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Glossary Terms and Definitions
Term Definition
Block Grant

Block grants are awarded by the Federal government to state and local governments for broadly defined purposes — for example, social services or community development.

Budget Authority

A Federal agency is only allowed to spend money if Congress provides the authority by law for that spending. That permission to spend is called “budget authority.”

Budget authority can be granted through an appropriation law, which specifies a purpose, usually a maximum amount of money, and a set time period. Budget authority can also be granted for spending unused funds from a previous year, or to spend money that the agency takes in (e.g., the National Park Service is authorized to spend fees collected for park admission regardless of the amount).

Budget Authority Appropriated

A provision of law (not necessarily in an appropriations act) authorizing an account to incur obligations and to make outlays for a given purpose. Usually, but not always, an appropriation provides budget authority.

(defined in OMB Circular A-11)