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.

Pages

Election 2012
2:11 pm
Mon September 10, 2012

Voting Laws In Several States Remain Unsettled

In South Carolina, Pennsylvania and several other states, new voter ID laws are being challenged in court just eight weeks before the general election.
iStockphoto.com

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 4:26 pm

Eight weeks before the presidential election, new laws passed by Republican legislatures that concern who can vote and when remain in the hands of federal and state judges.

Among the cases: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court this week will hear an appeal to overturn that state's new voter ID law. An appeal is expected in a case involving early voting in Ohio. And a federal court is still considering whether South Carolina can go ahead with its new voter ID law.

Read more
The Salt
3:09 pm
Wed September 5, 2012

Recession Still Hurting U.S. Families Trying To Put Food On The Table

Jacque Holland, 43, of Milwaukee picks up food at the food pantry at United Methodist Children's Services of Wisconsin.
Carrie Antlfinger AP

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 2:12 pm

The number of U.S. families struggling to put enough food on the table remains at record-high levels, according to new figures out today from the government. Last year, 1 in almost 7 households were what the government calls "food insecure." That's about the same level as in 2010, but still far higher than before the recession.

Read more
Election 2012
1:23 am
Fri August 24, 2012

Pre-Election Legal Battles Target Voting Rules

Protesters hold signs in Allentown, Pa., om July 25 as the Commonwealth Court holds hearings on voter ID laws.
Stephen Flood Express-Times /Landov

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 9:56 am

If you vote, you might very well be confused about what the rules will be when you go to cast your ballot this fall. There's been a flood of new laws on things such as voter identification and early voting, and many of them are now being challenged in court.

Some cases could drag on until Nov. 6, Election Day, and beyond. The outcomes will affect voters, and maybe even the results.

Read more
Around the Nation
10:46 pm
Sun August 19, 2012

Study Reveals The Geography of Charitable Giving

Attorneys Cheryl Curtis and her husband, Dana Foster, live in Washington, D.C., and donate generously to a nearby nonprofit that helps low-income residents. "Now that I have more, I want to give to organizations that provide just basic food for people," Curtis says.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 11:50 am

Ever wonder how charitable the people are who live in your state or community? It turns out that lower-income people tend to donate a much bigger share of their discretionary incomes than wealthier people do. And rich people are more generous when they live among those who aren't so rich.

Read more
Election 2012
3:12 pm
Wed July 25, 2012

Black Business Owners Urge Obama To Aid Growth

Then-presidential candidate Barack Obama poses with National Urban League President Marc Morial on Aug. 2, 2008.
Phelan M. Ebenhack AP

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 5:29 pm

President Obama's speech to the National Urban League conference in New Orleans on Wednesday night coincides with a debate over the role of government in helping small businesses succeed.

Some black Americans say they have an especially hard time when it comes to owning and operating their own businesses.

On the northern edge of New Orleans' French Quarter, Shaka Zulu and his wife, Na'imah, are trying desperately to protect a slice of local culture that sometimes gets lost here.

Read more
Election 2012
10:03 pm
Tue July 17, 2012

Study: Many Could Face Obstacles In Voter ID Laws

A voter casts a ballot during the Republican primary election April 24 in Philadelphia.
Jessica Kourkounis Getty Images

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 7:57 am

A new report by the Brennan Center for Justice finds that more than 10 million potential voters in states that require photo ID at the polls live more than 10 miles from offices that issue such ID. Nearly 500,000 of these voters don't have access to a car or other vehicle.

Read more
It's All Politics
2:05 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Texas Voter ID Law Now In Hands Of Three-Judge Panel

The fate of Texas' new voter ID law is now up to a three-judge federal panel in Washington, D.C.

Lawyers for Texas and the Justice Department wrapped up five days of arguments in U.S. District Court Friday, with each side accusing the other of using deeply "flawed" data to show whether minorities would be unfairly hurt by a photo ID requirement.

Read more
Poverty In America: The Struggle To Get Ahead
1:02 pm
Fri July 13, 2012

Struggling Families Lift Themselves Out Of Poverty

Support group members Pamela Travis (from left), Dominique Martin, Yovanda Dixon, Shanna Chaney and Ramona Shewl hold a meeting as part of the Family Independence Initiative. The Oakland nonprofit encourages low-income families to form small groups to help each other get ahead.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 8:24 pm

It's been almost 50 years since President Lyndon Johnson declared a "War on Poverty." But today, the poverty rate in the U.S. is the highest it's been in 17 years, affecting some 46 million people.

The economy is partly to blame, but even in good times, millions of Americans are poor.

That's been a longtime concern for Maurice Lim Miller. He ran social service programs in the San Francisco Bay Area for 20 years. Then one day, the painful truth hit.

"The very first kids I had trained back in the early '80s, I saw their kids now showing up in my programs," he says.

