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Public input wanted to help guide response to poverty in Monterey County

By Dennis L. Taylor
Monterey Herald, May 3, 2021

SALINAS — Monterey County Social Services is heading up an effort to determine the needs and assistance to low-income families in the county and will hold a public hearing on May 18 to solicit input from the public in creating a plan.

The Monterey County Community Action Partnership will present the 2022-2023 plan to the county Board of Supervisors and wants public comments that will guide priorities, goals, strategies and objectives of the partnership.

The partnership is a publicly operated agency supported by the county Department of Social Services. It receives federal funding, distributed by the state, through annual Community Services Block Grants. The plan will be adopted for calendar years 2022 through 2023.

The funding is distributed to a host of nonprofit organizations and agencies, each providing different services that are determined through the public hearing process. The county releases “requests for proposals” that essentially say here is what we want and tell us why your nonprofit can fulfill the needs. Grants are provided based on the responses.

The nonprofits have included Community Human Services, which provides medical drug treatment and homeless services; United Way Monterey County, which provides education and financial management services; and the YWCA Monterey County, which provides domestic violence and violence prevention services.

All told there were 11 different recipients of grant funding for needs determined by the public hearing process.

One challenge is the requirement that recipients’ incomes must be at or below the federal poverty level. In 2020 that poverty level was $12,760 for an individual or $26,200 for a family of four. That poverty level is for a county with an average rent cost of $2,184 a month, according to RentCafe, an online apartment search service.

The county’s average income for a household is $71,015, or $30,073 on a per capita basis, according to 2019 data from the U.S. Census. But those incomes are countywide and are skewed by the incomes in the wealthier enclaves along the Monterey Peninsula. In Salinas and southern Monterey County, the incomes are far less.

The Monterey County Community Action Partnership is a Community Action Agency that was established under the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964 as part of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s “War on Poverty.”

There are now roughly 1,000 of these agencies across the country that serve as a focal point to coordinate and plan for services that “support, assist and empower low- income people and to improve their quality of life,” according to the county website.

The Board of Supervisors designates 15 Commissioners — three from each supervisorial district — to serve on the Community Action Commission which advises and supports the Community Action Partnership.

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