Order Code 94-953 EPW
July 3, 2002
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Social Services Block Grant
(Title XX of the Social Security Act)
Analyst in Social Legislation
Domestic Social Policy Division
The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) is a flexible source of funds that states
may use to support a wide variety of social services activities. States have broad
discretion over the use of these funds. In FY1999, the largest expenditures for services
under the SSBG were for child day care, foster care, and prevention and intervention
services. Funding for the SSBG has been reduced considerably from its FY1995 peak
of $2.8 billion. The FY2002 bill making appropriations for the Departments of Labor,
Health and Human Services and Education (H.R. 3061/P.L. 107-116), includes $1.7
billion for the SSBG in FY2002, and maintains states’ ability to transfer up to 10% of
their annual Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) allotments to the SSBG
in FY2002. This superseded prior law (P.L. 105-178) that would have reduced the
allowable transfer amount to 4.25%. The $1.7 billion appropriation level for FY2002
reflects the same level requested by the President in both his FY2002 and FY2003
budgets, and a $25 million decrease from FY2001 funding.
This short report provides background information on the SSBG and tracks relevant
legislation and appropriations measures.
On June 26, 2002, the Senate Finance Committee amended and approved (13-8) the
Chairman’s Mark document reflecting its welfare reform reauthorization measure: the
Work, Opportunity, and Responsibility for Kids (WORK) Act. Legislative bill language
is not yet available, however the Chairman’s Mark document would permanently restore
states’ authority to transfer up to 10% of their annual TANF allotments to the SSBG (as
would the House-passed welfare bill, H.R.4737). In addition, the Chairman’s Mark
would authorize funding for FY2005 at a level of $1.952 billion. A week earlier, on June
19, the committee passed the Charity Aid Recovery and Empowerment Act (a substitute
for H.R. 7), which would increase SSBG funding by a total of $1.3 billion above the
FY2002 level over FY2003-2004.
Congressional Research Service ˜ The Library of Congress
Title XX of the Social Security Act permanently authorizes the SSBG as a “capped”
entitlement to states. In other words, states are entitled to their share, according to a
formula, of a nationwide funding ceiling or “cap,” which is specified in the statute.
Although social services for certain welfare recipients have been authorized under various
titles of the Social Security Act since 1956, the SSBG in its current form was created in
1981 (P.L. 97-35). A special SSBG program for enterprise communities and
empowerment zones was authorized in 1993 (P.L. 103-66). At the federal level, the
SSBG is administered by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and
legislation amending Title XX is reported by the House Ways and Means Committee and
the Senate Finance Committee.
Recent Funding History
The FY2002 bill making appropriations for the Departments of Labor, Health and
Human Services, and Education (H.R. 3061) was signed into law on January 10, 2002.
The bill includes $1.7 billion for SSBG funding in FY2002, as had been requested by the
President in his FY2002 budget, and the House and Senate in their versions of H.R. 3061.
This amount marks a $25 million decrease from the prior year’s funding, which was
included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 (H.R. 4577/P.L. 106-554). The
bill maintains states’ authority to transfer up to 10% of their TANF allotments to the
SSBG. In his budget for FY2003, the President again requests $1.7 billion for the SSBG.
On October 24, 2001 the House passed H.R. 3090, the Economic Security and
Recovery Act of 2001, which would provide $3 billion in additional FY2002 funding for
the SSBG, to be used to assist unemployed workers and families not eligible for other
federal health care coverage to purchase health care coverage. The Senate’s amended
version of H.R. 3090 did not include this provision, and the bill was withdrawn from the
floor by unanimous consent on November 14, 2001.
The Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 (P.L. 106-554) provided
appropriations for programs administered by the Department of Health and Human
Services, among others. Included in the law was $1.725 billion in FY2001 funding for
the SSBG, a decrease of $50 million from the FY2000 level ($1.775 billion, which was
also President Clinton’s requested level for FY2001). In addition, the law maintained
states’ ability to transfer up to 10% of their TANF allotments to the SSBG in FY2001.
The law does not maintain the 10% transfer authority for years following FY2001.
Prior to filing the conference report on H.R. 4577 (H.Rept. 106-1033), the House and
Senate had proposed significantly different funding levels for the SSBG in FY2001. On
June 14, 2000, the House passed its version of a L-HHS-Ed appropriations bill (H.R.
