About the Division of Community Services

MANDATE: Under leadership of the Secretary of State, the Division of Community Services [DCS] administers the Community Services Block Grant [CSBG] program in New York State. The Governor, in accordance with current federal statute, designated DOS as lead agency for CSBG administration. DOS has held this responsibility since creation of this Block Grant in 1981.

CSBG is a federal program created by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act to ameliorate the causes of poverty in communities. CSBG provides federal anti-poverty funding to a statewide network consisting of community action agencies [CAAs], community action programs [CAPs], and migrant and seasonal farmworker organizations, as designated by federal laws. CAAs and CAPs were created in 1964 under the Economic Opportunity Act [EOA]. CSBG was created as a successor to EOA. The New York State network is comprised of 52 CSBG grantees serving all 62 counties, and which provide a range of services to meet the needs of low-income New Yorkers. Funding is also provided to 4 Indian Tribes/Tribal organizations, for a total of 56 entities.

The CSBG program purposes are to provide assistance to states and local communities working through a network of CAAs and other neighborhood organizations for reduction of poverty, revitalization of low-income communities, and empowerment of low-income families and individuals in rural and urban areas to become fully self-sufficient.

NEW YORK STATE ROLE: NYS allocates CSBG funds to recipients in the manner required under federal law. The Secretary of State, through DCS, assists the Governor in applying to the federal government for the state’s CSBG allocation; cooperates with the legislature in conducting public hearings on the use and distribution of funds; and monitors and evaluates the use of funds received by the state under CSBG, Executive Law, §159-f. In 2007, the Secretary of State was appointed to the Governor's Economic Security Cabinet, a body consisting of over 20 NYS agencies and which concentrates on educational and employment needs of working families as well as those families which are at risk of falling through the safety net. Recommendations of this Cabinet contribute to the guidance of CSBG. The Secretary of State is given general authority to promulgate rules and regulations relating to CSBG under NYS Executive Law, §159-g. Regulations were promulgated relating to decertification of eligible grantees, and the creation of the CSBG Advisory Council. These regulations are found in the New York Codes Rules and Regulations.

DCS ADMINISTRATION: DCS provides direction and support for local development and implementation of comprehensive, integrated services in accordance with the mission of CSBG and in compliance with applicable state and federal statutes and regulations. DCS is dedicated to furnishing quality guidance to grantees, securing full compliance with applicable federal and state statutes and regulations, increasing accountability, and ensuring successful outcomes for individuals, families, and communities. The planning, implementation, and evaluation processes and procedures for CSBG are guided by the principles of Results-Oriented Management and Accountability, also known as ROMA. [Additional information about ROMA may be found at the ROMA web site: www.roma1.org]

MONITORING: Monitoring of CSBG-eligible entities is mandated by federal legislation governing CSBG. Monitoring is a comprehensive approach to reviewing, assessing, evaluating, and improving the quality of services provided by grantees to individuals, children, families, and the community served by grantees. Monitoring is an ongoing process which verifies grantee progress and documents compliance. Staff provides technical assistance and training to grantees at all levels to ensure compliance with regulations, fiscal guidelines, development of budgets, work plans and required reporting instruments. Staff contact with grantees is ongoing, visiting grantees in teams, or individually.

ACCOUNTABILITY: Since the mid-1980s, DOS-DCS developed and implemented a uniform data collection system and created a database that substantiates statewide accomplishments. For several years DOS researched the feasibility of implementing Electronic Data Management [EDM] to increase efficiency and accuracy of CSBG data collection and reporting methods. DOS-DCS entered into a contractual partnership with the NYS Community Action Association [NYSCAA] to implement EDM over a multi-year period. This collaboration facilitated the flow of information throughout the network. NYSCAA and DCS continue to work in partnership developing, refining, and processing the instrument used to collect data from grantees. Ultimately, these data are published in the CSBG Annual Report, and shared with our federal funding source, the Office of Community Services, part of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

DCS strives toward maintaining a skilled workforce. Professional development opportunities for staff included courses sponsored by DOS and other NYS departments, state employee unions, the Governor’s Office of Employee Relations [GOER], local colleges and universities, statewide trainers and grantees, as well as private training organizations, in training ranging from computer literacy to disaster preparedness.

The CSBG Advisory Council, created by state statute in 1983, provides consultation in the development of reports, plans, and applications. The 20-member council meets at least 3 times annually and provides valuable advice on CSBG administration.

SERVICES and PROGRAMS: Training and education also extend to CSBG grantee staff and board members. DCS promotes a comprehensive, progressive approach to empowering families to achieve self-sufficiency. Known as the family development approach, it exemplifies the philosophy of a hand up, not a handout, realizing that long-term success in maintaining family stability, rebuilding communities one family at a time, and self-sufficiency are effective investment and productive uses of federal funds.

In the 1990s, DCS created the Family Development Credential [FDC] as an interagency training and credentialing program. It has now established a standard, professional certification for front-line family services workers. By 2007, over 5,000 workers were credentialed throughout the network. Family Development Leadership training began in 2001. Over 100 leaders have received the credential.

Local services are directed toward goals of achieving self-sufficiency, family stability, and community revitalization, based on local assessments to determine need and resources available. CSBG funds are instrumental as grantees focus on development, implementation, and expansion of programs that can have the greatest community impact. CSBG funds also target priority areas that include improving conditions for at-risk youth, fostering healthy families, promoting workforce development and furthering early childhood development. Outcomes in these areas will strengthen both families and communities. Activities focus on measurable outcomes achieved through targeted, effective use of all available assets in the community. DCS also provides funding to CSBG grantees, based on need, to assist low-income victims of disasters.