By Laura Irizarry, Special Assistant, Immediate Office of the Assistant Secretary
This past year, I took on a special project to help my agency’s outreach to our nation’s Territories — the Territories Together Initiative. This new effort seeks to improve our work with American Samoa, Guam, the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Being from Puerto Rico, I know how important ACF programs are to my island and how they can help many families who are struggling.
Each year ACF dedicates more than $525 million to our insular communities. Our programs touch the lives of millions of American citizens and nationals.
From the 4-year-old child in a Head Start classroom, to a trafficking victim seeking care, to the village recovering from a hurricane, our agency provides a social safety net to lift people out of poverty. This net includes financial help, child care, energy assistance, child support, refugee resettlement, economic development and much more.
Although each Territory faces its own challenges, they share common problems:
- Cultural, language and geographical differences
- Lack of clear funding streams
ACF supports public and private organizations in the Territories so they can strengthen families and communities, and improve economic mobility. To help them better understand our policies, we created the Territories Together Initiative, which also help us to better manage programs in the Territories.
We aim to provide a better explanation of laws concerning our grants and the rules that come with agency funding.
Here are some projects to help the Territories:
- Our Puerto Rico Visit disclaimer page and U.S. Virgin Islands Human Services Research Partnerships look for best practices to improve self-sufficiency among low-income families and children.
- Currents, our first-ever newsletter for the Territories, debuts in June. It will feature success stories, program spotlights, job openings and grants.
- Later this summer, we’ll issue guidance on human trafficking prevention in the Territories.
Please let us know if you have any suggestions, comments or questions: