History of Community Action and the Community Services Block Grant
The Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 (EOA) was the centerpiece of the "War on Poverty," which in turn was a major thrust of the "Great Society" legislative agenda of the Lyndon Johnson administration. The EOA provided for job training, adult education, and loans to small businesses to attack the roots of unemployment and poverty.
The EOA was passed in August 20, 1964. EOA programs included VISTA (Volunteers In Service To America), a personal priority of LBJ; the Job Corps; the Neighborhood Youth Corps; Head Start; Adult Basic Education; Family Planning; Community Health Centers; Congregate Meal Preparation; Economic Development; Foster Grandparents; Legal Services; Neighborhood Centers; Summer Youth Programs; Senior Centers; and others.
The EOA established over a thousand of Community Action Agencies (CAAs) at the local level to implement Great Society programs. CAAs varied greatly, with some being non-profit groups, some being city agencies, and some community-controlled groups. By 1968 there were over 1,600 CAAs covering two-thirds of the nation's counties.
The EOA required the poor have "maximum feasible participation" in poverty program planning. CAAs sought participation by the poor by opening storefront and neighborhood centers. Such centers helped train a new generation of community activists and leaders. These individuals also were recruited into the ranks of federal poverty program administration. As this new power base developed, some mayors and other political leaders were threatened and successfully lobbied Congress to earmark new funds into "National Emphasis Programs" specified by Congress. The NEP requirements effectively undermined the discretion of CAAs to allocate funds. As Congress's influence grew, the commitment of the president to the OEO declined.
Under the Nixon Administration, a number of OEO programs were transferred to the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and to the Department of Labor. Later, after his 1972 reelection, Nixon's 1973 budget dropped funding for the Community Action Program of the OEO. Howard Phillips was appointed as OEO director with instructions to dismantle the agency. Court suits, however, forced the president to expend funds appropriated by Congress and Phillips resigned.
Under the Ford administration, the Community Services Amendments of 1974 terminated the OEO and created a replacement agency, the Community Services Administration (CSA). Many OEO employees simply changed places in organizational charts. CAA's continued to be funded until 1981. New program thrusts included housing rehabilitation, home insulation, and environmental projects like solar greenhouses and community gardening. Under the Carter administration there was a concerted effort to strengthen local leadership within the CSA and CAAs.
The Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) was passed in 1981, rescinding the Economic Opportunity Act as well as the Green Amendment. However, CAAs recognized by the CSA were made eligible for CSBG funding. Funding was reduced under the Reagan administration as a new system of eight block grants consolidated some 200 plus federal programs. In September, 1981, the CSA was abolished and 1,000 CSA employees were fired. Nonetheless, CAAs continued and in fact increased as a percentage of counties covered by CAAs (now estimated at 70%-80% of all U. S. counties). They remain important in domestic social policy to the present day.
Results Oriented Management and Accountability (ROMA)
ROMA was created in 1994 by an ongoing task force of Federal, state, and local community action officials – the Monitoring and Assessment Task Force (MATF). Based upon principles contained in the Government Performance and Results Act of 1993, ROMA provides a framework for continuous growth and improvement among more than 1000 local community action agencies and a basis for state leadership and assistance toward those ends.
Since 1994, the Community Services Network has been guided by six broad anti-poverty goals established by the MATF:
Goal 1: Low-income people become more self-sufficient.
Goal 2: The conditions in which low-income people live are improved.
Goal 3: Low-income people own a stake in their community.
Goal 4: Partnerships among supporters and providers of service to low- income people are achieved.
Goal 5: Agencies increase their capacity to achieve results.
Goal 6: Low-income people, especially vulnerable populations, achieve their potential by strengthening family and other supportive systems.
To accomplish these goals, local CAAs have been encouraged to undertake a number of ROMA implementation actions that focus on results-oriented management and results-oriented accountability:
- Assess poverty needs and conditions within the community;
- Define a clear agency anti-poverty mission for community action and a strategy to address those needs, both immediate and longer term, in the context of existing resources and opportunities in the community;
- Identify specific improvements, or results, to be achieved among low-income people and the community; and
- Organize and implement programs, services, and activities, such as advocacy, within the agency and among “partnering” organizations, to achieve anticipated results.
- Develop and implement strategies to measure and record improvements in the condition of low-income people and the communities in which they live that result from community action intervention;
- Use information about outcomes, or results, among agency tripartite boards and staff to determine the overall effectiveness, inform annual and long-range planning, support agency advocacy, funding, and community partnership activities.
State CSBG lead agencies and state community action associations have been encouraged to work as a team to advance ROMA performance-based concepts among local agencies through on-going training and technical assistance
The Office of Community Services has provided training and technical assistance funding to all aspects of ROMA implementation throughout the history of the initiative, including:
- Grants to state and local agencies to develop model ROMA measures, strategies, and information systems;
- Grants to national, state and local entities to create training and technical assistance materials for use by the network;
- Grants to implement statewide strategic planning and program renewal, performance measurement and reporting, expanded partnerships with other service providers;
- Grants to collect and report state and national ROMA outcome information; and
- Grants to establish and maintain national ROMA technical assistance resources including the Train-the-Trainer program, a ROMA Clearinghouse, and several agency leadership enhancement and administration improvement programs.
National Peer-To-Peer ROMA Certification
The National ROMA Peer-to-Peer Training (NPtP) program prepares peers from the community action network to deliver an approved introductory course on ROMA philosophy and principles. NPtP students undertake a process for certification.
There are four phases to the certification process:
· Phase One: ROMA e-Course
· Phase Two: Four Day Train-the-Trainer Classroom Session
· Phase Three: ROMA Practice Session(s)
· Phase Four: ROMA Field Internship
Indiana ROMA Trainers
Click here for a listing of certified National Peer-to-Peer ROMA trainers in Indiana and can provide training to your agency staff and/or board of directors on ROMA.