June 13, 2014 — This year, community action agencies, which provide services that reach more than 16 million low-income Americans annually, are celebrating their 50th year of operation. Initially formed as part of President Lyndon Johnson's "War on Poverty," these entities administer numerous federal programs, including LIHEAP, at the local level. Community action agencies (CAAs) are found in 99 percent of American counties.
"For 50 years, we have provided much needed services and opportunities to millions of low-income people and families," says Community Action Partnership, a national CAA association. "We've helped improve lives and communities by providing Head Start, Individual Development Accounts, financial education, job training, affordable housing, community economic development, natural disaster relief and recovery, health care, energy assistance, and much more."
The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 created CAAs. President Johnson wanted them to "strike at poverty at its source—in the streets of our cities and on the farms of our countryside." Johnson believed that local citizens had the best understanding of poverty in their own communities and knew best how to address it. CAAs focused on getting low-income individuals involved in planning and implementing programs to combat poverty where they lived.
"For fifty years, Community Action has put a face on poverty while advocating for those who don't have a voice," says Community Action Partnership in a report celebrating the anniversary.
When it comes to energy assistance, CAAs are often the primary local administrators for LIHEAP. Generally, about 60 percent of states use them in that capacity, no doubt because of language in the LIHEAP statute. The statute doesn't require LIHEAP grantees to use local administering agencies; however, if they do, Assurance 6 requires that preference be given to agencies receiving funding under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.
Source: Community Action Partnership