Conditions were such in the early 1960's that the plight of the poor came to the attention of the public as well as to Congress and the President.
The problems of the poor were:
- Low Income Lack of Low-Cost Credit
- Lack of Information
- Inadequate Credit
- Fraud and Deception
- Legal Exploitation
- Inadequate Housing
- Lack of Public and Social Services
- Lack of Transportation
The poverty rate in the Nation was 22.4% or 39.5 million people. This rate was even higher in the LKLP area. In some counties in Appalachia, the poverty rate was reported in excess of 50%.
Among the reason for this new awareness were:
John F. Kennedy Campaign
Trip to West Virginia
Articles and Television
Unemployment in Appalachia and the Inner Cities
Book - The Other American
Previous attempts to help the poor had failed: welfare, private charity organizations, employment security as well as other public institutions' inability to cope with the enormity of the problem. All these incidents, with others, created pressure for action and began the Kennedy "New Frontier." In 1961, Kennedy took office and put together a Committee on Juvenile Delinquency and Youth Crime. Surplus funds were put to work for job, housing and education programs. President Kennedy had on his agenda a war on poverty and this was the beginning. Kennedy died in Dallas but not his desire to attack poverty.
President Johnson (LBJ) wanted to establish his own legacy and decided it would be the "War on Poverty." On January 5, 1964, LBJ committed himself to a "War on Poverty." He declared this war in his State of the Union message on January 8, 1964.
THE WAR ON POVERTY - 1964
...We have never lost sight of our goal; an America in which every citizen shares all the opportunities of his society...
We have come a long way toward his goal. We still have a long way to go. The distance which remains is the measure of the great unfinished work of our society. To finish that work, I have called for a national war on poverty: our objective: total victory.
...Because it is right, because it is wise, and because for the first time in our history it is possible to conquer poverty, I submit, for the consideration of the Congress and the Country, the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964.
President Lyndon B. Johnson
Message on Poverty, March 16, 1964
The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 was passed. This created the Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO) which was a special office of the President.
Other Federal Agencies also got slices of the "War on Poverty" pie:
- Health, Education and Welfare (HEW)
- Department of Labor (DOL)
- Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)
- Department of Agriculture
- Department of Commerce
In working out a plan for this "War on Poverty", the approach at the local level was to be a community approach. This eventually was to be called "Community Action." Regulations state that Community Action should provide for the "maximum feasible participation" of the residents of the area. In 1967, OEO legislation required the present three part makeup of the board. Local Community Action boards must have one-third public officials, up to one-third representatives from the private sector, and at least one-third poor representation.
In 1967, Congress included the Green Amendment in the revised Economic Opportunity Act. This Amendment allowed local government to designate themselves as CAAs and assured them one-third of the seats on the board.
In 1969, under Nixon's "New Federalism", many community action programs were transferred to other Federal agencies. Head Start, Health Programs, Family Planning, Indian Programs, and Research and Demonstration went to HEW. Job Corps and Migrant Programs went to DOL. Volunteers In Services To America (VISTA) and Foster Grandparents were taken over by the New Volunteer Action Agency.
In 1973, the President's budget provided no funds for CAAs. The OEO was to be closed. A court order limited the President's right to hold funds appropriated by Congress.
In 1974, under President Ford, new legislation was passed. The OEO became the Community Services Administration or CSA. CAAs would survive, but it had not been easy.
The Reagan Administration was not a friend of Community Action either. This Administration felt that CAAs were a duplication of services done by the state through the Social Services Block Grant. CAAs funding now comes to the Governor through the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG). Funds are available to deliver services but advocating for poor people and attempting to bring about institutional change is no longer encouraged.
The Carter Administration tolerated community action, but was not a strong supporter. The Bush Administration again wanted community action written out of the budget. Bipartisan support in Congress has kept Community Action alive. Grassroot efforts have kept Congress people informed about the good things that CAAs do in their communities and the Congressional districts.
Budget cuts and deficit reduction currently endanger funding during the Clinton Administration.
CSA has four major objectives:
- To act as the voice and advocate of the poor within government, make their needs and aspirations known to policy makers, and mobilize both public and private sector resources on their behalf.
- To promote the development and strengthening of community-based institutions which represent the interests of the poor on the local level and carry out a range of programs and development activities responsive to their needs.
- To undertake research and experimentation designed to expand the knowledge base of poverty problems and develop and test innovative solutions.
- To develop and support local programs which meet the critical service needs of the poor and provide permanent improvements in living conditions.
There are approximately 900 Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in the United States and its territories, 23 of which are in Kentucky. This covers about 84% of the counties in the U.S. and include all 120 counties in Kentucky.
What is Community Action?
Community Action is NOT a welfare program; it is a self-help program. Its purpose is to involve the maximum number of people in the decision-making machinery of the community so that all programs will be more sensitive to the needs of the people.
Community Action is an investment in people, our most important and most valuable resource.
Community Action is the study of our problems, planning for improvements and the discovery of solutions. Community Action is the fight to implement these discoveries. Community Action recognizes that through cooperation of all our people there is no limit to our opportunities to improve ourselves and our community.
It is the local community's effort to marshal all its forces: governmental, private enterprise, public and private agencies combined with the work of thousands of individuals, including the economically disadvantaged themselves, in a effort to improve education and training, health services, provide better housing and jobs toward the end that all might live in the mainstream of American life and become contributors to the general welfare.
Principles of Community
The principles of Community Action are those that our forefathers seem to have had in mind when our democratic system of government was founded. The system of poor people in isolated communities along with other residents of an area having an input into those things that affect them is in the truest sense democracy in action.
The first principle of Community Action are the following:
- Help provide opportunities - social, economic and political - for people to get out of poverty.
- Enable poor people, through program participation, to make decisions and take the leadership in matters affecting their lives and their communities.
- Stress the urgency of poverty problems and represent the interest of the poor within the federal establishment.
- Sensitize the American public to poverty problems through discussion and institutional change.
- Provide leadership opportunities and training to the poor.
- Stimulate in public and private approaches and strategies to poverty problems.
- Make available essential supportive services and technical assistance to the poor.
- Serve as a catalyst for action in eliminating local poverty problems.
- Mobilize the resources of the total community to tackle poverty problems.
- Provide the poor with access to the economic and political decision-makers in the community.
Several thousand local programs are sponsored by CAAs. Typically, these programs are in the following fields of Human Service: Aging, Child Development, Community Development, Consumer Aid, Credit Unions, Economic Development, Education, Energy, Food and Nutrition, Health, Housing, Legal Assistance, Manpower, Migrants, Native America, Neighborhood Centers, Outreach, Transportation and Youth.
Leslie, Knott, Letcher, Perry (LKLP) Community Action Council, Incorporated
LKLP was formed in July 1966, as a non-profit corporation with the general objective the stimulation of social, individual and economic growth in Leslie, Knott, Letcher and Perry counties.
A temporary Board of Directors was to serve until the first meeting of the membership of the Corporation.