The President’s budget again proposes the elimination of the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), eliminating the $1.7 billion entitlement fund to states. They recommend keeping in place the SSBG law to allow the use of the block grant for emergencies and disasters.
The rationale they state is the same as past budget justification (2019):
“The Budget proposes to eliminate the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) for a savings of $1.7 billion in FY 2019 and $17 billion over ten years. The Social Services Block Grant provides funding that is duplicative of resources provided through other federal programs and has not demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing dependency on welfare or supporting self-sufficiency…
The Budget proposes to eliminate the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) because it lacks strong performance measures, is not well targeted, and is not a core function of the Federal Government. States do not have to demonstrate that they are using funds effectively to continue receiving funding. In addition, SSBG funds services that are also funded through other Federal programs, such as early childhood education services funded through Head Start and child welfare services funded by Title IV-E programs.”
It should be noted that SSBG provides 11 percent of federal child welfare spending in the Child Trends Survey of states. A state-specific example of how significant SSBG and TANF are to child welfare is the state of Florida. According to a recent Child Trends survey, in 2016, the state of Florida had a statewide waiver of Title IV-E Foster Care funding. In that year, the Title IV-E waiver provided Florida with $176 million while TANF provided $188 million, and SSBG provided $162 million of the state’s total federal child welfare spending. The Administration budget would eliminate the SSBG funding and reduce TANF by approximately 10 percent.
Almost all of the states will spend some portion of SSBG on protective services, foster care services, adoption services, services for displaced youth, and other child welfare-related services each year. However, it can vary from year to year. SSBG funds can be spent on more than 29 categories of services that range from elderly services (e.g., home-delivered meals) to children’s services (e.g., child protection or child care) to disability services (e.g., to transportation or home chore services). States determine eligibility standards and can move dollars from year to year to address their most pressing needs.
SSBG is also vital to other human services, some of which impact child well-being, including the funding that is dedicated to addressing adult protective services such as domestic violence prevention. In 2014, 37 states utilized funds in this way, with states such as New York and Texas investing significant funds ($66 million and $39 million respectively); 21 states use SSBG to fund special services for the disabled, 17 provide services to youth at risk, and 16 strengthen their home-delivered meals programs by using SSBG.
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) five-year reauthorization ran out in FY 2010, but it is currently extended until May 2020. Since it expired, Congress and several Administrations have agreed to a series of short-term extensions ranging from a few months to two years at a time. Since its creation, TANF has lost more than 35 percent of its value due to inflation.
The Administration continues to propose the first cut to the base grant since it was created in 1996. In total, TANF would be cut by more than $2 billion when all totaled.
They cut $1.7 billion but propose to add $100 million in demonstration grants. Another cut would result from the elimination of the TANF Contingency Fund, which is now at $608 million. The large cut of $1.6 billion is based on reducing base funding by 10 percent. The rationale appears to be that with SSBG eliminated, and because states can transfer up to 10 percent of their TANF into SSBG, then the elimination of SSBG makes the state transfer unnecessary or unneeded.
They outline several proposals for reform, including greater accountability on how funds are now spent under the individual-entitlement-turned-into-a-block-grant. These include assuring a minimum percentage of funds spent on core services and cash assistance, tightening the state maintenance/matching requirements, and changes to the work requirement targets.