4577), which included $1.7 billion for the SSBG. Earlier, on May 12, the Senate
Appropriations Committee reported its L-HHS-Ed bill (S. 2553/S.Rept. 106-293), which
would have funded the SSBG at $600 million – a $1.1 billion cut from its FY2000
funding level. On June 30, the full Senate took up the House-passed version of a L-HHSEd bill (H.R. 4577), substituted the text of S. 2553, and amended and passed H.R. 4577.
Table 1 shows cuts in SSBG funding over the last 4 years, from its most recent high
of $2.8 billion, which was provided annually from FY1989 through FY1995. Although
$2.8 billion was the originally authorized entitlement ceiling for FY1996, Congress
reduced funding to $2.38 billion in that year. Welfare reform legislation (P.L. 104-193)
subsequently set the annual SSBG entitlement ceiling at $2.38 billion in each of fiscal
years 1997 through 2002. Under the welfare reform law, the ceiling was scheduled to
return to a permanent level of $2.8 billion in FY2003.
After welfare reform was enacted, Congress passed an appropriations measure for
FY1997 (P.L. 104-208) that contained $2.5 billion for the SSBG, which actually exceeded
the ceiling established in the welfare reform law. For FY1998, President Clinton
requested that the amount authorized by welfare reform – $2.38 billion – be appropriated.
However, Congress approved an FY1998 appropriations bill (P.L. 105-78) containing
$2.299 billion for the SSBG. The Senate Appropriations Committee explained the
reduction by stating that funding is provided for social services through other federal
programs (S.Rept. 105-58). The House Appropriations Committee expressed concern that
HHS lacks information on the effectiveness of SSBG-funded activities (H.Rept. 105-205).
On June 9, 1998, President Clinton signed the Transportation Equity Act (TEA) into
law (P.L. 105-178), which permanently reduced the SSBG entitlement ceiling to $1.7
billion, beginning in FY2001. However, the entitlement ceiling has not always reflected
the actual appropriation. For example, the $1.725 billion appropriation level for FY2001
(H.R. 4577) exceeded the $1.7 billion ceiling by $25 million.
In addition, the TEA contained a provision that would have limited the ability of
states to transfer TANF funds into SSBG beginning in FY2001. However, this was
superseded by the FY2001 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 4577) as described
below (see Welfare Reform Amendments: Transfer of TANF Funds to SSBG).
Table 1 shows SSBG entitlement ceilings and appropriations in FY1990-FY2002.
Also shown for FY1997-FY2000 are the amounts transferred from TANF to SSBG.
Table 1. SSBG Funding, FY1990-FY2002
($ in billions)
Welfare Reform Amendments: Transfer of TANF Funds to SSBG
The 1996 welfare reform law replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children
(AFDC) with a block grant to states, called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families
(TANF), under Title IV-A of the Social Security Act. The law allowed states to transfer
up to 10% of their annual TANF allotments into the SSBG. Under provisions of the
Transportation Equity Act of 1998 (P.L. 105-178), the amount that states could transfer
into SSBG was to be reduced to 4.25% of their annual TANF allotments, beginning in
FY2001. However, this provision was superceded in FY2001 by the FY2001
Consolidated Appropriations Act, which maintained the 10% transfer authority level.
Likewise, the FY2002 appropriations bill ultimately presented to the President
maintains the 10% transfer authority for FY2002. Earlier, the House had passed its
version of a Labor/HHS/Ed appropriations bill (H.R. 3061) proposing to maintain the
10% transfer authority, while the Senate’s amended version proposed a 5.7% transfer
level. (The Senate Appropriations Committee had recommended a 5.9% transfer
authority level in S. 1536, however the full Senate, in passing an amended H.R. 3061,
would have reduced it to 5.7% as a partial offset to funding proposed in S.Amdt. 2084,
which provides increased funding for Hispanic education programs.)
Over the course of FY1997-FY2000, states transferred a cumulative 6% of TANF
funds to the SSBG ($3.9 billion). Funds transferred from TANF to SSBG can be used
only for children and families whose income is less than 200% of the federal poverty
guidelines. Under the welfare reform law, states also may use SSBG funds for vouchers
for families who are not eligible for cash assistance because of time limits under the
welfare reform program, or for children who are denied cash assistance because they were
born into families already receiving benefits for another child.
