Cooperative Federalism: what is It?

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Updated: Mar 14, 2023
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Category: Federalism
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Cooperative federalism is a form of federalism in which the national government and the state governments function less independently from one another and share responsibilities and policies. Whereas with dual federalism, the distinct levels of government interact, but function separately from one another. With cooperative federalism, the national government must grow and take on more responsibility, because the national government is not interdependent from the state governments and thus must help the state governments to function normally. This was first seen in the United States with the introduction of New Deal legislation meant to help country recover from economic depression.

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The New Deal included legislation that gave money directly to businesses and farmers and that created jobs programs for many millions of people. These programs were run by the national government, in cooperation with various state governments.

The states benefitted by having economic recovery in addition to an abundance of public works being built, and the nation benefitted as each individual state saw its economy rise. The national government can give federal assistance to state governments in the form of categorical grants, formula grants, project grants, and block grants. Categorical grants are grants that proved capital for use in a specific area. These grants must be applied to that specific area, usually some form of infrastructure, and come with many regulations. Formula grants give money based on a defined set of criteria. These grants are given similarly to how colleges give merit-based scholarships, awarding the money based on specific data about the state. Project grants are more flexible and may provide the state with economic opportunity. These grants are given for things such as research or water projects and thus the state has more say in what they

are used for. The final type of grant, block grants, are called block grants because they apply to a large block of possible areas of use. These grants typically have the least restrictions, making them very useful to the state receiving them. A state may not wish to receive federal funding for education because they may disagree with federal policies that are being implemented in regard to education. If states choose to accept national grants for education, they must stick to the strict regulation as laid out in the terms of the grant or they will not receive the money.

States may have policy makers that disagree with the proposed methods of teaching and testing children in K-12 education, so these policy makers may wish to reject federal funding so that these methods they find to be subjectively better can be implemented. Federal policies may also be burdensome for the state government to follow. For example, with the No Child Left Behind Act, states were provided with more requirements but no extra funding. Foregoing any national grants for education would allow the state to alleviate this burden of paying for extra unfunded mandates. Having a lack of federal funding for education would, of course, put a heavy burden on taxpayers in the state; however it could provide a way for an education that may be more beneficial with less federal requirements.

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Cooperative Federalism: What Is It?. (2019, Oct 08). Retrieved from