Following the passage of the Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, launching the Nation’s War on Poverty as a centerpiece of President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, Community Action Agencies (CAAs) in Georgia and across the Nation were created by local communities, designated by local government, approved by the Governor’s Office, and funded by the Federal Government. Funds were also provided by the Federal Government for the creation and operation of State Economic Opportunity Offices (SEOOs), responsible for oversight, training and technical assistance, and coordination and liaison with the Office of the Governor.
In Georgia the SEOO was originally located in the Governor’s Office. In subsequent years many organizational changes took place at both the Federal and the State levels. As the Nation’s attention and resources – and those of the President – were captured by another War (Vietnam), some programs which were originally part of the Economic Opportunity Act were “spun off” to other Federal agencies (for example, Legal Services, Family Planning, Employment and Training, and Head Start). The original funding agency, the U. S. Office of Economic Opportunity (OEO), was renamed the Community Services Administration under President Richard Nixon and finally was eliminated under President Ronald Reagan as part of his New Federalism concept. However, the funding stream to CAAs continued via the Community Services Block Grant and other such block grants as that for the Home Weatherization Program and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program; most CAAs continued to receive direct Federal grants as well (i.e., Head Start).
The purposes of these programs, addressing the causes and conditions of poverty and the promotion of self-sufficiency among low-income families, have not changed. At the State level, the SEOO was moved from the Governor’s Office to DHR, reporting to the Commissioner, as part of the Executive Reorganization Act of 1972. The Georgia SEOO subsequently was abolished when the U. S. Community Services Administration was abolished in 1981 (although some states kept that office’s identity), with its responsibilities being folded into the Office of Community and Intergovernmental Affairs in DHR, also reporting to the Commissioner. Finally, in 1991, downsizing of state government resulted in the termination of the Office of Community Intergovernmental Affairs. The responsibilities of that Office pertaining to community action agencies were considerably diminished and moved down to become part of a section (the Community Services Section) in the Division of Family and Children Services in DHR, where those functions remain today.