Mission Statement: Dakota Prairie Community Action Agency (DPCAA) exists to provide advocacy, programs and services to address the issues of poverty and improve economic self-sufficiency for all households.
Community Action - Historical
The signing of the Economic Opportunity Act by President Lyndon B. Johnson was the legislation that gave birth to what are today Community Action Agencies (CAAs). This legislation was designed to initiate a War on Poverty that would be lead by CAAs. Initially the War on Poverty was waged in the larger cities across the country; however, it became increasingly apparent that poverty was an insidious problem throughout the country for those living in both urban and rural localities. The early years of the War on Poverty were filled with challenges and struggles because it was tackling a very difficult problem and dealing with a complex political situation. Many mayors in the larger urban communities did not believe that they needed independent agencies with their allowed scope of influence operating freely within their community. Some of the influence and power earlier bestowed on CAAs was lessened to some degree during its infancy to accommodate a number of large city mayors, particularly Mayor Daly of Chicago.
The developments during the late 1960s and early 1970s lead to the development of something called the Community Services Administration (CSA) that was formed to put on added muscle into the War on Poverty and solidify CAAs as an integral part of the federal government response to the issues and problems facing those that exist in poverty throughout the country. CSA was largely an ineffective federal agency that hurt the cause of CAAs rather than improve the level of respect from within the federal government toward the Community Action Network. The 1970s offered many missed opportunities and ultimately lead to a serious threat by the Nixon Administration to close down CAAs and effectively end the War on Poverty. CAAs persevered, however, in a much wounded state that resulted in a weakened network as it entered the 1980s.
Early in the 1980s CSA was eliminated and the Community Services Block Grant (CSBG) was developed to provide base funding for the Community Action Network. CSBG effectively became one of the first block grants made by the federal government to the states. Although this funding was called a block grant it included provisions that required that 90% of the funding go to established CAAs within the state thus allowing CAAs some degree of control over how the funding was distributed within the state.
During the first twenty-five years of existence CAAs struggled against enormous odds, survived and actually accomplished some noteworthy achievements. CAAs started Head Start, Foster Grandparent Program, Low Income Home Energy Assistance, Home Weatherization Program, Legal Services and Upward Bound. CAAs were also instrumental in the development of many community day care facilities, senior meals and services, WIC, VISTA, job training activities and a variety of other programs and services not specifically associated with the Community Action Network.
The fact that the early years of CAA evolution did not always have a positive tone and many political struggles were overcome does not diminish the fact that CAAs did survive. This survival mentality has helped the Community Action Network be somewhat resilient and adaptable to the political winds that often change with great frequency in Congress. The strength and survival of CAAs is largely a product of legislative work done within Congress. Presidents of both political parties have been less supportive of funding critical to the CAA network than an increasingly supportive Congress.
Community Action - Today
Today some 100+ CAAs And CSBG funded organizations exist across the country. CSBG funding provides services and assistance in almost every county within the United States (small section of rural Kansas is not served). Most CAAs are private, nonprofit tax exempt corporations (70-80%) while the balance are usually part of the local government structure, either operating as a department within the local government or as separate entities that operate within some unit of local governmental. CAAs range in size from the small rural agency having just a handful of employees to huge corporations employing hundreds of people. Today CAAs operate community colleges, credit unions, multipurpose senior citizens programs, large child care centers, family planning clinics, large housing projects and a wide variety of other programs and services designed to assist those less fortunate in society. DPCAA is a small rural CAA that has some degree of funding diversity but relies heavily on CSBG funding.
Historically CAAs and the War on Poverty were considered largely an effort supported almost exclusively by Democrats, with some small degree of support provided by the more moderate Republicans. Today the support for CAAs has become widely bipartisan. Those newly elected to Congress do not necessarily look at the historical ideology that started a given program but whether the program is effective, if the program is locally oriented, if the program allows flexibility at the local level to meet local needs and how the program is structured. In recent years CAAs have come into bipartisan favor because they met this litmus test. Although support for CAAs is expanding, the support for the program has, at best, been lukewarm and, at worst, downright hostile at the Presidential level.
The strength of the Community Action Network rests with Congress and this support assures some degree of longevity for CAAs. However, politics can change dramatically and struggles will continue to maintain CSBG funding at its current level and move CAAs to the forefront of organizations charged with dealing with the complexities of poverty.
Community Action – North Dakota
DPCAA is one of seven CAAs located in North Dakota. All seven (7) CAAs are private nonprofit corporations. The main office for each of the seven CAAs is located within the largest community within their respective service area.
Community Action Partnership - Jamestown Region located in Jamestown serving the counties of Wells, Foster, Griggs, Stutsman, Barnes, Logan, LaMoure, McIntosh and Dickey. Community Action Partnership - Bismarck Region located in Bismarck serving the counties of McLean, Mercer, Sheridan, Kidder, Burleigh, Oliver, Morton, Grant, Emmons and Sioux. Community Action Partnership - Dickinson/Williston Region located in Dickinson serving the counties of Bowman, Adams, Slope, Hettinger, Stark, Golden Valley, Billings, Dunn, McKenzie, Williams and Divide. Community Action Partnership - Minot Region located in Minot serving the counties of Burke, Mountrail, Ward, Renville, Bottineau, McHenry and Pierce. Dakota Prairie Community Action Agency, Inc. located in Devils Lake serving the counties of Rolette, Towner, Cavalier, Benson, Ramsey and Eddy. Red River Valley Community Action, Inc. located in Grand Forks serving the counties of Pembina, Walsh, Nelson and Grand Forks. Southeastern North Dakota Community Action Agency, Inc. located in Fargo serving the counties of Steele, Trail, Cass, Ransom, Sargent and Richland. Many of these agencies have one or more satellite offices located throughout their respective service areas.
The governing bodies of all CAAs must be comprised of low income representatives, private sector representatives and public sector representatives from local government, usually city or county. In addition to regular oversight by the governing body of each CAA the norm is to have at least one or two layers of bureaucracy that monitors a particular funding source. Even though CAAs are known for their flexibility there does exists a good deal of regular monitoring that takes place which insures that all the rules, regulations and procedures are adhered to as standard practice.
All seven (7) CAAs in North Dakota actively participate in the North Dakota Community Action Partnership (NDCAP). The association is comprised of the Executive Directors from each CAA. The purpose of the association is to promote Community Action within the state and help the CAAs coordinate services, activities and programs. In addition to NDCAP a number of subcommittees are in place (Fiscal, Self Sufficiency & Weatherization) that provide the opportunity for those staff members to coordinate activities and discuss relevant issues.