Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS)has been responsible for administering social services programs in the State since its inception in 1937. TDHS is responsible for administering Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (Families First), Child Care Development Fund and Child Care Services, Vocational Rehabilitation (Tennessee Business Enterprise and the Tennessee Rehabilitation Centers), Blind and Visually Impaired Services, Deaf, Sensory Services, Disability Determination Services, Independent Living Services, the Tennessee Technology Access Program (Assistive Technology Services), Adult Day Services, Adult Protectives Services, Social Services Block Grant (Adult Services), and Child Support. With 133 office locations, TDHS is one of the few state agencies with offices in all 95 counties. CSBG is administered through the Child Care and Community Services Division. Contact information for above agency’s are listed in the TDHS website, which includes a program description Program Descriptions (tn.gov).
1. What is CSBG?
The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is a federal block grant administered through the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Community Services (OCS). The CSBG program was created by the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981. It was reauthorized through the CSBG Act—part of the Coats Human Services Reauthorization Act of 1998—and is currently sustained through periodic continuing resolutions. The CSBG Act (49 U.S.C. § 9901 et. seq.) was created, “To provide assistance to States and local communities, working through a network of community action agencies and other neighborhood-based organizations, for the reduction of poverty, the revitalization of low-income communities, and the empowerment of low-income families and individuals in rural and urban areas to become fully self-sufficient. Additional information regarding the CSBG Act can be found on the OCS Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) page.
2. How are CSBG funds distributed?
OCS distributes CSBG funds to states, which then allocate those funds to a network of over 1,100 CSBG-eligible entities—largely known as Community Action Agencies (CAAs). CAAs use the funds to provide services and strategies to low-income individuals and families in their communities to address the causes and conditions of poverty, promote self-sufficiency, and improve the communities in which they live.
3. How are clients in TN served through CSBG?
The Governor has designated the Tennessee Department of Human Services (TDHS) as the lead agency for administering the state’s CSBG funds. TDHS allocates funds to a network of 20 CAAs across the state that provide services in all 95 counties. This CSBG Network has implemented services and strategies to address the needs identified in their communities, including education, employment, housing, health, nutrition, income management, and emergency services. Many CAAs also provide ongoing case management, self-sufficiency, and re-entry programs to support individuals and families in moving past the need for assistance. Customers seeking assistance through CSBG funds submit an application for services directly to the agency serving their community.
4. What is a CAA?
Community Action Agencies—or CAAs—are entities that are eligible to receive state appropriations, state-administered funds, or contracts with state agencies to provide human and community services in their designated service area. CAAs may be private, nonprofit, or public organizations and may include human resource agencies and department within local governments. They are governed by a uniquely structured tripartite board of directors that are comprised of elected public officials, private sector, and low-income representatives. This structure is designed to promote community participation in assessing local needs and eliminating the cause and conditions of poverty. Based on the community assessment of needs, CAAs create, coordinate, and deliver an array of comprehensive programs and services to support low-income individuals and families and assist them in achieving self-sufficiency. CSBG is a unique funding source which can help fill the gaps and provide innovative opportunities for the customers and communities CAAs serve.
5. Who is eligible to receive the CSBG grant?
Individuals and families are unable to receive CSBG grant funds directly; however, you may be eligible to receive CSBG-funded services from your local CAA. In order to be determined eligible for services funded by the CSBG grant, individuals and the members of their household must: 1) provide proof of citizenship or qualified alien status; 2) have an income at or below 125% of the federal poverty level; and 3) have a documented need for service. Eligibility determinations are made by individual CAAs. If you believe you may be eligible to receive services through the CSBG grant, contact your local CAA to submit an application. They will help guide you through eligibility determination process. You can find the local CAA serving your county here.
6. How do I apply for the CSBG Grant?
Individuals and families are unable to apply directly for CSBG grant funds; however, you can apply for services from your local CAA that are funded by the CSBG grant. When you apply for services from your local CAA, you will be asked questions about your household composition, income, citizenship status, and the needs for which you are requesting assistance in order to receive an eligibility determination. The CAA will also ask for documentation that will allow for verification of your citizenship status, income, and need for service. If you are determined eligible, the CAA will work with you to determine the services that will best meet your needs. You can find the local CAA serving your county here. We also recommend that you reach out to TDHS Families First to see if you are eligible for services in their available programs.
7. Does DHS assist with paying utility bills? If so, how do I qualify for those funds?
TDHS does not provide funds for utility bill assistance directly to customers; however, many CAAs use CSBG funds to provide emergency utility assistance to individuals and families meeting eligibility requirements in the community. Contact your local CAA to find out if this service is available in your area. You can find the local CAA serving your county here. Utility bill assistance may also be provided through the Tennessee Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Find out if you may be eligible for services through this program by visiting the Tennessee LIHEAP page on Benefits.gov.
TDHS does not provide funds for housing assistance directly to customers; however, many CAAs use CSBG funds to provide housing assistance, such as housing deposits and rent or mortgage payment assistance. Some CAAs also provide short- and long-term services for individuals and families experiencing homelessness. Contact your local CAA to find out what types of housing assistance is available in your area. You can find the local CAA serving your county here. We also recommend you contact the Tennessee Housing Development Agency (THDA) regarding your housing needs. They will be able to refer you to specific resources within your community.
CSBG funds are not provided directly to customers for transportation; however, CAAs may provide transportation services to individuals and families using CSBG funds. These services may include ride services, bus passes, and gas cards. Contact your local CAA to find out if transportation assistance is available in your area. You can find the local CAA serving your county here.
10. I recently moved to Tennessee from out of state and I am looking for public services and resources in my area. What help is available to me?
Your local CAA may have services, or be able to refer you to local resources, to assist with your needs related to housing, utilities, education, employment, nutrition, childcare, and healthcare. If the services are funded by CSBG grant, you will need to meet the specified eligibility requirements to receive assistance. Contact your local CAA to find out what services and supports are available in your area. You can find the local CAA serving your county here. We also recommend that your reach out to TDHS Families First to see if you are eligible services in their available programs.
11. Can CSBG funds assist with a domestic violence situation?
We recommend that anyone who is currently in or has left a domestic violence situation seek assistance from the Tennessee Coalition to End Domestic and Sexual Violence. They will be able to connect you with resources, including emergency housing, legal advocacy, and counseling.
CAAs may also assist survivors of domestic violence through CSBG-funded services, including housing and utility costs, nutrition, and employment or job training, as well as referrals to other supports and assistance in the area. Contact your local CAA to see what services and supports are available in your area. You can find the local CAA serving your county here.
12. I am interested in setting up a daycare in my community. Can CSBG funds be used for my startup costs?
CSBG cannot be used to fund daycare startup costs. We suggest you contact TDHS Child Care Services for further assistance. Child Care Services plans, implements, and coordinates activities and programs to ensure quality services and the health and safety of children in licensed care. Child Care Services includes Child and Adult Care Licensing, Child Care Payment Assistance (Smart Steps and the Child Care Certificate Program), Child Care Assessment, and other partner programs.