What Is a Block Grant?

Click here to read the updated “What Is a Block Grant?” post.

The term “block grant” refers to grant programs that provide federal assistance for broadly defined functions, such as community development or social services. Block grants allow the grant recipient more discretion than other grants in determining how to use the funds to meet a broader program goal.

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Federal block grants are typically for U.S. state or territory governments and allow these government entities to determine specifically how to allocate and spend the funding. Of course, there are rules and guidelines for implementation that vary with each grant program as defined in the authorizing statute.

Block grants are a type of mandatory grant, and in our What Is a Mandatory Grant? article we discuss authorizing statutes in a little more detail.

Examples of Block Grants

The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) from the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is a prime example of a block grant. It was established in the 1970s as a consolidation of similar, existing grant programs. Within the current CDBG, there are different program areas for grant recipients to implement the grants.

Another example is the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) from the Department of Health and Human Services. These block grants are made to U.S. states and territories; these recipients then decide which services to provide and who is eligible for the social services.

How does this affect me if I’m not with a state government?

Individuals searching for social services should check out their state and local government resources. These services may be provided using federal block grant funding. For other government assistance for individuals, go to Benefits.gov or search in Grants.gov after narrowing the search results to eligibility for individuals.

Nonprofits or other service providers may be eligible to receive block grant funds via pass-through funding from states or territories, so you should contact your state’s grants office (often located within the governor’s office).

For more information about grant types, check out our past What Is posts about grants, discretionary grants, and mandatory grants. Coming up next in the series: What Is a Formula Grant?

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