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The Role of Community Action in the War on Poverty


Graphic image that reads: War on Poverty 50 years.By Jeannie L. Chaffin, Director, Office of Community Services

Community Action Month took place in May, and members of the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) Network took the time to commemorate the role of Community Action in the War on Poverty. 

The Minnesota Community Action Partnership and its partners hosted a “Minnesota Poverty Call to Action,” an all-day event which included sessions centered around social disparities based on race, age, place, gender and veteran status – along with solutions to those disparities.  U.S. Congresswoman Betty McCollum was among the panelists.

The Blue Valley Community Action Partnership in Nebraska organized several activities, culminating with a fundraiser and community festival.  Their 2nd annual “Duck ‘N Run” offered fun for all ages, with a 10k run, rubber duck races and picnic lunch.  

Two agencies in Connecticut – the Thames Valley Council for Community Action and the Access Community Action Agency – commemorated the 50th anniversary with a press conference that included a room full of clients, staff, local dignitaries and U.S. Congressman Joe Courtney.

The Community Services Block Grant is the core funding for this nationwide network of antipoverty organizations often referred to as Community Action Agencies, or CAAs.  These 1,000 local agencies serve 99 percent of U.S. counties and are charged with reducing poverty, revitalizing low-income communities and empowering low-income families to become financially secure.  With roots in the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act, CAAs carry out their missions by creating, coordinating and delivering a broad array of services to their respective communities. 

CAAs’ core federal support, institutional framework, and shared mission come from CSBG.  In FY 2012, CAAs nationwide were allocated financial resources totaling $14.2 billion, including $610.5 million from regularly appropriated CSBG.  While federal programs provided nearly two-thirds of non-CSBG funding to the CSBG Network that same year, private partners contributed over $1.3 billion in support.  CSBG is only a small part of the total budget, but the flexibility of CSBG allows CAAs to fund staff, infrastructure, innovative programs, and activities not necessarily supported by other resources, but essential to solving local causes and conditions of poverty. 

The Community Action Network has gained much expertise over the past five decades, and is perfectly poised to help many more Americans create ladders of opportunity into the middle class.

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