Federal Government Block Grant

Federal Government Block Grant – Overview

A federal government block grant refers to a grant-in-aid awarded to a state or local government to support broad-purpose projects or programs.

It is an annual sum of money funding law enforcement, public health, social services, and community development. Block grants are given primarily to general-purpose governmental units following a statutory formula.

Understanding the Federal Government Block Grant

Federal block grants have been widely used since the 1980s following major federal fiscal reforms. They generally allow for more flexibility and autonomy for the states in terms of designing and implementing programs.

States may use the block grant funding to organize a program or make sub-awards to local organizations to serve within their region, such as providing medical grants for individuals.

Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) is typically awarded to states and local jurisdictions, which then distribute funds locally.

As long as the legislatively defined purpose and parameters are met, state and local governments may elect how to use the money and for what purpose.

They add their guidelines and sometimes distribute a portion of the grant to other organizations, which likewise have their own rules regarding utilizing the funding.


  • Federal government block grants are funds earmarked for specific state or local programs.
  • A block grant is supported by federal government funds but administered by the state or local governments.
  • Most block grants support health, housing, or other social services.
  • The purpose of the block grants was to provide funding for services that have relatively few strings attached, enabling local governments to regulate and manage the programs.

Federal Government Block Grant – Examples

Three of the most popular block grant programs reserved for social services delivered at the regional level:

1. The Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)

The CDBG (Community Development Block Grant) program is governed by the Housing and Urban Development Agency.

It ensures decent and affordable housing to provide services to the most vulnerable communities. They also aim to create jobs through the expansion and retention of businesses.

According to a formula based on a community’s need, the grant amounts are awarded, including the extent of poverty, overcrowding, and population growth.

2. The Mental Health Block Grant (MHBG)

The Mental Health Block Grant (MHBG) was established by the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Administration Reorganization Act in 1992.

3. The Social Services Block Grant Program (SSBG)

The Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) allows states significant flexibility to meet the needs of their population, particularly for those most vulnerable, and to support a variety of social services ranging from child care to services for the elderly.

This program is administered by Health and Human Services, designed to reduce dependency and encourage self-sufficiency. It is also intended to protect children and adults from abuse and exploitation; help individuals who are unable to take care of themselves.

Federal Government Block Grant – How to Get Help?

An important distinction to remember with federal government block grants is the difference between “eligibility” for beneficiaries and “eligibility” for grant applicants.

The funding opportunities available on Grants.gov are primarily for organizations to use the grant funding to implement a program or conduct research.

Beneficiary eligibility refers to the organizations that can apply to the federal agency to receive the program funding. To know more about applicant eligibility criteria, visit, https://www.grants.gov/

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 eligible recipients.


Local and regional organizations, such as nonprofit organizations or a local government office, may receive sub-awards (pass-through funds) for implementing the program with its residents.

Because the federal government does not directly provide the aid, organizations may be eligible to receive the benefits of a block grant without knowing its primary source.


Individuals are searching for personal assistance or benefits that may be supported by block grants.

They are required to search state and local government websites and nonprofit organizations operating in their area. For personal federal assistance, they can also visit https://www.benefits.gov/.


More refined measures are being adopted to improve block grant allocation formulas.

A federal government block grant is an unrestricted grant to state and local governments, used at their discretion to fund exceptionally social services that were previously paid through special federal programs.

See Also

Home Loans for Healthcare Workers

Medical Loans for Bad Credit

What is the NIH?

Medical Grants

Current Version
May 5, 2024
Updated By
Andrea Morales G.
February 10, 2021
Written By
Victoria Abigail Friedland

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