Order Code 94-953 EPW
April 28, 2003
CRS Report for Congress
Received through the CRS Web
Social Services Block Grant
(Title XX of the Social Security Act)
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 2000, the largest expenditures for services
under the SSBG were for child protective services and children’s foster care. Funding
for the SSBG has been reduced considerably from its FY1995 peak of $2.8 billion. The
FY2002 bill making appropriations for the Department of Health and Human Services
included $1.7 billion for the SSBG in FY2002, and maintained 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 This superseded prior law that would have reduced the
allowable transfer amount to 4.25%. The $1.7 billion appropriation for FY2002 mirrors
the President’s requests for FY2002, FY2003, and FY2004. The Consolidated
Appropriations Resolution, 2003 (H.J.Res. 2/P.L. 108-7) also includes $1.7 billion for
the SSBG and maintains a 10% transfer authority. This short report provides background
information on the SSBG and tracks relevant legislation and appropriations measures.
On April 9, 2003, the Senate passed the CARE Act of 2003 (S. 476), which contains
provisions to: 1) authorize $1.975 billion for the SSBG in FY2003, and to restore funding
at $2.8 billion for FY2004; 2) maintain states’ authority to transfer up to 10% of their
TANF allotments to the SSBG in FY2003 and beyond; and 3) require an annual data
report to Congress for program activity in FY2002 and beyond.
On January 9, 2003, Senator Rockefeller introduced S. 138, a bill that would
appropriate $10 billion, (allotted to states in the amounts specified in the bill) for the
purpose of providing temporary state fiscal relief through FY2004. Funds appropriated
would be used only for services directed at the goals set forth in the SSBG (Title XX of
the Social Security Act).
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
Funding for FY2003 is maintained at the $1.7 billion level, (P.L. 108-7), and the
President’s budget requests that same amount for FY2004.
The FY2002 bill making appropriations for the Departments of Labor, HHS, and
Education (H.R. 3061/P.L. 107-116) included $1.7 billion for SSBG funding in FY2002,
as had been requested by the President’s in his FY2002 budget, and the House and Senate
in their versions of H.R. 3061. This amount marked a $25 million decrease from the prior
year’s funding, which was included in the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2001 (P.L.
106-554). The law maintained states’ authority to transfer up to 10% of their TANF
allotments to the SSBG. In his budget for FY2003, the President again requested $1.7
billion for the SSBG (as did H.R. 5320, introduced in the House, without committee
action, and S. 2766, passed by the Senate Appropriations Committee on July 22, 2002 ).
The Senate Finance Committee’s welfare reform reauthorization measure (H.R.
4737), which failed to reach the floor in 2002, proposed to authorize SSBG funding at
$1.952 billion for FY2005, and to permanently restore states’ authority to transfer up to
10% of their annual TANF allotments to the SSBG. Also during the 107th Congress, the
same committee passed the Charity Aid Recovery and Empowerment Act (a substitute for
H.R. 7) which would have increased SSBG funding by a total of $1.3 billion above the
FY2002 level over the 2-year period of FY2003-FY2004.
Table 1 shows SSBG funding levels tracing back to 1990, including the high of $2.8
billion, which was provided annually from FY1989 through FY1995, and the more recent
lower level of $1.7 billion. 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
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 $25 million.
In addition, the TEA contained a provision that would have limited the ability of
states to transfer TANF funds into SSBG beginning in FY2001. However, this was
superseded by the FY2001 Consolidated Appropriations Act (H.R. 4577) as described
below (see Welfare Reform Amendments: Transfer of TANF Funds to SSBG).
Table 1 shows SSBG entitlement ceilings and appropriations in FY1990-FY2003.
Also shown for FY1997-FY2002 are the amounts transferred from TANF to SSBG.
Table 1. SSBG Funding, FY1990-FY2003
($ in billions)
Source: Table prepared by CRS based on budget documents and data from HHS.
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
maintained 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-FY2002, states transferred over $5 billion of TANF
funds to the SSBG ($1 billion in FY2002 alone). P.L. 108-7 maintains states’ transfer
authority at 10% for FY2003. 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
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 2000
SSBG Expenditures, released by HHS in the summer of 2002.
Table 2 shows the percentage of the total SSBG expenditures made (in 2000) for
providing services in each category, on a national basis. (Note: A percentage of
expenditures differs from a percentage of the SSBG appropriation.) Of SSBG
expenditures made by states in 2000, 6% ($165 million) were for child day care (down
from 13%, or $397 million, in 1999), almost 11% ($298 million) for foster care services
for children, over 7% ($206 million) for prevention and intervention (from abuse and
neglect) services, almost 11% ($301 million) for protective services for children, and over
7% ($218 million) for special services for the disabled. Expenditures made from TANF
transferred funds, but not broken out by service category, have decreased from over 12%
($366 million) in 1998 to 4.5% ($127 million)in 2000.
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, 2000
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 2000 (released Summer 2002).