As reported by Lily Bohlke, Public News Service:
Community Action Agencies applauded the Massachusetts General Court for its commitments to anti-poverty efforts in the 2022 state budget, and urged Gov. Charlie Baker to follow their example when he signs his budget into law.
In addition to a $6.5 million line item for Community Action agencies across the state, both the State House and Senate included the creation of a commission to address inequality, promote opportunity and end poverty.
Sen. Mike Moore, D-Millbury, said now is the time to get the commission started, with federal money for economic recovery coming in.
“We have the ability to utilize this money in a more efficient and targeted way to try to address the concerns or the issues that the demographics, whatever this commission determines the demographics are that may need assistance, to lift them out of poverty,” Moore asserted.
Moore added while anti-poverty efforts are always critical, many more people have lost access to food security, housing and even medical treatment since the pandemic began.
Lisa Clay, director of communications and member services for the Massachusetts Association for Community Action, said the commission will build on work agencies have been doing for decades.
She pointed out one of the roles they play is to analyze the needs of people living in poverty in their communities and try to address them. And she contended the funding will allow agencies more flexibility to respond as needs arise.
“This line item is really a recognition of the central role that Community Action Agencies play in bringing people together in communities, and working with and for the people that we serve and meeting the needs that are very local,” Clay noted.
Marybeth Campbell, executive director of the Worcester Community Action Council, said the flexibility of state resources is key. She explained most federal funding they receive had rigid restrictions on what it can be used for.
She added she looks forward to putting funds toward what she calls a “Resiliency Center” to work with other community groups to fill gaps in her agency’s services.
“At WCAC, we don’t really have housing programs. We don’t have mental behavioral health programs,” Campbell outlined. “And where we have shared clients in the community with other organizations, we’re trying to build this Resiliency Center as a way to mobilize our services together with our partner organizations.”