Block Grants:

Federal-State Cooperation in Developing National Data Collection Strategies

HRD-89-2: Published: Nov 29, 1988. Publicly Released: Nov 29, 1988.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO assessed federal and state cooperation in collecting national data on four block grant programs.

GAO found that: (1) the cooperative data collection approach reduced state and local governments' administrative burdens, promoted broad state cooperation in the development of national data systems, and allowed states flexibility in accommodating national reporting requests; (2) limited data comparability reduced the usefulness of data collected for such purposes as allocating federal funds or determining individual state needs; and (3) federal agency or national association leadership facilitated collection of comparable data. GAO also found that: (1) states supported the cooperative efforts of the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) and the Alcohol, Drug Abuse, and Mental Health Services (ADMS) block grant, where legislation required federal agencies to work with national associations of state officials to develop national data systems; (2) although recent legislation required the Secretary of Education to develop a cooperative system for Education block grant data collection, it did not require a similar system for the Community Services block grant (CSBG); (3) when no statutory requirement existed to encourage national leadership, it was more difficult to obtain comparable data; (4) states' installation of data collection systems made it more difficult to implement changes to accommodate a national reporting format to provide comparable state data on educational activities; and (5) lack of national leadership hindered the collection of comparable state-level data on mental health programs. In addition, GAO found that the cooperative data collection approach was easier to implement when: (1) there was federal funding to support data collection activities; (2) national-level staff worked with state officials; (3) state officials helped in the system design; and (4) states had prior involvement in categorical grant programs.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress provided federal funds to support cooperative data collection efforts under the education and ADMS block grants. It also allowed HHS to contract with national associations to collect national block grant data on CSBG and LIHEAP.

    Matter: Congress may also wish to consider providing seed money to encourage national leadership by helping federal agencies, national associations, and other organizations defray initial systems start-up costs and ongoing costs for collection, processing, analysis, and publication of comparable block grant data across states.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: In reauthorizing CSBG in 1990, Congress required the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to prepare an annual report on program activities including the amount of funds spent and the number of individuals receiving program services.

    Matter: In considering future block grant data needs, Congress may wish to encourage federal agencies to use the cooperative approach to data collection in block grants where the primary data needs are for program oversight and tracking national trends in funding and services, while minimizing the administrative burden on states. Since Congress has statutorily required the cooperative approach for LIHEAP, education, and ADMS block grants, it may wish to consider requiring the Secretary of Health and Human Services to develop a model for state and local officials to facilitate uniform data collection under CSBG.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS contracted with NASMHPD to collect state-level data, including those pertaining to client characteristics.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with national associations representing state officials to increase the comparability of data collected under the ADMS block grant by entering into an agreement with appropriate national mental health associations, such as the National Association for State Mental Health Program Directors (NASMHPD), to collect annual state-level data on mental health activities and client characteristics.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS is helping states achieve greater data comparability. ADAMHA worked with national associations to help establish data subcommittees to address uniformity and consistency in reporting formats and definitions.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with national associations representing state officials to increase the comparability of data collected under the ADMS block grant by encouraging states to work with national associations, such as the National Association of State Alcohol and Drug Abuse Directors and NASMHPD, to achieve greater comparability across state data systems in their use of standardized categories and definitions to collect data with respect to substance abuse and mental health activities.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  3. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS, acting through ADAMHA, will continue to participate in the efforts of the states and their national associations to improve the data collection instruments.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with national associations representing state officials to increase the comparability of data collected under the ADMS block grant by participating in periodic efforts by the national associations to revise their data collection instruments.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  4. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS transmitted this recommendation to state LIHEAP agencies and NEDA and requested that the Department of Energy (DOE) send similar information to state agencies administering LIHEAP. DOE sent this recommendation to state LIHEAP agencies.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with states to improve data comparability and increase the number of states reporting data on households receiving assistance to weatherize their homes under LIHEAP by encouraging states to use the format developed by the American Public Welfare Association to report LIHEAP data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  5. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS reiterated the reporting requirement to those states that have not provided complete fiscal year (FY) 1988 data on weatherization assistance and requested corrective action in reporting FY 1989 data. States reported such data for FY 1989.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with states to improve data comparability and increase the number of states reporting data on households receiving assistance to weatherize their homes under LIHEAP by encouraging more states to report LIHEAP weatherization assistance data.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  6. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS, through the Office of Community Services (OCS), will participate actively in state efforts to increase data comparability of voluntary data collection systems. OCS contracted with NASCSP to collect state-level data.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with states to increase data comparability and minimize burdens on state and local agencies under CSBG by participating in cooperative efforts, such as with the National Association for State Community Services Programs (NASCSP), to ensure that data elements and categories provide information at the state levels.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  7. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: HHS, through OCS, will participate actively in state efforts to increase data comparability of voluntary data collection systems.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Health and Human Services should work with states to increase data comparability and minimize burdens on state and local agencies under CSBG by encouraging states to fully participate in the national survey.

    Agency Affected: Department of Health and Human Services

  8. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Education is developing the cooperative data system by working with state and local educational agencies through the Chapter 2 Steering Committee. In July 1989, Chapter 2 coordinators and evaluators met for 2 days with contractors to prepare the Handbook on Evaluation. P.L. 100-297 required HHS to work with states and local agencies to develop specific data categories.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should, when developing the cooperative data system recently required by Congress, work with the state and local educational agencies to define specific data categories as part of the model format for the required state evaluations to facilitate uniform data collection.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

  9. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Education works cooperatively with the Chapter 2 Steering Committee to increase the timeliness of the required state evaluations, as well as a format for a national report. Five regional meetings of Chapter 2 state personnel were held in November and December 1989 for evaluation training.

    Recommendation: The Secretary of Education should, when developing the cooperative data system recently required by Congress, work with the state and local educational agencies to increase the timeliness of the required state evaluations.

    Agency Affected: Department of Education

 

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