Community Action Agencies – a History of Service
Community Action Agencies are local public and private not-for-profit entities that were created by the passing of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 in an effort to fight poverty. The agencies’ ultimate goal is to promote self-sufficiency to those living in poverty.
The primary federal funding source for these agencies was provided by CSBG (Community Services Block Grants.) These grants continue to provide most of the federal funding for CAA’s, but additional public and private revenue sources have added by many agencies.
In order to qualify for, and to continue to receive grant funding from all sources, CAA’s must report on how they spend the money, the number of clients served, the demographics of those clients, and much more. Data management software is imperative in collecting and reporting data to these grant funders.
CAA’s provide a variety of services to their communities including, but not limited to:
- Head Start pre-school programs
- LIHEAP (Low–income home energy assistance)
- Transportation, job-related, non-emergency medical transport, and paratransit
- Housing assistance
- Youth programs
- Food collection and distribution
It may come as no surprise, but the business of running Community Action Agencies has become political. Almost since their inception, funding has been cut, or at the very least used as a political football by both sides. The left will say that CAA’s have been underfunded and are no longer run by the people they serve, but by “Boards” comprised of politicos and local business. The right says that the agencies have not been effective.
What is not up for debate is the dedication and hard work of thousands of clients, volunteers and paid staff who are dedicated to “helping people help themselves.”
Nationwide there are more than 1,000 CAA’s serving the communities in which they exist.