Public Involvement in Block Grant Decisions:
Multiple Opportunities Provided but Interest Groups Have Mixed Reactions to States' Efforts
HRD-85-20, Dec 28, 1984
In response to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the implementation of the block grants created by the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981 and reported on the trends across 7 block grants, the efforts 13 states have made to involve the public in their block grant program decisions, and the reactions of various state-level interest groups to those efforts.
GAO found that, in satisfying the mandated block grant requirements for public involvement, the states provided input opportunities through hearings by state legislatures and executive branches, advisory group participation, and comments on intended use reports. Private citizen, local government, and advocacy group participation was strongest in executive branch hearings, while service providers were the most frequent participants in all of the forums. The need to maintain or increase funding for specific services was the most dominant issue raised in the forums. On the average, state executive agencies and legislatures held more than one hearing addressing each block grant. Advisory groups were used in 83 percent of the block grant cases, and comments on intended use reports varied. In about half of the cases, it was reported that state program officials were more involved than they had been under the prior categorical programs. GAO found that: (1) interest groups were equally divided regarding their satisfaction with state program decisions; (2) more groups were satisfied than dissatisfied with the role and composition of the advisory groups; and (3) the areas of greatest dissatisfaction were the availability of information before hearings and the timing of both hearings and comment periods. Active participants in the state public input processes, groups representing organizations, and those who believed that their members were favorably affected by the block grant decisions were most satisfied with the state input procedures.