SJR 223 (1993)

Standing Joint Subcommittee on Block Grants

July 29, 1999, Richmond

For almost 20 years, federal legislation has required that legislative public hearings be held on certain block grants. An ad hoc procedure was used in the 1980s and early 1990s to satisfy the initial federal requirement for such legislative hearings. When the need for a permanent mechanism became apparent, SJR 223 of 1993 was approved to establish the Standing Joint Subcommittee on Block Grants. The standing joint subcommittee is a unique legislative group--a standing interim subcommittee which will exist for so long as federal law requires a public hearing as a condition for receipt of any block grant funds. The joint subcommittee is also authorized to make recommendations to the General Assembly and to report, if deemed necessary. Thus, Virginia complies with federal law and ensures the receipt of the relevant federal funds.

Community Services Block Grant

Currently, federal statutes only require legislative public hearings on the Community Services Block Grant (application and funding through the Department of Social Services). The Community Services Block Grant is submitted in compliance with Section VI, Subtitle B, of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (PL 97-35), as amended by various acts, including the 1998 Community Services Block Grant Act (42 U.S.C. 9901 et seq.). The federal law requires the administering agency to submit a narrative plan describing the Commonwealth's proposed use and distribution of the funds and how the assurances required in the law will be met. In Virginia, 26 community action agencies provide a wide range of services to low-income populations designed to assist low-income people in becoming self-sufficient, such as:

1999 Public Hearing

During the 1999 public hearing, the standing joint subcommittee received a summary of the application from the Department of Social Services and presentations from 13 speakers. In its summary, the department emphasized the role of the community action agencies in the second phase of welfare reform. At the local level, community action agency personnel have traditionally identified problems and worked to build supportive networks and have thus demonstrated the way to assist unemployed and poor people in becoming self-sufficient. Three statewide agencies are also funded to provide community services such as assistance with obtaining safe drinking water and sewage disposal, ex-offender services, and educational services (Project Discovery).

The current grant also continues the development of Results-Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA), the Community Services Block Grant approach to the implementation of new federal outcome-reporting requirements. Virginia has become a leader in the development of the outcome-based accounting system. This system is focused on calculating the success of the efforts and not simply counting the number of clients served (e.g., how many people actually get and retain jobs and child care or are otherwise successful in putting their lives together).

Approximately 1,384 people received job training; 1,489 moved from welfare to work; 10,668 had their housing situations improved through repair, weatherization or installation of running water or waste water facilities; 2,800 children received preventive primary health care; and 2,884 parents obtained day care to enable them to work. For each $1 provided to community action programs, $9 are leveraged. Over $155 million goes into local economies through the services of community action agencies, with a savings to the Commonwealth of $82 million. A number of agencies are developing or have developed computer literacy programs to help their clients qualify for jobs and schooling. The public speakers told many success stories--all linked to the help received from one of the community action agencies.

The standing joint subcommittee completed its hearing by voting unanimously to endorse the 1999 application for the Community Service Block Grant.

The Honorable Charles J. Colgan, Chair
Legislative Services contact: Norma E. Szakal