Report Reveals Critical Importance of SSBG

In 2009 states spent a total of $2.8 billion on their most pressing social services needs through the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG). Almost half of the 22 million individuals helped with SSBG funds are children. A new report by the American Public Human Services Association (APHSA) reveals that SSBG funding is critical to providing child day care, foster care, services to seniors, services to people with disabilities, and child protection, among other services, and in total, addressing 29 areas of need for children, families, and seniors who are vulnerable. The report, “States’ Utilization of SSBG and its Impact on Services,” is in response to recent Congressional action to eliminate the Social Services Block Grant. 

The report covers how SSGB funds are used and tracked. APHSA surveyed their public agency membership and analyzes feedback from 26 state offices including the District of Columbia and Guam. The report concludes that SSBG is a critical source of funding for the flexibility it provides for states to meet their particular human service needs: filling service gaps, paying for underfunded federal mandates, and serving as a vehicle for the federal government to respond to unexpected disasters. 

The mandatory block grant is currently funded at $1.7 billion annually and the additional $1.1 billion in 2009 was transferred by states from their Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. In 2006 $550 million in emergency federal funding was provided through SSBG to the five states most affected by the devastating hurricanes the previous year. SSBG is not a program with specific goals, but as described in the report, “a bridge holding everything together” so state social service programming is effective. Often, SSBG funds services that enable people to stay in their homes and out of more expensive residential care; for example, respite care for parents, transportation for seniors, and employment services for people with disabilities. SSBG also goes beyond supporting such common sense and cost-effective service additions. For example, it also provides resources for child protective services, offsetting the insufficient federal funding of CAPTA, and resources for adult protective services, which does not have a designated federal funding source. 

SSBG funding is tracked and accounted for through spending categories that match federal activity definitions.  Still, because SSBG funds an array of programs, it is not easy to pinpoint specific and exclusive return on investment metrics.  This is a direct result of its critical role in state social service provision, supporting unduplicated needs by funding shortages in human service programming. The report makes clear that eliminating SSBG to address the deficit would remove this critical support, balancing the budget at the expense of our most vulnerable citizens. CWLA applauds the release of this report and continues to urge Congress to protect and strengthen SSBG. 

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