General-Purpose Sources

Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance

The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) is a database of all federal programs available to various entities, including state and local governments, American Indian tribal governments, territories, organizations, and individuals. The catalog is compiled by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) and is updated biannually, in June and December. The entire catalog is available to the public at http://www.cfda.gov. The catalog was very useful to the panel as the basis for an overview of federal formula allocation programs and as a starting point for more intensive analysis of a subset of these programs.

The programs in the CFDA are categorized by 15 types of assistance, of which Category A, “formula grants,” is the most pertinent to the panel’s work. The catalog describes the programs in Category A as “allocations of money to States or their subdivisions in accordance with distribution formulas prescribed by law or administrative regulation, for activities of a continuing nature not confined to a specific project.” The 2001 version lists 172 formula grant programs in Category A, funded by nearly every federal department and a wide range of agencies within the departments. Over the course of the panel’s work, GSA has reorganized this category, adding some programs from other classifications and removing a few that it determined did not fit the definition of formula grant. Also, in late 2001, GSA added a 2001 Formula Report to the CFDA web site, listing 161 programs with “assistance formulas.” That report includes several programs that are not listed in Category A. These were added to arrive at a count of 180 federal formula allocation programs for fiscal year 2000.

For each program, the CFDA provides a description in standard format. Items for formula grant programs that were of special interest to the panel included:

  • Program number and name

  • Federal agency

  • Authorization (identifies relevant legislation)

  • Objectives

  • Uses and use restrictions

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