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Community Action Agencies Step in When Other's Don't

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August 29, 2011

RALEIGH, N.C. - You might not notice them until you need them, but every year community action agencies are responsible for helping thousands of people around North Carolina and the country. With both rural and metropolitan areas seeing an increase in poverty - a 25-percent increase in demand, statewide - the need for them is greater than ever. And possible funding cuts loom: Earlier this year, President Obama proposed a 50-percent cut to community action agencies nationwide.

David Bradley is the executive director of the National Community Action Foundation. He says if his agencies cannot help people, they will have to seek aid from the government.

"More and more people are turning to these agencies. If they go out of business, the poor and people needing these services are going to end up on the mayor's doorstep."

In North Carolina, community action agencies receive more than $18 million annually from the federal government to support their communities. More than 16 percent of people in the state live in poverty.

Much of the increased need is coming from people who never imagined they would ever need help, Bradley explains, citing a family he met on a recent trip.

"They visited the agency up the street from where they live. They had seen it for all these years but had never walked into it. Then, all of a sudden, they turned to one of our agencies for the first time in their life."

Bradley is responsible for creating the Community Action Agency Network in 1981, when he secured the block grant funding. This week he will be in Raleigh speaking to community action agency leaders about the importance of keeping the momentum behind the agencies going.

Stephanie Carroll Carson, Public News Service - NC