Darcell Florence, Director
Jefferson Community Action Programs
Jefferson Community Action Programs (JEFFCAP) is Jefferson Parish's agency dedicated to empowering as many families in Jefferson Parish and surrounding areas, including our elderly, disabled, economically disadvantaged, and youth through our various programs. Linkages have been built with federal, state, local, and private agencies to provide a wide array of services to meet the clients' needs.
JeffCAP offers programs ranging from Head Start to the Retired & Senior Volunteer Program, from housing counseling, rental, and utility assistance, to helping families keep their homes and referrals to programs that offer temporary shelter for those who have lost their homes. Other programs include the distribution of food commodities and subsidizing meals for Head Start children.
History of Community Action
What is Community Action?
n 1964, The Great Society, as envisioned by President Lyndon Johnson, was a sweeping plan to improve the lives of all Americans, regardless of their circumstances. Inspired by President Kennedy and his New Frontier, Johnson pledged to fulfill his promise of equal opportunity for all by enacting several comprehensive changes within the federal government. In August of that same year, President Johnson creating the nationwide Community Action Network signed the Economic Opportunity Act into law.
The War on Poverty
In 1963, shortly before he was assassinated, President Kennedy had asked his economic advisors to draw up some proposals to address American poverty. Johnson took up this charge after he succeeded Kennedy as President. In Johnson's first State of the Union address on June 8, 1964, he called for an unconditional war to defeat poverty. He expanded and revised the proposals given to Kennedy and developed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964. The act included a variety of initiatives:
- Head Start
- Job Corps
- Work-Study program for university students
- VISTA (Volunteers in Service to America) - a domestic version of the Peace Corps
- Neighborhood Youth Corps
- Basic education and adult job training
CAAs (Community Action Agencies) - CAAs turned out to be the most controversial part of the package, as it proposed the "maximum feasible participation" by poor people themselves to determine what would help them the most. CAAs were a radical departure from how the government had run most social reform programs in the past.
The Economic Opportunity Act was innovative legislation, but it received only about $1 billion to divide among the various programs and remained critically underfunded. By 1966, Congress appropriated $4 billion for the programs.
Why Community Action?
Community Action equips low-income citizens with the tools and potential for becoming self-sufficient. The program's structure 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, ultimately, move families and individuals to self-sufficiency.