Allocation of SSBG Funds
SSBG funds are allocated to states according to each state’s relative population size.
Grants to Puerto Rico, Guam, the Virgin Islands, and Northern Marianas are based on
their share of Title XX funds in FY1981. No match is required for federal SSBG funds,
and federal law does not specify a sub-state allocation formula. In other words, states
have complete discretion for the distribution of SSBG funds within their borders.
Use of Funds
There are no federal eligibility criteria for SSBG participants. Thus, states have total
discretion to set their own eligibility criteria (except, as described above, the welfare
reform law established an income limit of 200% of poverty for recipients of services
funded by TANF allotments that are transferred to SSBG.) States also have wide
discretion in the use of SSBG funds. Federal law establishes the following broad goals
toward which social services must be directed:
! achieving or maintaining economic self-support to prevent, reduce, or eliminate
! achieving or maintaining self-sufficiency, including reduction or prevention of
! preventing or remedying neglect, abuse, or exploitation of children and adults
unable to protect their own interests, or preserving, rehabilitating or reuniting
! preventing or reducing inappropriate institutional care by providing for
community-based care, home-based care, or other forms of less intensive care;
! securing referral or admission for institutional care when other forms of care
are not appropriate, or providing services to individuals in institutions.
The law also provides the following examples of social services that may relate to
these broad goals:
child care, protective services for children and adults, services for children and adults
in foster care, home management, adult day care, transportation, family planning,
training and related services, employment services, information, referral and
counseling, meal preparation and delivery, health support services, and services to
meet special needs of children, aged, mentally retarded, blind, emotionally disturbed,
physically handicapped, alcoholics and drug addicts.
SSBG funds also may be used for administration, planning, evaluation, and training.
States may transfer up to 10% of SSBG funds to block grants for health activities and
low-income home energy assistance. However, the law also contains certain prohibitions
on the use of SSBG funds. Specifically, SSBG funds cannot be used for capital purchases
or improvements; cash payments to individuals (except that welfare reform allows
vouchers for certain families, as described above); payment of wages as a social service;
medical care; social services for residents of institutions; public education; child care that
does not meet applicable state or local standards; or services provided by anyone excluded
from participation in Medicare or other Social Security Act programs. In addition, SSBG
funds may not be used for items or services related to assisted suicide (this provision was
added in 1997, under P.L. 105-12.)
States are required to report their annual SSBG expenditures in each of 29 service
categories using a standard post-expenditure reporting form. HHS published regulations
to implement this requirement and to provide states with a uniform set of service category
definitions on November 15, 1993. The most recent compilation of national data (50
states and the District of Columbia) on the use of SSBG funds is found in a report of 1999
SSBG Expenditures, released by HHS in July 2001.
Table 2 shows the percentage of total SSBG expenditures made for providing
services in each category, on a national basis, in FY1999. States used almost 13% of
SSBG funds in FY1999 for child day care, almost 11% for foster care services for
children, over 9% for prevention and intervention (from abuse and neglect) services,
almost 9% for protective services for children, and over 7% for special services for the
disabled. Expenditures made from TANF transferred funds, but not broken out by
specific service category, had decreased from over 12% in FY1998 to 5.5% in FY1999.
An extra $1 billion was authorized and appropriated in FY1994 for SSBG grants to
enterprise communities and empowerment zones, in addition to the amount shown in
Table 1 as the FY1994 appropriation for the SSBG. The program is administered by the
Departments of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) and Agriculture (USDA).
These funds remain available for expenditure for 10 years.
Table 2. Use of Title XX Funds, by Expenditure Category, FY1999
Percent of funds
Day care — adults
Day care — children
Family planning services
Foster care services — adults
Foster care services — children
Independent/transitional living services
Information and referral services
Pregnancy and parenting
Protective services — adults
Protective services — children
Special services — youth at risk
Special services — disabled
Substance abuse services
Uncategorized TANF transfer expenditures
Source: Table prepared by the Congressional Research Service (CRS) based on data in Social Services
Block Grant Program: Annual Report on Expenditures and Recipients 1999 (released by HHS, July 2001)
* less than 0.1%