Community Services Block Grant Modernization Act of 2022

Floor Speech

Date: May 13, 2022
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. THOMPSON of Pennsylvania. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentlewoman for yielding.

Today, we have the great opportunity to move one step closer to reducing poverty across the Nation. The community services block grant is the only Federal program with the explicit and overreaching goal of reducing poverty regardless of its cause.

Originally, created in 1964, the program established local community action agencies to help identify why people were in poverty and how to address it using public and private resources. It was a public-private partnership. Community action agencies are governed by boards that are largely made up of business and industry community leaders in those counties.

Funds for this program help families and individuals achieve self- sufficiency, find and retain meaningful employment, attain an education, make better use of available income, obtain housing, and achieve greater participation in community affairs. Virtually every county in the United States has a community action agency which helps low-income individuals and families move from poverty to independence.

CSBG has not been reauthorized in more than two decades, and today's vote will renew our commitment to reducing poverty and strengthening communities across the country.

H.R. 5129 reauthorizes the community services block grant program for 10 years at an annual level of $1 billion for the first 5 years. It maintains local control of community action planning and activities. It is largely business and industry leaders that constitute those boards. It authorizes a broadband navigator program to respond to the broadband and digital needs of low-income families and communities to find pathways out of poverty.

Madam Speaker, it does so much more.

CSBG requires some modernization to allow agencies the ability to tap their full potential and better serve families and communities. While this program has a strong history of bipartisan support, some of my colleagues have alleged faith-based organizations will no longer be able to participate in the CSBG program if this bill becomes law. This is simply untrue.

Faith-based organizations are longstanding and essential partners in community action networks. They serve as incredible forces of good in their communities.

Philippians 2:4 tells us, ``Let each of you look not only to his interests, but also to the interests of the others.''

Madam Speaker, as a man of faith and longtime member of the Congressional Prayer Caucus, the last thing I would do is support legislation that removes faith-based organizations entirely from actively and equally participating in CSBG. There have been longstanding Federal regulations which were expanded under the George W. Bush administration that allow faith-based organizations to partake in Federal programs without compromising their religious beliefs. These regulations now apply to nine Federal departments and agencies, including HHS.

The Trump administration also reaffirmed these regulations through the final rule titled Equal Participation of Faith-Based Organizations in the Federal Agencies' Programs and Activities.

This bill makes Federal policy clearer, and it maintains the same protections for faith-based providers in CSBG-funded activities.

Madam Speaker, it is time for Congress to reaffirm our Nation's commitment to reducing poverty by reauthorizing the CSBG, and I urge my colleagues to support the passage of this righteous legislation.