Last week the office of Community Services released two new annual reports on the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG).  The 2011 and 2012 reports show similar results as the 2010 report and reaffirms how the $1.7 billion in funding continues to support a range of child welfare services—especially as a prime funder of child protection.  In addition it continues as a significant funder of domestic violence services, special services for the disabled and a range of services for all ages including case management, prevention and intervention and counseling services.

States can transfer up to 10 percent of their TANF block grant into SSBG.  Generally states have transferred an annual total of $1.1 billion (of the $16.5 billion in TANF) but the 2012 report indicates that the amount of TANF transferred into SSBG has started to decrease especially after discounting the slight increase in 2010 which is likely the result of a temporary TANF boost from the stimulus funding.  In 2012 the TANF transfer was down to just a little more than $1 billion.  Funds transferred into SSBG are to be spent on families at 200 percent of poverty or less.

The report breaks out each state’s spending by 29 services both the direct SSBG funding and the TANF funding transferred into SSBG before being allocated.

Funds spent on foster care reached $394 million in combined SSBG/TANF dollars with SSBG providing $176 million not an insignificant total when you consider states spent $1.3 billion in maintenance payments through the main federal source of funding, Title IV-E foster care funding in that same year.

Child Protective Services (CPS) received $136 million in SSBG dollars and $331 million when TANF funding is included. Dollars provided through SSBG either alone or combined with the TANF transfer far exceeds what the Congress appropriates through the Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) which continues to decrease down to $25 million in FY 2014.  SSBG also provides $73 million in prevention and intervention services serving more than 2 million children in duplicated counts.

Outside of child welfare SSBG is a significant funder of domestic violence services at $197 million (very little TANF transfers dollars in this category). Over a half million adults (duplicated counts) receive services which are essentially for domestic violence and elder abuse services.  Through this century the single biggest recipient of SSBG funding category is for special services for the disabled at $230 million from SSBG ($307 million with TANF) serving over 270,000 children and 640,000 adults.

States vary in their uses, states like Ohio and North Carolina pass through funding to their counties and as a result all 29 services (in Ohio) and 21 of services (in North Carolina) receive some level of funding. Iowa is an example of a state that allocates its funds to special service disabled populations (over 45,000 adults and 2,000 children) spending $12 million of its total $15 million on these services. Pennsylvania is an example of a state using SSBG for CPS spending its single biggest total ($13 million) on child protection, but it also designates over $6 million for domestic violence.  Wisconsin is an example of a state that spreads its funding on child welfare services but does it by allocating funding on a range of services including foster care, child protection, counseling, information and referral, prevention and intervention, and special services disabled, all services that could go to a range of age groups but in Wisconsin’s case each category is spent predominantly on children.  The states of Maine, Oregon, New York and Indiana are all spending a high percentage of SSBG funds on prevention and intervention services (from 52 through 27 percent respectively) with Maine spending most of this on adults of an unknown age and the other three states targeting children.

Legislation has not yet introduced into the new 114th Congress but in the 112th and 113th congresses SSBG had been targeted for elimination through the budget process or as a funder for alternate services.  There is a legislative incentive to go after SSSBG because it is a mandatory blocks grant (an entitlement to the states) and its elimination would mean an immediate savings in the budget of $1.7 billion for each year.  Cuts in other benefit programs may not be realized for several years as benefit changes are implemented.  SSBG is also vulnerable since it is a block grant not tied to individually eligible people and generally many of the programs at the state local level that benefit are not certain they receive SSBG dollars.

For a deeper historical analysis and discussion onn the significance of SSBG see the CWLA paper listed here: