Last week the Trump Administration released its full budget for Fiscal Year 2018. Regrettably, this proposal cuts funding at the Department Health and Human Services (HHS) by 16.2 percent. As part of these reductions, the Administration is seeking to eliminate the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). In its “Major Savings and Reforms” document and in the HHS budget justification, the Administration lists several reasons for the cuts. Below, NASCSP would like to clarify some of the misconceptions held by the Administration about the Community Action network and educate the Administration and the public about the critical role of CSBG.
“The Budget eliminates the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) because it constitutes a small portion of the funding these grantees receive…” (pg. 38, Major Savings and Reforms)
“CAAs also receive funding from a variety of sources other than CSBG, including from other Federal sources.” (pg. 38, Major Savings and Reforms)
“The CSBG accounts for approximately five percent of total funding received by local agencies that benefit from these funds.” (pg. 144, HHS Budget Justification)
For over fifty years, CSBG funds have facilitated collaboration between federal, state, and local entities in fighting poverty. This national infrastructure ensures support to vulnerable families and communities in 99% of counties in America, delivered through a network of approximately 1,000 local organizations (Most commonly known as Community Action Agencies or CAAs). While the portion of local agency funding coming from CSBG may be small, it is not insignificant. Rather, federal CSBG money is critical for local agencies to leverage additional investment. In 2015, the Network leveraged $7.70 from state, local, and private sources for every $1 of CSBG funding. Without CSBG, many CAAs will not have sufficient funding to continue operating and may be forced to cut staff or shut down entirely.
“Furthermore, funding is distributed by a formula that is not directly tied to performance so it is difficult to ensure funds are spent effectively, which also limits incentives for innovation.” (pg. 38, Major Savings and Reforms)
“Although states have discretion to reduce or terminate funding to local agencies that do not meet state-established performance standards, CSBG continues to be distributed by a formula not tied directly to the local agency performance.” (pg. 144, HHS Budget Justification)
In addition to providing services and engaging in community strategies, the CSBG Network is bolstered by a performance management system to ensure accountability. This system is best presented in the National Community Action Theory of Change and includes state and federal accountability measures, local organizational standards, and a Results Oriented Management and Accountability system. National Performance Indicators are used across the Network to track and manage progress, ensuring CAAs have the data they need to improve and innovate. Rather than the federal government determining which organizations have “performed” and deserve funding, the Results Oriented Management and Accountability system allows local communities to strengthen their impact and achieve robust results through continuous learning, improvement, and innovation.
“CSBG also funds some services that are duplicative of services that are funded through other Federal programs, such as emergency food assistance funded through the Department of Agriculture’s The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and workforce programs funded through the Departments of Education and Labor.” (pg. 38, Major Savings and Reforms)
Community Action Agencies (CAAs) maintain local control and flexibility to respond to the changing needs of their community. CAAs conduct a local needs assessment every three years and plan services and strategies accordingly. This minimizes duplication of services and encourages collaboration with community partners. The CSBG network has a presence in 99% of counties across the United States and oftentimes a Community Action Agency may be the only social service organization serving a rural county. CSBG fills the gaps in services when other federal programs fail to reach vulnerable populations.
“This program is unauthorized.” (pg. 38, Major Savings and Reforms)
CSBG maintains strong bi-partisan support in Congress. Legislation that would reauthorize CSBG, the Community Economic Opportunity Act (HR 1655), was introduced in the 114th Congress. This bill had 119 co-sponsors (69 Democratic and 50 Republican) and it is likely that a reauthorization will be introduced in this Congress as well. Authorization is not necessarily an indication of a program’s worth or effectiveness. CSBG is among a host of critical programs and offices with authorizations that have expired, including the FBI, the National Weather Service, the Federal Election Commission, and the State Department to name a few.
- A nationwide network of over 1,000 local organizations depend on CSBG funds to provide services tailored to the unique needs of their communities
- CSBG has a presence in 99% of counties, filling gaps in services where other programs fail to reach.
- The CSBG network leverages $7.70 from state, local, and private sources for every $1 of federal CSBG funding.
- Since its inception, CSBG has adhered to a robust accountability system, empowering states and local organizations to use data and flexible funds to employ the most effective strategies to lift people out of poverty.
- CSBG has bipartisan support from our leaders, with over 50 Democrats and over 50 Republicans cosponsoring a reauthorization bill in the 114th Congress.
Media Contact: Eric Behna, firstname.lastname@example.org, 202-370-3662