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

Block grants have been in use since the 1950s, supporting various purposes. 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.

Some block grants are directly awarded to local governments (e.g., Community Development Block Grant).

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.

In 2018, the annual grants were awarded to 1,209 state and local government agencies.

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 was established in 1981 and amended in 1986. It has dispensed millions of dollars to states to support the treatment of mental illnesses.

3. The Social Services Block Grant Program (SSBG)

The Social Services Block Grant Program (SSBG) is a broadly defined program that allows states and territories to tailor social service programming to their populations’ needs.

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 governments’ websites as well as nonprofit organizations operating in their area. For personal federal assistance, one can also visit https://www.benefits.gov/.

Federal Government Block Grant – How Much Funds Are Disbursed?

The formulas for how much funds states get favor small states. Most grant programs usually have a minimum of 0.5% or 0.75% of the total money given to states. Similar patterns apply to block grant formulas.


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 especially 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

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