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Virginia To Evaluate Impact Of Grant Blocks

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Helping someone go back to school, start a business or find a job is often complicated by restrictions on how government programs spend their money.

Virginia Community Action Partnership Director Jim Schuyler says agencies with multiple funding sources are often very limited since the money can only be used for very specific needs.

"They have a specific population to be served, they have a specific family composition," says Schuyler. "I mean there are all sorts of requirements."

That's why every two years the state submits a proposal for more federal block grant funding. It helps people such as Billy J. Henderson, a former vet who had been incarcerated. He had few skills and no clue how to fit back into society. But he says before he left prison, a member of Virginia Cares contacted him and helped him upon his release.

"He was like my mentor and helped me guide myself through this and, now I have my license, and my own business, and I'm going to college," he says.

But Virginia Cares visits 3,000 prisoners and helps 500 former inmates annually, which is costly. Most federal grants are categorical and come with strict rules, so some advocates say increasing the number of block grants would provide flexibility and could be more helpful.

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