The Department of Health and Human Services is the primary Federal agency responsible for safeguarding the physical and mental health of Americans and plays a pivotal role in providing basic human services support particularly to those at or near the poverty threshold.
According to the Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance the Department of Health and Human Services funds over 395 programs in pursuit of its objectives. HHS operates through 11 divisions and maintains of budget of $460 Million.
Within HHS there are 18 offices that focus on providing services to different demographic groups or health related issues. The Administration for Children and Families (A.C.F.) is charged with responsibility for managing over sixty programs and provide essential human services individuals and families living in poverty.
The Office of Community Services (O.C.S.) is the department within A.C.F. that operates in conjunction with communities across the nation, and other federal and state agencies to ensure the provision of a range of human services and economic development resources to deal with the root causes and impact of poverty and deprivation on individuals and families in those communities. The ultimate goal of all O.C.S. activities is to provide support and models to these communities for increasing self sufficiency and the provide mechanisms for community revitalization that is primarily locally driven.
One of the major programs of the O.C.S. is the Community Services Block Grant which in 2010 will distribute $700 Million to states and other entities across the United States.
The Community Services Block Grant (C.S.B.G.) supplies funding to States, and recognized United States Territories and Indian Tribes. It also funds Community Action Agencies and other nonprofit groups specified by the States with the ultimate objective of eradicating the root causes and effects of poverty on communities around the nation.
The C.S.B.G. provides two types of grants – block grants and discretionary grants. Block grants are only available to States, Indian Tribes and other United States territories (e.g. Washington D.C., Puerto Rico). O.C.S is responsible for the Community Services Block Grant program funding and divides that funds amongst the states based on a methodology factoring in the proportion of people living in poverty in each State and Indian Tribe. The block grants are not awarded on a competitive basis.
Discretionary grants are open to nonprofit groups that have exhibited skill in training individuals and groups on methodologies to effectively deal with the requirements of low-income families and the communities in which they live. These organizations are most likely to be officially designated as Community Action Agencies (CAA’s).
Community Action Agencies are a type of nonprofit organization which had their genesis during the administration of President Johnson 1964 with the initiation of America’s War on Poverty. The mission of Community Action Agencies is an agenda of self-sufficiency – helping community residents to help themselves. Currently there are about one thousand CAA’s serving the people in need in every state and U.S. Territory.
In addition to the discretionary funding which flows through CAA’s, a large part of the block grant funding delivered to states is passed along to Community Action Agencies to support target populations.