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General Laws

Section 24. As used in this section the following words, unless the context requires otherwise, shall have the following meaning:

“Community action agency”, a nonprofit agency which has previously been designated and authorized to accept funds from the federal Community Services Administration for community action agencies under the federal Economic Opportunity Act of 1964, unless such designation is rescinded by the director in accordance with the provisions of this section, or any agency formed as may be designated as a community action agency by the director to succeed any agency that the director determines fails to meet federal requirements, or fair and reasonable requirements established by the director, or any agency designated as a community action agency by the director to serve previously unserved areas in accordance with the provisions of this section.

“Community services block grant”, funds designated to ameliorate the causes of poverty in communities within the commonwealth, distributed by the federal government to the commonwealth pursuant to section 672(a) et. seq. of the Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1981, or its successor.

“Density of poverty”, percentage of total population in area to be served representing persons at one hundred per cent of poverty as defined by the United States Office of Management and Budget.

A community action agency shall maintain a board structure which consists of the following:

(i) one-third of the members shall be elected public officials, currently, holding office, or their representatives, except that if the number of elected officials reasonably available and willing to serve is less than one-third of the membership on the board, membership on the board of appointive public officials may be counted in meeting such one-third requirement; (ii) at least one-third of the members shall be persons chosen in accordance with democratic selection procedures adequate to assure that they are representative of the poor in the area served; and (iii) the remainder of the members shall be officials or members of the business, industry, labor, religious, welfare, education, or other major groups and interests in the community.

In order to qualify as a community action agency, such agency must be one which is community based and operated as set forth in this section and which:—

(i) is designed to provide a range of services and activities having a measurable and potentially major impact on causes of poverty in the community or those areas of the community where poverty is a particularly acute problem; (ii) has been developed and has organized and combined projects and activities undertaken by the agency in a manner appropriate to carry out all the purposes of this section; and (iii) includes programs to assist low income participants, including the elderly poor, such as programs to: secure and maintain meaningful employment, attain an adequate education; provide and maintain adequate housing and a suitable living environment; receive energy assistance and weatherization services; obtain emergency assistance through loans or grants to meet immediate and urgent individual and family needs, including the need for health services, nutritious food, housing and employment-related assistance; remove obstacles and solve personal and family problems which block the achievement of self-sufficiency; and achieve greater participation in the affairs of the community.

The commonwealth, acting by and through the director, may enter into contracts with community action agencies, and such other organizations as the director determines, to provide services consistent with the purposes of this section. Any such agency shall comply with such requirements as the director may establish by regulation or otherwise, including, but not limited to, reporting and monitoring requirements, and evaluation procedures, and, in the case of community action agencies, procedures for the designation and the suspension or recision of designation as a community action agency. Procedures for the suspension or recision of designation as a community action agency shall include adequate notice and an opportunity for a hearing.

The director may designate an agency as a community action agency to serve a previously unserved area, if the director finds that: there are sufficient additional community services block grant funds appropriated to provide for the addition and continuing operation of such agency, and that such agency will serve an area having a population in excess of seventy-five thousand and a density of poverty which exceeds seven per cent.

The provisions of this section shall be applicable to the awarding of contracts by the director under the federal community services block grant program. Not less than ninety per cent of the total of any such community services block grant funds received by the commonwealth during any fiscal federal year shall be contracted directly with community action agencies in existence at the beginning of such fiscal year. Not more than five per cent of the total of any such community services block grant funds received by the commonwealth shall be allocated to the director for administrative expenses. Not more than five per cent of the total of any such community services block grant funds received by the commonwealth shall be awarded by the director for innovative anti-poverty projects or programs operated by nonprofit organizations.

The commonwealth, acting by and through the director, may, subject to appropriation, provide supplementary funds to community action agencies in accordance with the provisions of this section.

Recognition of a community action agency by the director shall not preclude the agency from receiving other grants or contracts from federal or local agencies, private organizations, or individuals or state agencies to pay the cost of providing services to the poor.

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