A letter that went to Capitol Hill on March 12, with more than 65 national organizations signing on in support of the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) has now been re-opened for signatures by state and local organizations, associations and governments. Sign up can be accessed here.

The two budget resolutions being negotiated did not specifically single out SSBG for elimination as past House resolutions have but both resolutions envision dramatic cuts in mandatory and entitlements programs. SSBG is an entitlement to the state and a block grant. Before 1981 it had been an entitlement based on individual eligibility but was converted to a fixed block grant funded as high as $2.8 in 1996. It is now at $1.7 billion and in the crosshairs of some policymakers on Capitol Hill.

The 2011 and 2012 SSBG annual reports show 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. 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.

In 2012 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.

There is a legislative incentive to go after SSSBG because it is a mandatory blocks grant and 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 and local agencies at the state and local level that benefit are not certain they receive SSBG dollars.