Fact Sheet: How Does Block Granting Gut the Social Safety Net?

By Rakeen Mabud |

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Block granting is the process of redirecting federal funds to states, which then have sole control over how that money is allocated. States can lift federal restrictions on how the money should be spent. This policy choice can have deeply pernicious effects and often serves as a back door for slashing the budgets of social safety net programs.

Block granting is a favorite tactic of conservatives used to gut programs they don’t like. It’s been a core component of Paul Ryan’s budget plans: In 2014, he proposed merging and block-granting programs intended to help low-income people. Donald Trump has also championed block-granting Medicaid, as has Tom Price, Trump’s new Secretary of Health and Human Services. Similarly, Ted Cruz has supported blockgranting education funding.

Progressives should be on the lookout for this ostensibly harmless tactic that might seem like a minor budgetary rule, but in practice significantly constrains programs that serve low-income people. Block granting is a clear example of a policy appears race- and gender-neutral but actually has deeply racialized and gendered effects, particularly in an environment in which broad cuts to other safety net programs are likely.

Rakeen Mabud is the Program Director of the 21st Century and Economic Inclusion programs at the Roosevelt Institute.