SJR 223 (1993)

Standing Joint Subcommittee on Block Grants

July 19, 2000, Richmond

Continuing a tradition developed almost 20 years ago, the joint subcommittee held its annual hearing on the federal FY 2000 application for the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) on July 19. The joint subcommittee serves as Virginia's compliance mechanism for the federal requirement for legislative public hearings on certain block grants. Currently, the only federal block grant requiring a legislative hearing is the Community Services Block Grant, which is submitted as a narrative plan in compliance with Section VI, Subtitle B of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 (P.O. 97-35), as amended by various acts, including the 1998 Community Services Block Grant Act (42 U.S.C. 9901 et seq.) by the Department of Social Services, Virginia's administering agency.

Grant Application

Upon conclusion of the chairman's opening remarks encapsulating the joint subcommittee's history, the director of the Office of Community Services provided the subcommittee with a summary of the grant application. The 2000 application requests federal funds totaling more than $7.5 million. In addition, the state will provide more than $3.5 million.

Virginia has 26 local nonprofit community action agencies and three statewide community action organizations -- the Virginia Community Action Re-entry System (Virginia Cares), Project Discovery, and the Virginia Water Project. Ninety percent of the funds will be awarded to the local community action agencies; five percent will fund the statewide community action organizations; and five percent will be used for administrative costs by the Department of Social Services.

Community Services

Community action agencies provide a wide range of services that are designed to assist low-income people in becoming self-sufficient. For example, CSBG funds:

  • Job training and skills development,

  • Micro-enterprises,

  • Child care,

  • Head Start programs,

  • Housing,

  • Transportation,

  • Emergency services, and

  • Water and waste water facility development.

Some other Community Services Block Grant activities are elderly services, nutrition, ex-offender services, economic and community development, and community organization. The current grant continues the development of Results-Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA), the CSBG approach to the implementation of new federal outcome-reporting requirements. Virginia is recognized as a leader in the development of this outcome-based approach.

Public Testimony

During the public hearing, testimony was received from 24 individuals. All of the public speakers expressed their thanks for the services received from the relevant community action program. Several Head Start parents explained how they had received services, become more self-sufficient, and made a better life for their families as a result of enrolling their young children in Head Start. Several speakers told moving stories of being jobless and homeless as a result of divorce, catastrophic life events, or exiting the prison system.

Several young adults relived their personal problems and the help they had received from a local CAA, including computer training, other job-training, obtaining jobs, handling bills, finding suitable housing, and reuniting their families. Some of these adults now operate their own businesses, own their own homes, or have gotten their lives and their families back on track with jobs they enjoy and decent, safe housing. Three teenage mothers described the help they had received through the Resource Mothers program in staying in high school, learning parenting skills, and coping with the difficulties of going to school while providing their babies with proper care.

One senior citizen spoke for a group of seniors who would "not get out of the house all week" but for the program provided by the local community action program. One elementary school student told about the summer music program provided by a local community action program and the enrichment of his life by this instruction.

Several young people represented Project Discovery participants, including a large group which had traveled from the Tidewater. These young people recounted the benefits all of them were receiving from Project Discovery and the opportunities that have been provided to them, such as visiting colleges, learning study skills, receiving public speaking instruction, and learning how to write a resume. One young woman, the valedictorian of her graduating class, explained that, as a result of her Project Discovery experiences, she will be attending the University of Richmond in the fall on a full scholarship.

Several presenters noted that the relevant community action agency was the only entity willing to help them through the depression and desperation of being ex-offenders, substance abusers, on welfare with no job skills or homeless and jobless with a family. Several speakers emphasized the new confidence and pride they now have in themselves as a result of the skills and education they were provided by a community action agency.

In closing, the president of Virginia Council Against Poverty noted that, as impressive as the stories recalled by the speakers were, the real story may be the 740,000 Virginians living in poverty who may only need a "hand-up" to change their lives. He stated that, for every dollar appropriated to the community action programs, $9 were leveraged by the local agencies, and that community action program makes good economic sense for Virginia and the low-income people served by the programs.

Subcommittee Action

After the public hearing, the joint subcommittee unanimously approved a motion to endorse the current block grant application.

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