States receive a significant influx of federal pass-through funds to implement many public policies and programs including those to enable access to health care, income security, education, employment, social services, and housing, and improve family stability and public safety. Federal grants account for about one-third of state government funding and more than half of state government funding for health care and public assistance.
Many opportunities to financially support civil legal aid flow from states’ powers to administer some of those federal funding sources. Avoiding here the technical differences among the different grant mechanisms, this matrix focuses on those block, formula, and open-end reimbursement grants where the federally-established amounts and spending parameters give states flexibility to tailor spending to local priorities and local infrastructure and allow state spending on civil legal aid – whether to support self-represented litigants, brief counsel and advice, or limited and/or full representation. Each of the federal funding sources in the matrix have their own rules, regulations, formulas, and degrees of flexibility.
This module walks through a wide array of state-administered federal funding streams that can support legal aid, including Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) victim assistance formula grant program, the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act (WIOA) formula funds, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) block grant. Several of these funding sources have an FAQs document that connects the funds to legal aid, examples of how states and programs have accessed these funds, and helpful resources and next steps for policymakers and legal aid providers seeking to leverage their limited resources.
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This matrix is intended as an introduction to the possibilities for partnering with state and local governments to address the need for civil legal help that advances government priorities involving low-income and other underserved populations. It provides an overview of those state-administered federal funds that can support legal aid and examples of how states have used these funds to advance their goals with legal aid. It also gives helpful tips, like how to find your state’s administrator, how much funding is available, and where to find state-specific plans and reports.
Grants Matrix PDF
FAQs: In-Depth Look at Federal Funding for Legal Aid
TANF is the federal government’s primary cash assistance program for needy families. The federal government gives states block grants to design and operate programs that accomplish one of the purposes of the TANF program. Legal aid can further the TANF program’s goals of helping needy families achieve self sufficiency and provide support for job preparation and employment alongside other social services.States partnering with legal aid increase the odds of improving outcomes for their neediest residents by providing help accessing housing, healthcare, education, employment, and enhancing public safety and family stability.
The Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) of 1984 established the Crime Victims Fund (CVF), the nation’s primary funding source to help victims of all types of crimes. CVF is a repository of federal criminal fines, forfeitures and special assessments. It does not include tax dollars.
Among the VOCA-authorized grant programs is the state administered victim assistance formula grants. It provides funding to groups and direct services for victims, such as domestic violence shelters, legal support, faith-based organizations, and child abuse organizations.
Title IV-D is part of the Social Security Act (Title IV) that outlines and implements child support services and paternity establishment. Title IV provides federal resources to states for welfare services. Title IV is called “Grants to States for Aid and Services to Needy Families with Children and for Child-Welfare Services,” or otherwise known as the Social Security Act. Part A provides block grants for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Title B is titled “Child and Family Services.” Part C was repealed. Part D is titled “Child Support and Establishment of Paternity.” Part E is titled “Federal Payments for Foster Care and Adoption Assistance.”
In December 2016, OCSE published the Final Rule: Flexibility, Efficiency, and Modernization in Child Support Enforcement Programs. This final rule makes changes to strengthen the child support enforcement program and updates current practices to increase regular, on-time payments to families, to increase the number of noncustodial parents supporting their children, and to improve program operations. One of those changes clarifies that states can use Title IV-D funding for self-help services.