Understanding Community Action

What is a Community Action Agency?

Community Action Agencies (CAAs) promote self-sufficiency and support individuals and families striving to become economically secure while investing in the future of their local communities. This national network of 1060 agencies, funded in part by the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), serves approximately 7 million families, totaling 16 million low-income persons each year. More than two-thirds have incomes at or below the federal poverty guideline.
To achieve the goal of reducing poverty, the CAA staffs manage a mix of public and private resources averaging $11 billion annually. Almost one third of this money comes from non-federal sources, including more than a billion dollars of private funding. CAAs mobilize hundreds of thousands of local volunteers to enact positive change in their communities every year. In 2010, the network expanded to meet the ballooning needs of America’s many unemployed and underemployed families. Last year, CAAs served 20.3 million individuals using more than $16 billion, including resources from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA). Read more...

Some of the greatest assets of CAAs are: 
  • Flexibility - The Community Services Block Grant, which supplies CAA funding, is unique; it is flexible, and it primarily funds local, community-specific projects. By supplementing government agencies' "one-size-fits-all" programming, a community can provide its members the right mix of assistance, encouragement, and incentives to become self-sufficient.
  • Immediacy - CAAs are located in the areas of greatest need, managed and staffed by community residents and often are open far into the evening. Therefore, when a family or an individual faces a crisis, their CAA is able to respond quickly with targeted forms of assistance appropriate to the situation. Swift, direct action can often help to avoid the long-term consequences of costly dependency.
  • Coordination - A bedrock principle of Community Action is that resources of all kinds need to be integrated so they can be used in combination to solve community and individual problems.


What is the Community Services Block Grant?

The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) funds the nationwide network of 1,100 Community Action Agencies. These organizations create, coordinate, and deliver comprehensive programs and services to many people living in poverty in the United States in order to help individuals and families achieve self-sufficiency. Read more...

How does Community Action put the Community Services Block Grant to work?

Leaders of each Community Action Agency (CAA) choose investments targeted to the specific needs of its local community and use Community Services Block Grant funds in conjunction with their local goals. While there is no typical CAA, there is a common CAA approach to fighting the causes of poverty, and CSBG funding supports this unique work. The approach utilizes all available resources, human and financial, in your community to create solutions which are proactive, sustainable and effectively leveraged to deliver high-impact programs and projects which have transparent financial oversight. Read more...