Applicability of Certain Cross-Cutting Statutes to Block Grants Under the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981

Headnotes: 

Two block grant programs created by the Omnibus Reconciliation Act of 1981 are subject to four “cross-cutting” statutes barring discrimination on grounds of race, sex, handicap, and age, and activities funded under those programs are subject to all of the regulatory and paperwork requirements imposed by those statutes.

The language and legislative history of the four nondiscrimination laws at issue reveal that they were intended by Congress to be statements of national policy broadly applicable to all programs or activities receiving federal financial assistance. Therefore, in the absence of a clear expression of congressional intent to exempt a particular program from the obligations imposed by the four cross-cutting laws, those laws will be presumed to apply in full force.

While the general purpose of the block grant concept is to consolidate and “defederalize” prior categorical aid to state and local governments, and to lighten federal regulatory burdens, there is no suggestion in the legislative history of the two specific block grants at issue here that Congress intended to exempt programs or activities funded by them from the obligation not to discriminate embodied in the four cross-cutting statutes.

Updated July 9, 2014