Pam Fessler

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's National Desk, where she covers poverty and philanthropy.

In her reporting, Fessler covers homelessness, hunger, and the impact of the recession on the nation's less fortunate. She reports on non-profit groups, how they're trying to address poverty and other social issues, and how they've been affected by the economic downturn. Her poverty reporting was recognized by a 2011 First Place Headliner Award in the human interest category.

Previously, Fessler reported primarily on homeland security, including security at U.S. ports, airlines, and borders. She has also reported on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, the 9/11 Commission investigation, and such issues as Social Security and election reform. Fessler was also one of NPR's White House reporters during the Clinton and Bush administrations.

Before becoming a correspondent, Fessler was the acting senior editor on the Washington Desk and oversaw the network's coverage of the impeachment of President Clinton and the 1998 mid-term elections. She was NPR's chief election editor in 1996, and coordinated all network coverage of the presidential, congressional, and state elections. Prior to that role, Fessler was the deputy Washington editor and Midwest National Desk editor.

Before coming to NPR in 1993, she was a senior writer at Congressional Quarterly magazine. Fessler worked at CQ for 13 years as both a reporter and editor, covering tax, budget, and other news. She also worked as a budget specialist at the U.S. Office of Management and Budget, and was a reporter at The Record newspaper in Hackensack, NJ.

Fessler has a Masters of Public Administration from the Maxwell School at Syracuse University and a bachelor's degree from Douglass College in New Jersey.

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Around the Nation
3:07 am
Mon May 20, 2013

Advocates Struggle To Reach Growing Ranks Of Suburban Poor

TD Bank volunteers sort donated food into barrels at the Manna Food Center in Gaithersburg in Montgomery County, Md. Poverty in the county just outside Washington, D.C., has grown by two-thirds since 2007.
Gabriella Demczuk NPR

Originally published on Mon May 20, 2013 2:30 pm

Poverty has grown everywhere in the U.S. in recent years, but mostly in the suburbs. During the 2000s, it grew twice as fast in suburban areas as in cities, with more than 16 million poor people now living in the nation's suburbs — more than in urban or rural areas.

Elizabeth Kneebone, a fellow with the Metropolitan Policy Program at the Brookings Institution, says this shift in poverty can be seen in Montgomery County, Md., right outside the nation's capital.

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The Sequester: Cuts And Consequences
3:56 pm
Tue April 30, 2013

Sequester Puts Some Needing Housing Aid 'Back To Square One'

Roger Bottomley of Fairfax, Va., has been homeless for 10 years. He expected to get a housing voucher, but then his appointment with the local housing authority was canceled because of sequestration. He keeps his belongings in a locker at a homeless day center.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Tue April 30, 2013 8:01 pm

Congress decided last week to ease the effects of the across-the-board federal spending cuts on travelers upset over airport delays. But low-income Americans who rely on government housing aid are still feeling the pain.

Housing authorities across the country have all but stopped issuing rent vouchers as they try to deal with the cuts known as sequestration. Many newly issued vouchers have been rescinded, leaving some people homeless or doubled up with family and friends.

And the cuts come at a time when there's a severe shortage of affordable housing across the country.

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Around the Nation
6:27 am
Wed April 24, 2013

Donations Pour In To Help Marathon Bombing Suspects

Originally published on Wed April 24, 2013 7:28 am

Immediately after the Boston Marathon bombing, local officials set up the One Fund Boston to collect and distribute donations to help the victims. The fund was set up by Mayor Thomas Menino and Gov. Deval Patrick to help coordinate aid, and to avoid some of the acrimony over donations that has followed past tragedies.

Around the Nation
5:46 pm
Tue April 16, 2013

Changes Help San Diego Homeless, But Long Road Remains Ahead

Wanda Rayborn, 63, was homeless for nine years and was living under a tree in downtown San Diego two years ago. She now lives in a newly renovated efficiency apartment — part of an initiative to help get homeless people off the streets.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Tue April 23, 2013 3:05 pm

Two years ago, we reported on an ambitious campaign to end homelessness in downtown San Diego, a city with one of the largest homeless populations in the nation. The effort involved an unprecedented coalition of business leaders, community groups and government agencies.

At the time, some advocates for the homeless — after years of seeing other, failed efforts to get people off city streets — were skeptical that the campaign would amount to much.

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Around the Nation
3:15 am
Mon March 25, 2013

Free Tax Help Protects Low-Income Filers From Pricey Loans

iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon March 25, 2013 9:50 am

As this year's tax deadline approaches, hundreds of thousands of low-income Americans are relying on free services to help them with their returns.

Tax preparation fees — even a few hundred dollars — can be a burden for those living on the margins. And taxpayers desperate for cash can fall prey to high-cost loan offers that eat into their refunds

At the free tax-preparation site at the main library in Washington, D.C., about 30 taxpayers wait for help from volunteers.

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Around the Nation
5:23 pm
Wed March 13, 2013

Health Problems Compound For Aging Homeless

Tony Lithgow, 49, and Andrea Mayer, 51, live together on the streets of Baltimore. Researchers say the aging homeless population is due to younger baby boomers who came of age during the 1970s and '80s, when there were back-to-back recessions.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Wed March 13, 2013 8:27 pm

Tony Lithgow and Andrea Mayer have been living under a highway overpass in downtown Baltimore since last year. He's 49 and has been homeless on and off for eight years. She's 51 and has been homeless for 10 years.

Living on the streets has clearly taken a toll on the couple, both physically and mentally. While they're standing at a corner waiting for a free city bus to take them to a soup kitchen, Tony shouts at a passenger staring at them from a car stopped at the light.

"We're homeless!" he calls out to the man.

