Title XX of the Social Security Act was signed into law by President Gerald Ford on January 4, 1975 as part of the Social Services Amendments of 1974. The program was intended to compliment the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), enacted in August 1974, in providing states a flexible source of funding for social services.
The stated purpose of the 1974 act was to encourage states to furnish services with the goals of:
“(1) Achieving or maintaining economic self-support to prevent, reduce, or eliminate dependency;
In a statement released on the day President Ford signed the act, he characterized the Social Services Amendments of 1974 as a “major piece of domestic legislation and a significant step forward in Federal-State relations.” However, it was not until the passage of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (OBRA) that Title XX was amended to its current form as a block grant to the states, now commonly known as the Social Services Block Grant Program (SSBG).
From a housing policy perspective, it is worth noting that many activities associated with the goal of “preventing or reducing inappropriate institutional care…” fall under the rubric of the Housing Plus Services model. SSBG funds may be used to provide community- and home-based services to seniors and people with disabilities to help them live successfully outside of institutions.
Combined with adequate housing subsidies, community- and home-based care serve a critical role in allowing seniors and people with disabilities to live independent, socially integrated lives in their communities. When used to assist people with disabilities such as serious mental illness, SSBG funds can play an important part in successful Olmstead implementation. The 1999 U.S. Supreme Court Olmstead decision held that Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act prohibits unjustified segregation of individuals with disabilities. The court directed public entities serving qualified individuals with mental or physical disabilities to provide treatment and services in the most integrated and least restrictive setting that appropriately addresses the needs of the individual.
Beyond activities typically associated with preventing or reducing inappropriate institutional care, SSBG may also be used to fund services for locating, obtaining, and maintaining housing. This includes housing search assistance, tenant counseling, assistance with understanding leases, and assistance with securing utilities.
Funded as high as $2.8 billion from 1991 to 1995, SSBG was permanently reduced to $1.7 billion in 2001 to help pay for the 1998 Transportation Equity Act, which reauthorized the surface transportation programs. As a result of sequestration in FY13, funding was cut to $1.578 billion. The FY14 House Budget resolution proposed eliminating SSBG, and legislation was introduced in the Senate that would use SSBG to fund other social services initiatives
Although funding has significantly declined, SSBG remains an important source of funding for services that allow low income people to both find and stay in housing.
National Association of Counties, “2014 Policy Brief: Support the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG),” http://bit.ly/Wo8oLZ
Social Services Amendments of 1974, http://1.usa.gov/1rGt4uX
President Gerald Ford, “Statement on Signing the Social Services Amendments of 1974,” http://bit.ly/Wo9Qht
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