By Rae Tamblyn, Research and Communications Analyst at NASCSP
The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is unique among federal programs in that it is the only comprehensive investment exclusively focused on reducing poverty. Other federal programs address specific challenges or factors involved in poverty but they take a piecemeal approach. In contrast, CSBG effectively uses a powerful mix of federal, state, and local resources to address the problems that lead to systemic poverty. CSBG allows States and Community Action Agencies (CAAs) to strategically target the root causes of poverty at the local level and to impact health and economic security on a national scale. Our ability to quantify how we serve low-income communities across the nation sets us apart and demonstrates our value. Over 99% of the counties in the country have a local Community Action Agency (CAA) whose purpose is to reduce poverty by taking a comprehensive approach to each family and community.
In FY 2013, the CSBG Network of CAAs touched the lives of millions of low-income people. Over 1,000 CAAs provided services to 15.7 million individuals. This included 4.3 million children, 2 million people with disabilities, 2 million seniors, and 3 million people with no health insurance. The network also served over 6.7 million families. Out of those 6.7 million families, 70.3% were living below 100% of the Federal Poverty Guideline (FPG), and 32% were in severe poverty, reporting incomes at just 50% or less of the FPG. These numbers reflect the reality facing individuals and families living in poverty throughout the nation.
The CSBG National Performance Indicators (NPIs) are a tool for setting priorities and monitoring progress toward the broader goal of ending poverty. The NPIs track outcomes from emergency services as well as more comprehensive and coordinated services such as employment initiatives, early childhood programs, and education. While emergency services are a piece of the big picture of helping people through crises, it’s often the case that a single service or a single program is not enough to move Community Action Agency clients toward self-sufficiency.
Clients who receive coordinated or “bundled” services are three to four times more likely to achieve a major economic outcome such as staying employed, earning a vocational certification or associate’s degree, or buying a car, than clients receiving only one type of service. Additionally, as poverty often affects several generations, the CSBG Network uses not only “bundled” services but a two-generation approach to poverty. This two-generation approach works to alleviate the burden of poverty for both children and adults. CAAs often act as one-stop shops for access to a huge range of programs under one roof. They also build and maintain partnerships with over 190,000 organizations nationally to ensure that their clients are connected to the best programs and services for their needs! CAAs serve as a resource and address client needs in a coordinated fashion, putting low-income Americans on the path of self-sufficiency and economic security. As a result of this bundled services approach, the CSBG Network achieved 31.5 million outcomes in their clients’ lives in the last year. That means we enabled our clients to overcome more than 31,500,000 challenges or barriers to self-sufficiency such as lack of food, shelter, community resources, income, etc., to create greater stability.
The CSBG Network continues to face a slow economic recovery, high long-term unemployment, and a lack of living wage jobs nationwide, creating a straining demand for services. But this anti-poverty network of over 1,000 state-managed local agencies remains committed to ensuring economic security for vulnerable populations. The coordinated services provided by CSBG go beyond short-term interventions and strengthen long-term economic security for individuals, communities, and the nation. Every dollar invested in CSBG leveraged $21.91 of other federal, state, local, and private funds. That dollar value doesn’t even include the significant increase in benefits and wages, tax revenue, and avoided costs to other federal safety net services as a result of improved economic opportunity. The statistics outlined in this report demonstrate the strength and value of CSBG as the national anti-poverty strategy that coordinates local, state, and federal efforts to secure a promising future for our nation.