Social Services and Community Services Block Grants

Background

Two federal programs help states provide a broad range of social services important to older adults. Services funded through the Social Services Block GrantA fixed federal appropriation that states may use at their discretion within broad federal guidelines. program help older people live independently. The program funds agencies that help older adults maintain self-sufficiency. These agencies work to prevent or remedy abuse or exploitation and provide in-home services to prevent unnecessary institutionalization. In addition, they offer services to individuals in institutions when necessary. The Community Services Block GrantA fixed federal appropriation that states may use at their discretion within broad federal guidelines. allocates funds to states to help alleviate povertyThe federal government defines “poverty” as income below specific thresholds. These thresholds are adjusted annually for inflation and vary according to family size and the age of the head of the family.. It funds services and activities addressing employment, education, housing, and other needs.

The value of federal investments in social services has declined in recent decades. This is 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. It raises the potential for discrimination against people of other religions or the imposition of religious practices on people seeking assistance.

SOCIAL SERVICES AND COMMUNITY SERVICES BLOCK GRANTS: Policy

SOCIAL SERVICES AND COMMUNITY SERVICES BLOCK GRANTS: Policy

Funding

Congress should increase funding for the Social Services Block GrantA fixed federal appropriation that states may use at their discretion within broad federal guidelines. (SSBGThe Social Services Block Grant program provides funds to states to tailor social service programming to their population's needs.) and Community Services Block GrantA fixed federal appropriation that states may use at their discretion within broad federal guidelines. (CSBGThe Community Services Block Grant program provides funds to states to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty.) programs. Funding should reflect the increased population of older Americans. It should also help meet the service needs of low-income communities.

Needs of older people

The federal government should require state CSBGThe Community Services Block Grant program provides funds to states to alleviate the causes and conditions of poverty. and SSBGThe Social Services Block Grant program provides funds to states to tailor social service programming to their population's needs. officials to consult with state and local agencies and organizations representing older people and other groups served by the programs. They should 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. These populations include historically disadvantaged racial and ethnic groups, rural residents, and people with physical or mental disabilities.

Eligible agencies

States should distribute public revenue only to social service agencies that are formally accountable to taxpayers. This should be demonstrated by performance-based measures.

States also must ensure that religious organizations receiving funds do not discriminate against or impose religious practices or beliefs on those who apply for or receive services.