Read more
Poverty In America: The Struggle To Get Ahead
2:26 pm
Thu July 12, 2012

Turning Trash Into Cash To Help Nation's Poor

A worker dismantles a mattress at a recycling facility in Oakland, Calif. The material will be used to make carpet products and proceeds will help support the St. Vincent de Paul Society of Lane County, a nonprofit that helps low-income families in Eugene, Ore.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 4:10 pm

The bad economy has hurt many nonprofits around the country, even as demands for their services have grown. That's certainly the case in Reading, Pa., which has been labeled the poorest city in America, with a poverty rate of more than 41 percent.

Now, one local nonprofit, Opportunity House, hopes to salvage some of its services by salvaging junk.

Looking For Help

Read more
Poverty In America: The Struggle To Get Ahead
3:02 pm
Wed July 11, 2012

To Beat Odds, Poor Single Moms Need Wide Safety Net

Shyanne (left) holds 1-year-old Makai, as Stepp checks to see if all of Shyanne's homework has been completed.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Wed May 7, 2014 9:27 am

Single mothers have an especially hard time getting out of poverty. Households headed by single mothers are four times as likely to be poor as are families headed by married couples.

Still, many of these women are trying to get ahead. Some know instinctively what the studies show: Children who grow up in poor families are far more likely to become poor adults.

Read more
Poverty In America
1:42 pm
Tue July 10, 2012

Cycle Of Poverty Hard To Break In Poorest U.S. City

Devora Trapp, 24, picks up her 8-month-old son, Dardarius Taylor, late one evening at the Opportunity House's Second Street Learning Center, a 24-hour day care center for low-income families in Reading, Pa.
Kainaz Amaria NPR

Originally published on Tue July 10, 2012 9:31 pm

In the middle of the night, most children are home in bed. But at the Second Street Learning Center in Reading, Pa., a half-dozen tiny bodies are curled up on green plastic floor mats, fast asleep.

Conversations are hushed. The lights are dim. At 1:30 a.m., day care worker Virginia Allen gently shakes two little sisters, snuggled under the same blanket, to tell them that their mother is there to pick them up.

Read more
It's All Politics
3:55 pm
Tue June 12, 2012

Justice Department Sues Florida As Voter Battle Intensifies

A Republican primary voter walks to her polling precinct in January in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Paul J. Richards AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue June 12, 2012 6:02 pm

The U.S. Department of Justice sued Florida on Tuesday to stop it from trying to remove noncitizens from its voter registration rolls.

The department says the way the state is going about doing this violates federal law. Florida says it's partly the federal government's fault for not sharing citizenship data with the state.

It's all part of the escalating battle between the Obama administration and Republican-led states over voting laws.

Read more
Around the Nation
3:29 am
Fri June 1, 2012

Komen Donations Down After Planned Parenthood Dispute

Originally published on Fri June 1, 2012 7:04 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

The Susan G. Komen Global Race for the Cure takes place tomorrow here in the nation's capital. It's one of the breast cancer charity's biggest fundraisers. But this year, participation is way down. That follows Komen's controversial decision in February to stop funding Planned Parenthood programs. The decision was quickly reversed, but Komen's supporters worry about the long-term impact, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

Read more
Around the Nation
3:21 am
Thu May 31, 2012

Black Voters Feel Targeted By Election Restrictions

Originally published on Thu May 31, 2012 4:33 am

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

And the disputes over voter eligibility extend well beyond Florida. New voter ID laws, and other voting restrictions, have been enacted in a number of states since the last major election. And that has raised special concern among African-Americans, who feel they are being targeted.

Black church leaders and the Congressional Black Caucus met yesterday here in Washington, D.C., to discuss how to make sure African-American voters aren't discouraged from turning out in November.

Here's NPR's Pam Fessler.

Read more
It's All Politics
2:22 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Haven't Registered To Vote Yet? They're Coming For You

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 4:34 pm

If you're eligible to vote but aren't registered yet, watch out. They're coming to get you!

Campaigns, political parties and interest groups are all mounting massive voter registration campaigns this year to influence the outcome of the November elections.

The target is the millions of Americans — the Pew Center on the States estimates that number is 51 million — who are eligible to vote but not registered. The belief is that even a relative few of these voters could swing the election results.

Read more
The Two-Way
12:53 pm
Tue May 1, 2012

After Helping A Homeless Vet, An Unexpected Holiday Card

Veteran James Brown relaxes in his apartment, which he recently moved into after spending decades on the streets.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Tue May 1, 2012 1:41 pm

A recent NPR story about homeless veterans brought a remarkable email from listener Gary Bressick, who runs an insurance agency in Los Angeles. The story focused on one veteran, James Brown, who had just moved into his first apartment after living on the streets for most of the previous three decades.

