News from the National Community Action Partnership
Fuel Assistance. Head Start. Summer jobs for youth. Education. Career Development. After-school programs. Child care. GED programs. Affordable housing. Homelessness prevention. Entrepreneurial support. Food pantries. Access to tax credits. Senior programs. And so much more.
Comprehensive, integrated services that enable poor families to get on their feet, into affordable housing and jobs, enrolled in career development and education programs, building a future as active, tax-paying citizens and responsible parents.
That is just a glimpse of what community action gives to our families, neighborhoods, cities and the nation. That and more is what is at stake with the currently proposed 50% cut to the Community Services Block Grant.
Join the discussion on our Facebook, LinkedIN and Twitter feed. Visit KACAP often to follow what is being done to save CSBG and protect Community Action in Kansas and across the country.
History of Community Action
The Community Action movement began in 1964 as part of President Johnson's War on Poverty. Today, there are over 1,000 Community Action Agencies nationwide providing a variety of targeted, community-oriented services and solutions for low-income Americans.
As the national Community Action Network looks toward the future, we can see a reshaping of structure and a reformatting of how our work is financed. But in the words of the Community Action Partnership President, Don Mathis, “We think we can make the case that we’re critically important to the economic viability of the people who have been left out." To read the article containing that quote, and more on Mr. Mathis' perspective on the future of Community Action, click here.
What IS a Community Action Agency?
Community Action Agencies are private non-profit or public organizations that were created by the federal government in 1964 to combat poverty in geographically designated areas. Status as a Community Action Agency is the result of an explicit designation by local or state government. A Community Action Agency has a tripartite board structure that is designated to promote the participation of the entire community in the reduction or elimination of poverty. Community Action Agencies seek to involve the community, including elected public officials, private sector representatives, and especially low-income residents in assessing local needs and attacking the causes and conditions of poverty.
Purpose and Mission In order to reduce poverty in its community, a Community Action Agency works to better focus available local, state, private, and federal resources to assist low-income individuals and families to acquire useful skills and knowledge, gain access to new opportunities and achieve economic self-sufficiency.
Structure A Community Action Agency:
- Has received designation as a Community Action Agency either from the local government under the provisions of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, or from the state under the Community Services Block Grant Act of 1981, as amended;
- Is recognized as an eligible entity as defined in the CSBG Act and can receive funding from the state under the Community Services Block Grant;
- Had a governing board consisting of at least one-third democratically selected representatives of low-income people, one-third local public officials or their designees, and the remainder representatives of business, industry, labor, religious, social welfare, and other private groups in the community; and
- Belongs to a national network of similar agencies, the majority of which received their initial designation, federal recognition and funding under the amended Economic Opportunity Action of 1964.
Mode of Operation A Community Action Agency carries out its mission through a variety of means including: (a) community-wide assessments of needs and strengths, (b) comprehensive anti-poverty plans and strategies, (c) provision of a broad range of direct services, (d) mobilization of financial and non-financial resources, (e) advocacy on behalf of low-income people and (f) partnerships with other community-based organizations to eliminate poverty. A Community Action Agency involves the low-income population it serves in the planning, administering and evaluation of its programs.
Why Community Action Agencies are Unique Most poverty-related organizations focus on a specific area of need, such as job training, health care, housing or economic development. Community Action Agencies reach out to low-income people in their communities, address their multiple needs through a comprehensive approach, develop partnerships with other community organizations, involve low-income clients in the agency’s operations and administer a full range of coordinated programs designed to have a measurable impact on poverty.
We Follow The Code of Ethics
The Community Action Code of Ethics
We, as community action professionals ever respectful of cultural diversity, dedicate ourselves to eliminate poverty in the midst of plenty in this nation by opening to everyone the opportunity for education and training; the opportunity to work; and the opportunity to live in decency and dignity, and commit ourselves to:
- Recognize that the chief function of the community action movement at all times is to serve the best interests of the poor.
- Accept as a personal duty the responsibility to keep up-to-date on emerging issues and to conduct ourselves with professional competence, fairness and effectiveness.
- Respect the structure and responsibilities of the board of directors, provide them with facts and advice as a basis for their decision making, and uphold and implement the policies adopted by the board of directors.
- Keep the community informed about issues affecting the poor and to facilitate communication among the poor, the non-poor private sector, and locallly elected public officials.
- Conduct our organizational and operational duties with positive leadership exemplified by open communication, creativity, dedication, and compassion.
- Exercise whatever discretionary authority we have under the law to promote the interests of the poor.
- Serve the community action movement with respect, concern, and responsiveness, recognizing that service to the poor is beyond service to oneself.
- Demonstrate the highest standards of personal intergrity, truthfulness, and fortitude in our community action activities in order to inspire confidence in the community action movement.
- Oerform our professsional duties in such a way so as not to realize undue personal gain.
- Avoid any interest or activity which conflicts with the conduct of our official duties.
- Protect confidentiality in the course of our official duties.
- Strive for personal professional excellence and encourage the professional development of our associates and those seeking to become community action executives.
Kansas Community Action and the CSBG Program
The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) is federal funding approved by Congress and given to each of the 50 states and to certain US territories. Money provided through CSBG is used to combat the root causes and conditions of poverty throughout our nation.
Through a pre-defined formula, each state gets a certain percentage of the federal block grant. The law specifies how each CSBG funding is to be used. The state is required to give out ninety percent of the CSBG funding it receives to locally governed organizations called, “community action agencies” (CAAs) and only the Governor has the authority to assign an organization the title of ‘community action agency’, thereby authorizing the organization to receive CSBG Program grants. CAAs follow the block grant’s mission to address local causes and conditions of poverty.
Kansas has eight CAAs. Most of them were created in the 1960’s and 1970’s after the federal government began its “War on Poverty”. At that time, the federal government gave money directly to the community action agencies, instead of to the states. When the states became involved in the 1980’s, some governors made changes in the community action agencies within their states. Some decided to close certain CAAs, while others decided to create new or additional CAAs. In Kansas, only a few changes were made, which means that the number of CAAs in Kansas today is very similar to the number we had before the State of Kansas became responsible for the program.
Today, the Kansas CSBG Program reaches across the state, in a variety of ways. Some areas of the state, where poverty is more concentrated, are directly served by CAAs appointed to those areas. In areas of the state not designated to a specific CAA, CSBG helps support the delivery of certain programs and services, and to provide referrals and linkages to existing resources. In this way, the impact of the Kansas CSBG Program is felt statewide.
When resources do not facilitate direct involvement by the agency, Kansas CAAs also provide important linkages and referrals to low-income people and communities in those areas of the State not assigned to a specific community action agency. At least six Kansas CAAs offer information and referral services statewide, supported by a system of formal and informal relationships with other human service organizations. CAA staff link people in need with other human service organizations, including SRS, Head Start, the Salvation Army, area homeless shelters, and, area food pantries. This system of referrals and linkages is one of the most cost-effective means of extending help to sparsely populated areas of our state. Additional funding for Kansas’ community action agencies could make direct services outside the designated service territories both more accessible and more frequent.
It is in the nature of the community action system for each CAA to offer those programs and services that will best address poverty issues in the communities they serve. The statewide service delivery system designed by the Kansas CSBG Program empowers CAAs to exercise this local flexibility and directs scarce resources to those areas of the state where the greatest needs are present, while maintaining the ability to address poverty issues wherever they may present themselves.