What is the Community Services Block Grant?
The Community Service Block Grant (CSGB) is the base funding for Northeast Michigan Community Service Agency (NEMCSA). The agency was formed in response to the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 to fight poverty by empowering the poor and CSBG has been a line item in the federal budget since that time. It enables local agencies to ameliorate the causes and conditions of poverty. CSBG positions NEMCSA to apply for poverty related grant dollars in an 11 county area. These dollars are critical for providing services to individuals and families in this rural area where the five-year jobless rate is still 11.6%; where the median household income is under $40,000; where the poverty rate is 18%; where 60% of our children qualify for free and reduced school lunch.
What does the CSBG do?
CSBG funding allows NEMCSA to initiate and pilot new programs identified by our clients through the community needs assessment. Just one of many examples of CSBG at work is a locally devised School Success Partnership, which identifies students who are at risk for academic failure. This program has received statewide attention as a model by producing a 98.7% reduction in chronic absenteeism in Northeast Michigan students since its inception. CSGB provides core funding to reduce poverty, revitalize low-income communities, and to empower low-income income families to become self-sufficient.
Why is CSBG important?
CSBG is the building block. In addition to direct service to clients, CSBG provides leverage funds and gap funding and pays for program evaluation to assure accountability. It funds the staff who secure the funding for the programs NEMCSA operates. CSBG is crucial to Community Action Agencies because it has one critical difference from all other funding. It allows individual communities to identify what their particular need is and respond accordingly. Thus it could help Flint to respond to its water contamination problem; it can fund housing or hunger or homelessness or medical emergencies. It helps transport Veterans to medical facilities and undergirds meals for homebound senior citizens with nowhere else to turn. The FLEXIBILITY of this funding makes it truly unique in the national response to poverty in America and to NEMCSA’s response to poverty in the state of Michigan.