What Is a Block Grant? [Updated]

Note: This blog post was originally published in 2017 and updated on January 21, 2020.

A block grant is a specific type of federal financial assistance for a broadly defined function. (Editor’s note: Before getting into the nuance of block grants, you may want to review the terms “federal financial assistance” and “grant.”)

Block grants are often awarded by the federal government to U.S. state or territory governments, although some block grants are awarded directly to local governments (e.g., Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) Entitlement Program to cities and counties on a formula basis).

The block grant recipients then implement the programs within those broadly defined functions (i.e., the purpose & parameters defined by legislation).

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“Broadly defined” is relative to other types of grants, such as a discretionary grants, which often have much more specific and focused rules for how the grant program can be implemented.

Block grants are distinct from discretionary grants because they generally allow for more autonomy and flexibility to the states to decide how to implement the program. States may use the block grant funding to establish a program or to make sub-awards to local organizations to provide the services within their region. As long as the legislatively defined purpose and parameters are met, the primary block grant recipients may elect how to utilize the funding.


Example of a Block Grant Program

The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Community Development Block Grant Program for Indian Tribes and Alaska Native Villages expects to award approximately $65 million in grant funding. The program aims to support “the development of viable Indian and Alaska Native communities, including the creation of decent housing, suitable living environments, and economic opportunities primarily for persons with low and moderate incomes.”

HUD’s program page states that “eligible applicants …include any Indian tribe, band, group, or nation (including Alaska Indians, Aleut, and Eskimos) or Alaska Native village which has established a relationship to the Federal government as defined in the program regulations.”


How Do Block Grants Help Me?

An important distinction to remember with block grants is the difference between “eligibility” for grant applicants and “eligibility” for beneficiaries. On Grants.gov, the funding opportunities are primarily for organizations to use the grant funding to then implement a program or conduct research.  Applicant eligibility refers to those organizations that are able to apply to the federal agency to receive the program funding.

State and Local Governments

For block grants, the applicants are primarily U.S. states, territories, and local government entities. Once they receive a block grant, they then utilize the funding to implement the program to provide benefits and services to people who are eligible to receive them. This is the beneficiary eligibility.


This means local and regional organizations, such as a nonprofit organization or a local government office, may receive pass-through funds to implement the program to its residents. So, while the federal government does not directly provide the services in this case, organizations may be eligible to receive the benefits of a block grant without knowing its initial source.


If you are searching for personal assistance or benefits that may be supported by one of the block grants described above, you should search on your state and local governments’ websites as well as nonprofit organizations operating in your area. You may also search on Benefits.gov for personal federal assistance.

18 thoughts on “What Is a Block Grant? [Updated]

  1. Hello, I’m a family child care provider. And would like to no is there any type of grants that will help me to improve and update my program.


  2. Dear Sir madam,someone call me that I’m the one selected to receive a money from the grant government so I believe they talked to me to pay the transfer fee to get the money in Western Union so I did pay $200 from the iTunes card and then asking me again onother $600 for the credit scores bcuz my credit is below seven hundred so I did again,after that all the process I did.then again ask me again onother $1500 so I bought a iTunes cards again they said that’s for tax.after all that onother $3,000 thousands for p.p.i insurance.i can not pay that big amount I don’t have no money my credit is only limet.now ican not refund my money because I don’t pay that they asking me, please help me if you can give back the money,now I’m in trouble no money to pay my rent.just because I believe they told me, from grant government.


    1. As you are a victim of a scam, please file a report with the Federal Trade Commission online, or call toll-free, 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4261.


  3. Hi I’m trying to find a grant to improve our correctional facilities. Is their one I can apply for. Also to find funds for the to learn a trade before they return back to the community.


    1. Hi, are you setup as an organization? Or are you trying to find funding as an individual? Trying to find funding as an individual is possible but requires a lot of research. I am not aware of that many foundations or organizations that will fund projects for individuals.

      I always tell people to start with their local state to see if any funding is available for a specific project.


  4. My Township would like to apply for any types of grants that would help start a senior center that would provide food for a lunch program. May are low income & we would collect $3.00 at the most, some can’t afford anything. What grants would help our community? & where do we go for those grants. We are new at this but we want to help people with low income on our community & a place for them to socialize with others their age, play bingo, puzzles, dance this is some things we want to provide. Thank you


  5. Hi Paula, Is your Township setup as a 501c3? There are many state and foundation Grant’s that provide funding to assist with helping disadvantaged residents in communities.


    1. Hi Denise, I am new to this and looking for a grant to open a mental health clinic. Can you direct me on the best place to start looking?


      1. Hi Tonya, I would recommend a recent post from Rodney Walker to check out the Foundation Center’s online directory.


  6. Hi, I am a board member of our local Historical Museum, looking for funding for operational costs with respect to the local county Historical Museum. Any input would be appreciated


  7. Hello Nan, thanks for the important work you do serving as a board member for your local Historical Museum. A number of funders do not support operational costs and are more likely to support project-based causes and initiatives. I suggest checking out the Foundation Center’s online directory as a source for finding potential funders. All the best in your effort! – Rodney


  8. Good Morning,
    I am the Executive DIrector of a Career Center provide suppport for client from GED – Job Placement. I’m looking for funding to help the families I serve and the communities.
    Any thoughts?

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mr. Daniels: What city and state are you located in?? What target population does the Career Center that are in need of securing GEDs and Job Placement services, i.e., Returning Citizens, Youth who have aged out of Foster Care, individuals in Recovery? You also mentioned families and communities, so location is key.


  9. I concur with Denise that looking for local funders would be wise because most foundations like to give in their own back yard or at least where they have a presence.


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