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Health Care
4:24 am
Wed March 13, 2013

'We Shouldn't Have To Live Like This'

Linwood Hearne, 64, and his wife, Evelyn, 47, stand near Interstate 83 in Baltimore where they have slept on and off for the past four years. According to the local nonprofit Health Care for the Homeless (HCH), a growing percentage of homeless patients nationally are 50 or older, with complex mental and physical conditions.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Thu March 14, 2013 12:05 pm

If aging is not for sissies, that's especially true if you're homeless. You can be on your feet for hours, or forced to sleep in the frigid cold or seriously ill with no place to go. But, increasingly, the nation's homeless population is getting older. By some estimates, more than half of single homeless adults are 47 or older.

And there's growing alarm about what this means — both for the aging homeless and for those who have to foot the bill. The cost to society, especially for health care and social services, could mushroom.

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The Sequester: Cuts And Consequences
6:19 pm
Tue February 26, 2013

Advocates Warn Sequester Could Mean Big Cuts For The Low-Income

A nutrition specialist prepares a Meals on Wheels delivery in upstate New York. The national organization says the sequester could mean significant cuts in the number of meals they serve to homebound seniors.
John Moore Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 26, 2013 7:05 pm

Many programs affecting low-income Americans — like food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Assistance for Needy Families — are exempt from across-the-board spending cuts set to go into effect March 1.

But many other programs are not, and that has service providers scrambling to figure out how the budget stalemate in Washington might affect those who rely on government aid.

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It's All Politics
3:33 pm
Fri February 15, 2013

President's New Voting Commission Greeted With Skepticism

Lines of voters wait to cast their ballots as the polls open in St. Petersburg, Fla., on Nov. 6.
Edward Linsmier Getty Images

Originally published on Fri February 15, 2013 4:18 pm

One of the more memorable moments in President Obama's State of the Union address this week was his introduction of an elderly woman sitting in the House gallery. The president said that Desiline Victor had to wait three hours last year to vote in North Miami.

"Hour after hour, a throng of people stayed in line to support her," Obama said. "[Because] Desiline is 102 years old. And they erupted in cheers when she finally put on a sticker that read, 'I Voted.' "

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It's All Politics
3:45 am
Tue February 12, 2013

Fixing Long Lines At The Polls May Be Harder Than You Think

Originally published on Tue February 12, 2013 5:00 am

Minutes after he was re-elected in November, President Obama vowed to fix the long lines that many voters faced at the polls. He mentioned the problem again in his inaugural address. And now, the president is expected to raise it once more in the State of the Union address on Tuesday — this time with some possible solutions.

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Economy
1:43 am
Wed January 30, 2013

Study: Nearly Half In U.S. Lack Financial Safety Net

Nearly 44 percent of Americans don't have enough savings or other liquid assets to stay out of poverty for more than three months if they lose their income, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development.
Atanas Bezov iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Wed January 30, 2013 11:03 am

In his inaugural address, President Obama talked about a country where even "a little girl born into the bleakest poverty knows that she has the same chance to succeed as anybody else." But in reality, that's not always the case. A new report finds that one of the biggest obstacles for many Americans is that they don't have the savings or assets they need to help them get ahead.

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U.S.
1:36 pm
Sat January 12, 2013

The 'Second Disaster': Making Well-Intentioned Donations Useful

Thousands of food and clothing items are organized by Occupy Sandy volunteers in a school gymnasium in Rockaway Park, Queens, after Superstorm Sandy in November.
Craig Ruttle AP

Among the donations that poured into the American Red Cross building after the earthquake in Haiti three years ago was a box of Frisbees. In a flood of well-intentioned but unneeded donations, this box stuck out to Meghan O'Hara, who oversees in-kind donations for the organization.

O'Hara says someone clearly wanted to help — the person mailed the box from Germany — but all she could think was, "Wow. That $60 or $70 could have been sent to so many different organizations to help out in so many different ways, and now we have a box of Frisbees."

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Around the Nation
5:11 pm
Wed January 9, 2013

Thanks, But No Thanks: When Post-Disaster Donations Overwhelm

Volunteers sort through piles of donated clothes for Superstorm Sandy victims at an impromptu Staten Island aid station in November. Relief groups are still trying to figure out what to do with donated clothes people sent to New York and New Jersey in Sandy's aftermath.
Seth Wenig AP

Originally published on Wed January 9, 2013 6:31 pm

Newtown, Conn., was so inundated with teddy bears and other donations after last month's school shootings that it asked people to please stop sending gifts. Relief groups in New York and New Jersey are still trying to figure out what to do with piles of clothes and other items sent there after Superstorm Sandy.

It happens in every disaster: People want to help, but they often donate things that turn out to be more of a burden. Disaster aid groups are trying to figure out a better way to channel these good intentions.

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U.S.
5:16 am
Mon November 26, 2012

'Giving Tuesday': The Start Of A Holiday Tradition?

Originally published on Mon November 26, 2012 4:50 pm

First, there was the post-Thanksgiving sales spectacle Black Friday and then the online version, Cyber Monday. Now, charitable groups want to start a new holiday tradition — it's called Giving Tuesday and the first one is tomorrow.

It may seem a little surprising that no one came up with the idea before of designating a specific day to help launch the holiday charitable giving season.

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Superstorm Sandy: Before, During And Beyond
3:25 am
Fri November 16, 2012

Want To Help Sandy Victims? Send Cash, Not Clothes

Volunteers sort through donated clothes in Sea Bright, N.J.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Fri November 16, 2012 4:47 am

Whenever there's a disaster, people want to give, and Hurricane Sandy is no exception. According to The Chronicle of Philanthropy, U.S. charities collected more than $174 million in donations as of Nov. 9 to help respond to the storm.

But it's not only money that has been pouring in. Relief programs have also received mountains of clothes, food and other supplies, not all of which are needed.

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