Rochester anti-poverty group seeks national support

May 27, 2019


The CEO of a Rochester nonprofit group taking on the city’s poverty challenges said Monday that he hopes to get some national support for those efforts this week.

Jerome Underwood said Action for a Better Community’s funding is at risk if the mechanism that distributes it is not reauthorized soon by Congress.

Action for a Better Community is the Rochester-area recipient of federal grants that its president and CEO says are in jeopardy if Congress doesn't act.

It’s a risk “not just for ABC, but for all the other community action agencies across the country,” Underwood said.

The money -- more than $700 million annually -- comes in what are called community services block grants.


Those grants used to be funded through multi-year arrangements, but recently, they’ve been extended one year at a time.

Action for a Better Community is the recipient of those grants locally. Underwood said it's a fragile system. If the grants disappear, “we won’t be able to provide the services to the people who most need it,” he said. “That makes us really, really nervous.”

Underwood said that would be a big blow to anti-poverty efforts in Rochester and would exacerbate the city’s already profound concentrations of poverty.

His hope is to get federal support for long-term reauthorization of those block grants by hosting national legislators and anti-poverty leaders in Rochester this week.

Rep. Joseph Morelle, a Democrat who represents most of Monroe County, will announce his co-sponsorship of a House bill to reauthorize the grants Tuesday, his Press Secretary Dana Vernetti said.

According to the House website Monday, the bill already had 19 Democrat and 15 Republican co-sponsors.

Underwood said bipartisan support for the reauthorization bill would help efforts to reduce poverty across the country.