What is Giving Compass?
We connect donors to learning resources and ways to support community-led solutions. Learn more about us.
Proposed for elimination, the Community Development Block Grant has been a major source of flexible funds aimed at helping low-income people.
As the federal budget tightens, major sources of federal support for US communities are in the spotlight, but the conversations are often short on evidence, especially for block grant programs. Block grants give states or localities flexible, formula-based funding (and general guidelines), allowing grantees to determine how to spend it.
For community development and housing activities that benefit low-income people, the Community Development Block Grant program (CDBG) has been a substantial source of flexible funds for more than 40 years.
The program’s creation reflected a bipartisan compromise between devolving decisionmaking power to state and local governments and creating a national program benefiting low-income communities. As a block grant, it could do both.
The program continues to play an important role today as a unique community development resource. According to the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), between 2005 and 2013, CDBG created or retained 330,546 jobs, assisted over 1.1 million people with homeownership and improvements, benefited over 33 million people nationwide through public improvements, and provided public services to over 105 million people. Practitioners also report that CDBG funds are often the "first capital in" to a project, which is critical in attracting other funds.
But CDBG might be eliminated, and the program has faced criticism for a lack of evidence on its benefits. But this lack of evidence does not mean CDBG doesn’t have positive results. It may be related to limited investments in program evaluation and monitoring and inherent difficulties in determining outcomes for multi-objective place-based efforts.