A recent Center on Budget and Policy Priorities report, Eliminating Social Services Block Grant Would Weaken Services for Vulnerable Children, Adults, and Disabled, found that eliminating the SSBG would likely reduce critical services for populations with unique needs. In particular the report notes that eliminating the block grant could create significant service gaps for children who have experienced or are at risk of abuse or neglect. Based on data from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), in 2009 about one-quarter of SSBG funds were used to assist children involved in (or at risk of being involved in) the child welfare or juvenile justice systems or to provide adoption services; 44 states used some amount of SSBG funds for this purpose, and 16 states used at least half of their SSBG funds on these services.
The report also highlights the need for SSBG funds in states were funding for child welfare services for children who cannot be cared for in their own homes and need to be placed in foster care, but do not meet the outdated eligibility criteria for federal funding under Title IV-E. The authors cite CWLA’s work around finance reform which found that in 2010, only 44 percent of children in foster care met the IV-E eligibility criteria. As the number eligible children continues to decline, states face increasing pressure to maintain the support for these vulnerable children and families.
Finally, the report notes that states are in no position to replace funds to serve vulnerable populations if Congress were to eliminate the SSBG. Unfortunately, this trend of targeting vulnerable populations for cuts continues as proposals to cut, eliminate, and block grant other funding streams remain a top priority for key committees in the House.