Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2004 

SJR 223 (1993): Standing Joint Subcommittee on Block Grants

August 3, 2004

With 2004 being a grant renewal year, the Joint Subcommittee on Block Grants continued its long-standing tradition of holding a public hearing on federal applications for Community Action Block Grants. The 13-member joint subcommittee has served as Virginia’s compliance mechanism for required public hearings on federal grant applications for more than 20 years.

Although the joint sub-committee’s hearings in previous years have covered as many as three grant applications, only the Community Action Block Grant is currently submitted to it for public hearing. The Community Action Block Grant, administered by the Department of Social Services, is submitted as a narrative plan in compliance with Title VI, Subtitle B, of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, as amended by various provisions, including the 1998 Community Action Block Grant Act (42 U.S.C. 9901 et seq.).


The commissioner of the Department of Social Services presented an overview of the application. Community action agencies will be assisting the department in its initiative to increase the number of working families who claim the federal earned income tax credit (EIC). Virginians eligible for the earned income tax credit were leaving an estimated $160 million on the table—an amount that certainly could enhance the incomes of eligible working families. In the coming year, the community action agencies will be partnering with the department in this effort. In response to various questions relating to why people do not take advantage of the credit, the commissioner explained that many people are not aware of it and that many people need help in preparing their tax forms. This effort will be cooperative and collaborative across several venues, with outreach and training and assistance with the tax returns.

Virginia has 26 local community action agencies (24 local nonprofit organizations and two local public community action agencies) and three statewide nonprofit community action organizations—Virginia Community Action Re-entry System (Virginia CARES), Project Discovery, and Southeast RCAP/Virginia Water Project.

The subcommittee was informed that 90 percent of the available federal funds will be passed through to the local community action agencies; five percent of the funds will be allocated to the statewide organizations. Total projected funding for the first year of this two-year grant cycle is $14,571,248, with federal grant funding of $9,673,389, state funding of $1.5 million, and $3,397,859 in Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) money. Legislative actions will determine the funding in the second year of the grant cycle.

Public Hearing

During the public hearing, testimony was received from 17 individuals as well as the president and the director of the Virginia Community Action Partnership (VACAP). The remarks noted that even in the Northern Virginia community of Arlington, frequently viewed as a wealthy county, there are increasing needs for the safety net services of community action agencies for people who are in need of immediate help with the basics of life.

The difference between social services and community action was emphasized, with the community action agencies delivering $9 of services for every $1 of funding, thereby providing a real return on the federal and state investments.

Another speaker talked about the link between eliminating poverty, education, and the need for assisting ex-offenders in the transition to a normal life. He introduced the leaders/teachers and several children from Freedom School in Portsmouth. The teachers described the concepts of the school, such as emphasizing the importance of voting, promoting reading through a “drop everything and read” project, and inspiring the children to become better students and lead productive lives.

Several speakers described the help they had received in becoming gainfully employed and continuing to enhance their job and living skills. Several young women explained their plans for college—an aspiration encouraged by Project Discovery and the local community action agencies through cultural enrichment and youth programs.

Another speaker described a program of youth enrichment in a rural area that has very few activities for adolescents between 12 and 15 years old during the summer. The program is designed to reach the parents and to encourage sincere community dialogue and has extended well beyond the community action agency by enlisting the cooperation of 18 churches in the area as well as the local Rotary Club.

Subcommittee Action

Upon conclusion of the public hearing, the members discussed the community action programs, noting that the quality of the services has improved with the accountability component of the grant. The subcommittee also observed that the community action programs serve the people who are least able to speak for themselves and least likely to obtain other assistance. The joint subcommittee unanimously approved a motion to endorse the current block grant application for submission.

The Hon. Charles J. Colgan

For information, contact:
Norma E. Szakal
Division of Legislative Services

Division of Legislative Services > Legislative Record > 2004 


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