More About Community Action

The Promise of Community Action

Community Action changes people’s lives, embodies the spirit of hope, improves communities, and makes America a better place to live. We care about the entire community, and we are dedicated to helping people help themselves and each other.

When was Community Action Established?

The “Community Action Program” (“CAP”) was established in 1964 by Congress as a centerpiece of the War on Poverty. The goal of the program, which is now part of the Community Services Block Grant, is to reduce poverty, revitalize low-income communities, and empower low-income individuals and families to become fully self-sufficient. The program is carried out by a national network of over 1,300 designated Community Action Agencies (“CAAs”), which provide a diverse array of services to and advocacy on behalf of low-income individuals and families.  History of Community Action

How do CAAs open doors to self-sufficiency?

CAAs help hundreds of thousands of Massachusetts residents meet their basic needs and achieve self-sufficiency. In addition, CAAs play a major role in the economic well-being of local communities, providing jobs for residents and contracts to local businesses. CAAs are economic engines, providing communities with an annual infusion of over $250 million in total resources. CAAs generate twice that amount by helping clients become self-sufficient and productive. Each CAA operates an average of 12 to 15 programs including:

  • GED and ESL Education
  • Job Training
  • Head Start and Day Care
  • Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Programs (Fuel Assistance)
  • Weatherization Assistance Programs
  • Homelessness Prevention Programs
  • Health Services
  • Senior Services (Foster Grandparent Program and Retired Senior Volunteer Program, etc.)
  • Temporary Emergency Food Assistance Programs
  • Affordable Housing Creation and Renovation
  • Micro-enterprise and Small Business Creation

How do CAA Boards represent their communities?

Each CAA is anchored in the community by a Board of Directors made up in equal parts by low-income people, members of the business community, and local public officials. The Board of Directors sets the goals and policies for the agency.

How are CAAs funded?

Core funding for CAAs comes from the federal Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) program. CSBG funds are allocated to the state’s housing agency and then distributed to each CAA. CSBG enables CAAs to implement a variety of support services, programs to promote self-sufficiency, and training in advocacy skills.

CAAs also receive funds from other federal sources, the state, and private contributors. A large portion of these resources are leveraged by CSBG funds. CAAs are also among the most cost-effective and innovative service and training agencies in the state, devoting less than 10 percent of resources to administration, leaving 90 percent of resources for programs.