROUND:

SSBG was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan in 1981 (P.L. 97-35) and is administered by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Administration for Children and Families. The program is an entitlement to states and falls into the category of “non-defense mandatory spending.” Congress must therefore appropriate SSBG funds each year, but alterations to funding levels would require legislative changes to Title XX of the Social Security Act of 2002. Since 2001, SSBG has been authorized at $1.7 billion. Ten states pass SSBG funds directly to counties: Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin, though counties in other states can access SSBG funds as well. According to a NACo analysis of Federal Audit Clearinghouse data, counties used over $763 million in SSBG funds in FY 2015.

SSBG can be used for nearly 30 different types of services; a survey conducted by NACo in 2012 revealed that counties most commonly use SSBG for adult protective services, which benefit elderly and disabled adults, and child protective services. Services provided to these vulnerable populations aim to prevent and remedy abuse, neglect and exploitation. In FY 2014, the last year for which data is available, 30 million individuals received services supported in whole or in part by SSBG, 44 percent of whom were children. Given that counties are responsible for providing a wide variety of human services, the flexibility of SSBG funding is critical.

Although SSBG helps our nation’s most vulnerable populations, the program continues to be targeted for further cuts. The House Ways and Means Committee approved legislation in 2016 that would completely eliminate the block grant, which mirrored proposals from previous House budget resolutions, including those of incoming U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price. The block grant is and will remain extremely vulnerable, especially in the context of entitlement reform, tax reform and deficit reduction proposals.

key talking points

  • The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) provides funds to states for activities that serve vulnerable populations, including adults and children at risk of abuse and neglect. Ten states – Colorado, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Wisconsin – pass these funds directly to counties, though counties across the country reported utilizing over $763 million in SSBG funds in FY 2014.
  • SSBG is the main source of federal funds for adult protective services, which are often a county responsibility. The Elder Justice Act (EJA), which was created under the Affordable Care Act, has only received $12 million in funding during its five years of existence, despite being authorized at a much higher level. SSBG funding is crucial for filling that gap: according to the National Institutes of Justice, 11 percent of individuals over the age of 60 suffer from some form of abuse, including financial abuse. Additionally, MetLife and the National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse estimate that the victims of elder financial abuse lose $2.9 billion a year.
  • Federal law mandates that child protective services and foster care be provided to neglected and abused children. SSBG funds can be used to support foster care placements for children who are otherwise ineligible for the federal foster care program.

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

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