Social Services and Community Services Block Grants


Two federal programs help states provide a broad range of social services important to older adults. The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program funds agencies to help older people live independently and maintain self-sufficiency, prevent or remedy abuse or exploitation, provide in-home services to prevent unnecessary institutionalization, and provide services to individuals in institutions. The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) allocates funds to states to help alleviate poverty The federal government defines “poverty” as income below specific amounts that the Bureau of the Census establishes. These thresholds, known as federal poverty levels (FPL), are adjusted annually for inflation and vary according to family size and the age of the head of the family. … through services and activities addressing employment, education, housing and other topics.

The value of federal investments in social services has declined in recent decades due to inflation, spending freezes, and budget cuts. At the same time, service demand continues to grow as the number of older people increases.

Another area of concern is the allocation of federal funds to faith-based charities which raises the potential for discrimination against people of other religions or the imposition of religious practices.



Congress should increase funding for the SSBG and CSBG programs to reflect the increased population of older Americans and to help meet the service needs of low-income communities.

Addressing needs of older people

The federal government should require state CSBG and SSBG officials to consult with state and local agencies and organizations representing older people and other groups served by the CSBG and SSBG programs to ensure that the services provided are appropriate to meet community needs.

State and local governments must devote a fair proportion of their block-grant funds to meeting the needs of older people.

Congress should maintain and enhance existing data collection requirements. In addition, Congress should require states to prepare yearly expenditure reports with age-specific and uniform data on program activities related to the social service needs of specific populations, such as historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups, rural residents, and people with physical or mental disabilities.

Eligible agencies

States should ensure that public revenue is distributed only to social service agencies that are formally accountable to taxpayers, as demonstrated by performance-based measures, and that religious organizations receiving funds do not discriminate against or impose religious practices or beliefs on those who apply for or receive services.