As a young adult, LBJ saw the nationwide economic collapse caused by the Great Depression. Before entering the field of politics, he taught Mexican-American children at a school in an impoverished area of La Salle County, TX.
When Johnson championed the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 from his seat in the White House, he described how the nation must declare “a war on poverty.” The agenda would include the outline for programs like the Older Americans Act, Medicare,Medicaid, Head Start, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and College Work Study (now Federal Work Study).
One of the tenants of Johnson’s strategy involved the Community Action Partnership, a network of nonprofit agencies organized to attack the root source of poverty in their own backyards. Today, 50 years after LBJ’s appeal to the country, there are approximately 1,100 community action agencies providing support, education and resources to families and individuals across the U.S. striving to transition from poverty to self-reliance.
SNAP was formed in 1966, two years after the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act. For 20 years, Spokane County’s community action agency operated as a branch of Catholic Charities. In 1986, SNAP became a stand-alone, private nonprofit.
Nationwide, the war on poverty appears to have made an impact. The poverty rate in the U.S. has gone from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012.
SNAP is one of 30 agencies in the Washington State Community Action Partnership. Like other community action agencies, SNAP’s board is divided into thirds with equal representation from the low-income community, public officials and the private sector. The majority of community action agencies serve those with incomes below 75 percent of the federal poverty threshold – or $9,735 for a family of three.
In 2012, community action agencies throughout Washington invested $355 million back into the state’s economy while providing 4,000 jobs. A total of 721,416 people were supported through CAA programs.