CSBG: The 40-Year-Old Block Grant

This Friday, August 13, is the Community Services Block Grant’s 40th anniversary. 40 years ago, the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 was signed into law on August 13, 1981, authorizing and establishing the block grant structure of CSBG and protecting the Community Action Agency Network. The bill also established the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and reauthorized Head Start.

How our nation works to address poverty has changed much over the last 40 years, but CSBG has remained the essential foundation of our national human services infrastructure. State offices and local Community Action Agencies have expanded their role in antipoverty work by  providing new services, improving connections with clients, and establishing robust systems of accountability. Community Needs Assessments ensure assistance in employment, education, health, housing, and everything else that CSBG provides are delivered with the maximum local impact. On top of this, the CSBG network has improved its ability to leverage funds, bringing in $7.80 for every federal dollar spent as of FY2017.

New additions to CSBG like the Performance Management Framework and the Results Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA) system have improved the ability of the network to uplift and support low-income people served by CSBG. Collaborative efforts like the American Customer Satisfaction Index Best Practice Work Group empowered State and local agencies to better share feedback and lessons learned. Innovative practices like the Whole Family Approach and bundled services have improved and expanded the reach of the CSBG network in accomplishing its mission.

CSBG’s 40-year track record of success made our network well positioned to assist in responding to the current crisis. Early into the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress passed the CARES Act, providing an additional investment in the Community Action network to respond. The network took that trust and investment from Congress and turned it into meals delivered to people stuck at home, emergency housing for struggling families, and educational resources for children learning in a new environment. Addressing all of these issues quickly and effectively was only possible due to the hard work of so many in the Community Action network. As this crisis continues, CSBG remains an essential pillar in supporting vulnerable individuals, families, and communities on our shared path towards health and recovery.

Please join NASCSP in celebrating a happy 40 years for CSBG. Four decades of success could not have happened without the incredible work of so many people, from federal partners at the Office of Community Services, to State leaders at offices and agencies across the country, and to local Community Action Agencies in meeting the needs of millions. We are excited to continue that work together and, as a network, make the 41st year as important and impactful as the first.