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What is a Community Action Agency? 6 Things you Need to Know

What is a Community Action Agency? 6 Things you Need to Know

What is a community action agency?

Community Action Agencies are private and public non-profit organizations in your area that manage your local Community Action Program. The Community Action Program was created by the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act as a means to fight against poverty by helping the poor. Its mission is to help low-income families and individuals gain self-sufficiency and exit poverty. 

Through this article, we’ll explain what a community action agency is, provide a bit of history, detail the services they offer, and give resources on how to find one in your area.

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What is a Community Action Agency?

A Community Action Agency is a local private or public non-profit organization that provides a variety of resources to low-income people. 

These agencies prioritize the prevention of poverty and work to address its root causes in communities. They support children living in poverty, the working poor, low-income people facing a crisis, senior nutrition, families, and low-income community efforts.

The services provided by Community Action Agencies vary by organization. Many agencies manage Head Start programs that focus on early child development and education, including literacy programs, dropout prevention programs, after-school programs, and tutoring. 

Many agencies also manage Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program utility grants, the Weatherization Assistance Program. They

There are Community Action Agencies are located in all 50 states. In total, there are more than 1,000 Community Action Agencies in the United States. 

Lyndon B Johnson community action agency

The History of Community Action Agencies

Community Action Agencies are a part of the Community Action Program, which was founded as a result of the 1964 Economic Opportunity Act. 

President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Economic Opportunity Act into law and it served as an important component of his “Great Society” plan that aimed to help all Americans regardless of where they fell on the socio-economic ladder. 

The act created many programs, including Head Start, Job Corps, the work-study program for university students, adult job training programs, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Volunteers in Service to America, and the Community Action Program. 

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Why do Community Action Agencies exist? 

In the United States’ efforts to combat widespread poverty, Community Action Agencies serve as vital resources to low-income communities. Community Action Agencies exist because there is a great need to reduce poverty and its effects in the United States.

About 12.3 percent of the U.S. population lives in poverty, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Community Action Agencies around the country work hard to help prevent poverty and help uplift people out of poverty. 

In 2020, Community Action Agencies helped 6.2 million families and more than 3.9 million children around the United States.

The Community Action Partnership also reports that agency partners helped 4.2 million families participate in summer camps, sporting events, literacy programs, and other enrichment services In addition, 1.7 million children received healthy food to assist with healthy development, according to the Community Action Partnership. 

In short, Community Action Agencies across the U.S. do a tremendous amount of good work to help low-income families out of poverty. To read more on the impact of Community Action Agencies throughout the U.S., check out the Community Action Partnership’s 2020 Impact Report

How Agencies Operate

Community Action Agencies are funded by federal dollars but are managed locally to better connect with the communities they serve.

Agencies have a tripartite board consisting of equal parts of the local private sector, public sector, and residents from the low-income community itself. The board structure aims to bring together different stakeholders in the community and encourage collaboration among people and organizations that can improve their hometowns.

Most agencies rely heavily on volunteers to provide their services and programs. As a result, most of the people that you interact with to receive Community Action Agency services are volunteers.

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Services at a Community Action Agencies

Community Action Agencies manage dozens of programs that help low-income families and individuals. Rather than dive deeply into each program, we’re going to briefly mention some of the programs that may be relevant to your situation. 

Children

The Community Action Agency in your community likely manages some Head Start programs that are aimed at cultivating healthy early childhood development. 

Some of these programs may include literacy and reading programs, tutoring, teen centers, recreation and sports activities, summer programs, food assistance, and more. Other agencies may also offer pregnancy and motherhood services, substance abuse education, counseling, and college placement services. 

The Working Poor

Community Action Agencies’ services to help the working poor may include child care, GED prep, job search services, small business services, financial planning, computer training, and more. 

Crisis Assistance

Some agencies may be able to help you find temporary housing, eviction counseling, domestic violence, and abuse services, emergency food, medical and legal resources, and more. 

Seniors

Agencies may also provide services to seniors, including in-home care services, Meals on Wheels, senior centers, transportation services, activities, health resources, and more. 

Families

Community Action Agencies commonly offer a wide range of services for families, including food stamps or food voucher programs, nutrition assistance, health clinics, home weatherization, energy assistance programs, home rental assistance, family community centers, and other family activities. 

Low-Income Communities

Agencies also work to support low-income communities through a variety of programs, including economic development programs, low-income housing developments, small business support, public safety initiatives, consumer education programs, and more.

How to Find a Community Action Agency

As we mentioned, there are more than 1,000 Community Action Agencies scattered around the United States. 

If you’re interested in learning more about the many services at a Community Action Agency, check out this search tool from the Community Action Partnership organization

Other resources

The Community Action Partnership is a great resource through which to learn about the many services and programs aimed at helping low-income families and people in the United States.

In addition to this search tool to help you find a local Community Action Agency, the Community Action Partnership provides information on events, initiatives, reports, and many tools to help low-income families and individuals succeed. 

In Conclusion

Community Action Agencies are important resources for low-income communities, families, and individuals throughout the U.S. 

These organizations are the boots on the ground in the war on poverty and help millions of people every year. Without Community Action Agencies and the many services and programs they provide, many people would be facing extreme poverty or homelessness. 

We hope through this article you’ve learned what a community action agency is, some of their history, the services they offer, and more resources on how to find one that may fit your needs.

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