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About Community Action

Community Action Agencies are nonprofit organizations created by President Lyndon B. Johnson’s signing of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The act embodies the philosophy that low-income individuals can best identify the issues their communities face and develop solutions to resolve them.

The nation’s 1,000 Community Action Agencies are a robust state and local force – reaching children, families, and the disabled in 99% of America’s counties with life-changing services that create pathways to self-sufficiency.


The Community Action Agency Model

Community Action Agencies equip low-income citizens with the tools and potential for becoming self-sufficient. The structure of programming is unique: federal dollars are used locally to offer specialized programming in communities. It is a coordinated effort to address the root effects of poverty and to, ultimately, move families and individuals to self-sufficiency.

Poverty is a systemic problem and Community Action provides a systems approach to resolving these issues. 


Community Action Agencies (CAAs) promotes self-sufficiency and independence from public programs.  Three key assets are:


The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG), which supplies the core CAA funding, is unique; it is flexible; and primarily funds investments in local community-based services and programs. CSBG funding allows communities to provide low-income individuals/families with the right mix of assistance, encouragement, and incentives to become self-sufficient.


CAAs are located in local communities and utilize a coordinated service delivery approach to provide prompt assistance to vulnerable families. A coordinated approach includes leveraging and mobilizing resources from public and private sector partners, volunteers, and faith-based groups.

                                                  The goal is to promptly stabilize a family, and thus avoid the long-term

                                                  consequence of costly dependency. Community Action also has the capability to sustain long-term involvement in a family's progress to self-sufficiency, as well as in the development of the low-income community.


A bedrock principle of Community Action, we leverages resources of all kinds to solve community and individual problems. In 2016, North Carolina’s CAAs leveraged more than $450 million in public and private resources annually, serving more than 121,000 low-income persons.


The History of Community Action

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President Johnson signing the Economic Opportunity Act, August 1964

  • 1963 – The North Carolina Fund was established by Governor Terry Sanford to address statewide poverty and was later used by President Lyndon B. Johnson as a model for Community Action Agencies.

  • 1963 – Prior to his death, President John F. Kennedy outlines a plan to eradicate poverty. 

  • 1964 – Upon Kennedy’s death, President Lyndon B. Johnson carries on Kennedy’s vision by declaring an “unconditional war on poverty” in his first State of the Union address.

  • 1964 – President Johnson signs the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 which established a variety of anti-poverty initiatives including Head Start, Job Corps, Vista, Neighborhood Youth Corps, Adult Job Training, and Community Action Agencies. 

  • 1970 – The Mission and the Model: The issuance of OEO Instruction 6320-1 established the mission and the model (family, agency, and community) of Community Action.

  • 1974 – The Economic Opportunity Act was terminated in 1973 and replaced with the Community Service Act of 1974.

  • 1981– The Community Service Act was replaced by the Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) Act of 1981.

  • 1993 – Congress passed the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) in response to a renewed emphasis on accountability.

  • 1994 – Six National Goals for Community Action were created.

  • 1994 – An Amendment to the CSBG Act, in response to GPRA, specifically mentioned a requirement for CSBG eligible entities to provide outcome measures to monitor success.

  • 1996 – ROMA was applied on the local level.

  • 1998 – Reauthorization of the CSBG Act.

  • 2001 – The Office of Community Services issued Information Memo (IM) 49 – Program Challenges, Responsibilities and Strategies - FY 2001-2003.

  • 2005 – Implementation of the National Indicators of community action performance.

  • 2006 – The ROMA Cycle was developed.

  • 2009 – The Obama administration renewed focus on results and issued the Performance Progress Reporting Form (PPR).

  • 2011 – Congress passed the Government Performance and Results Act (GPRA) in response to a renewed emphasis on accountability.

  • 2015 – The Organizational Standards were launched on Oct. 1, 2015 to provide additional performance management.


CAA Programs & Services

Typically, the programs and services coordinated, enhanced, and offered to the community by its CAA include all or some of the following:

  • TO HELP AND ENCOURAGE CHILDREN AND YOUTH: Head Start, Literacy Programs, Dropout Prevention, After School Enrichment and Tutoring, Teen Centers, Recreation and Sports Programs, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants & Children (WIC), Well-Baby Clinics, Summer Enrichment Programs, Summer Food Programs, Child Care Food Programs, Pregnancy Prevention, Character Education, Substance Abuse Education, Prevention & Counseling, Summer Youth Employment Programs, College Counseling and Placement.

  • TO SUPPORT THE WORKING POOR: Child Care, Adult Education, GED Preparation, Job Training and On-The-Job Support, Job Search Assistance, Job Placement, Job Creation, Small Business Development, Loan Funds, Senior Community Service Employment, Displaced Homemaker Programs, Budget Counseling, Internet Training and Access.

  • TO SUPPORT THE POOR FACING CRISIS: Homeless Shelters and Drop-In Centers, Utility Deposits, Eviction Prevention, Domestic Violence Programs and Shelters, Transitional Housing, Food Pantries Energy Crisis Assistance and Shelter, Emergency Food Baskets, Emergency Clothing, Supplies, and Services - including Medical and Legal Volunteer Help.

  • TO SUSTAIN AND HONOR THE ELDERLY: Meals on Wheels, In-Home Care Programs, Senior Centers, Senior Day Care, Foster Grandparents, Congregate Meals, Medical Transportation, Volunteer Chore Services.

  • TO STRENGTHEN THE WHOLE FAMILY: Comprehensive Family Development Support, Nutrition Education, Parenting Education, Community Gardens and Canneries, Food Stamps, Health Clinics, Weatherization Assistance, Energy Assistance, Rental Assistance, Home Ownership Programs, Community Centers, Individual Development Accounts.

  • TO STRENGTHEN THE WHOLE COMMUNITY: Low-Income Housing Development, Economic Development and Support for New Business Ventures, Mobilization of Community-Wide Safety and Crime Prevention Initiatives, Consumer Education and Fraud Prevention, Community Reinvestment Act Partnerships, Support for Groups Working on Neighborhood Improvements, Support for Dialogue and Planning among all Sectors of the Community.


Why Community Action

Community Action Agencies are the only nonprofits mandated by federal legislation to serve the poor and disadvantaged. Our agencies share a common mission: to help low-income people become self-sufficient and independent of public programs.


  • BOARD STRUCTURE – CAAs are required to have a tripartite board consisting of local private sector, public sector, and low-income community representatives. This board structure allows for Maximum Feasible Participation of local low-income citizens and brings together community leaders from each of these groups to collaborate on developing responses to local needs.

  • VOLUNTEER SUPPORT – The CAA network is one of the largest users of volunteer services in the country. CAA volunteers contribute a million hours of service annually.

  • LEVERAGE FOR OTHER RESOURCES – In North Carolina (in 2016), every Community Service Block Grant (CSBG) dollar spent leverages nearly $12 of state, local, and private contributions combined.

  • INNOVATIVE SOLUTIONS – CSBG dollars provide the flexibility agencies need to create programs and services that address locally identified needs.  

  • COMPREHENSIVE AND RESPONSIVE – CAAs provide community-based coordinated programs and services which help families navigate from poverty to independent of public programs.

  • COMMUNITY AND FAMILY PROGRAMS – CAAs provide a holistic approach of addressing the needs of low-income children and families.

  • REACHING MILLIONS OF AMERICANS – 1,000 CAAs provide services 99% of our nation’s counties.

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