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State Priorities and Needs: The Role of Block Grants.

Public Health Reports 2023 November 5
OBJECTIVES: Block grant funding provides federal financial support to states, with increased flexibility as to how those funds can be allocated at the community level. At the state level, block grant amounts and distributions are often based on outdated formulas that consider population measures and funding environments at the time of their creation. We describe variation in state-level funding allocations for 5 federal block grant programs and the extent to which funding aligns with the current needs of state populations.

METHODS: We conducted an analysis in 2022 of state block grant allocations as a function of state-level characteristics for 2015-2019 for all 50 states. We provide descriptive statistics of state block grant allocations and multivariate regression models for each program. Models include base characteristics relevant across programs plus supplemental characteristics based on program-specific goals and state population needs.

RESULTS: Mean state block grant allocations per 1000 population by program ranged from $618 to $21 528 during 2015-2019. Characteristics associated with state allocations varied across block grants. For example, for every 1-percentage-point increase in the percentage of the population living in nonmetropolitan areas, Preventive Health and Health Services Block Grant funding was approximately $7 per 1000 population higher and Community Services Block Grant funding was approximately $40 per 1000 population higher. Few supplemental characteristics were associated with allocations.

CONCLUSIONS: Current block grant funding does not align with state characteristics and needs. Future research should consider how funds are used at the state level or allocated to local agencies or organizations and compare state block grant allocations with other types of funding mechanisms, such as categorical funding.

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