Read more
Around the Nation
1:19 am
Mon April 16, 2012

A Push To Help U.S. Veterans Fight Homelessness

Veteran James Brown relaxes in his apartment, which he recently moved into after spending decades on the streets.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Mon April 16, 2012 7:54 am

Last year, the number of homeless U.S. veterans on a given night dropped 12 percent from the year before. But tens of thousands were still on the streets, and more could be joining them as troops return from Afghanistan and Iraq. President Obama has vowed to end veterans' homelessness by 2015.

Homeless No More

James Brown left the Army in 1979. And for most of the next 32 years, he lived on the streets in and around Los Angeles. You might have seen him: the dirty, disheveled guy trying to keep warm in a cardboard box.

Read more
Election 2012
3:18 pm
Tue March 13, 2012

Tea Party Spawns New Effort Against Voter Fraud

Reagan George is the founder of the Virginia Voters Alliance.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Thu March 15, 2012 11:44 am

As part of a new campaign, dozens of citizen groups around the country are searching voter registration lists, looking for problems.

They're also training poll watchers to monitor this fall's elections.

Leaders of the effort — spawned by the Tea Party movement — say they want to make sure that elections are free from voter fraud. But critics say it's part of a campaign to suppress the votes of minorities, students and others who tend to vote Democratic.

Read more
It's All Politics
9:36 am
Mon March 12, 2012

Texas Voter ID Law Blocked By Justice Department

Originally published on Mon March 12, 2012 4:31 pm

The U.S. Department of Justice has blocked a new voter ID law from going into effect in Texas. The department says the state failed to show that the law would not deny or limit minorities' right to vote. It's the second state voter ID law the department has blocked.

Read more
U.S.
3:33 pm
Thu March 8, 2012

House Committee Urges Action On Food Stamp Fraud

One USDA official credits the use of plastic benefit cards with helping to reduce federal food stamp fraud. But lawmakers say that isn't enough.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Originally published on Thu March 8, 2012 4:11 pm

With more than 46 million recipients, the food stamp program has become one of the government's biggest benefit programs.

It has also become one of the biggest targets for those who think the federal government isn't doing enough to prevent fraud.

Read more
Governing
10:01 pm
Thu March 1, 2012

Shrinking Community Grants Put Cities In A Crunch

Originally published on Fri March 2, 2012 4:24 am

Budget cuts approved by Congress in the past two years are trickling down to local communities, and officials there are not happy. They say that reductions in community development block grants will hurt the nation's most vulnerable neighborhoods.

Two years ago, the federal government gave out about $4 billion in such grants to low- and moderate-income communities. This year, the figure is $3 billion — a 25 percent cut. And as that pie has shrunk, those whose slices have shrunk even more are hungry for answers.

Read more
It's All Politics
1:54 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

Voter ID Backer, Opponent Agree On One Point: Voter Rolls Are A Mess

There are few people further apart on the issue of new voter photo ID requirements than Laura Murphy and Hans von Spakovsky.

She's director of the ACLU's Washington Legislative Office. He's with the Heritage Foundation and a former Justice Department official under George W. Bush.

So when the two went head-to-head Thursday on the issue at the National Press Club in Washington DC, there were a few sparks.

Read more
It's All Politics
12:13 pm
Thu February 23, 2012

In South Carolina, New Report Finds No Evidence Of "Dead" Voters

The South Carolina State Election Commission has just released its initial review of allegations from the state's Department of Motor Vehicles that more than 950 deceased voters appeared to have ballots cast in their names after they died. And no surprise, the commission found that of the 207 cases reviewed, there was no evidence in 197 of them that fraudulent votes had been cast. The commission said that records in the other 10 cases were "insufficient to make a determination."

Read more
Election 2012
10:05 pm
Mon February 13, 2012

Study: 1.8 Million Dead People Still Registered To Vote

A sign at the Feb. 4 Nevada caucuses in Las Vegas.
Ethan Miller Getty Images

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 6:46 am

Democrats and Republicans don't agree on much. But they do agree that voter registration lists across the country are a mess.

A new report by the Pew Center on the States finds that more than 1.8 million dead people are currently registered to vote. And 24 million registrations are either invalid or inaccurate.

There's little evidence that this has led to widespread voter fraud, but it has raised concerns that the system is vulnerable.

Read more
It's All Politics
3:36 pm
Tue February 7, 2012

In South Carolina, Dead-Voter Fraud Doesn't Live Up To Suspicions

South Carolina's suit against the Department of Justice over the state's new voter ID law comes amid a big to-do in the state over whether hundreds of "dead" voters cast ballots in past elections.

The issue has been used by ID supporters as evidence that voter fraud in the state is a serious problem. But it looks as though that's not going to turn out to be the case.

Read more
Around the Nation
2:00 am
Mon February 6, 2012

Komen Foundation Struggles To Lure Back Donors

Aurora Jewell, Mandi Moshay and Kirsten Dees (left to right) hold up signs following a press conference by U.S. Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA) outside at a Planned Parenthood Clinic in Seattle, on Feb. 3.
Stephen Brashear Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 9, 2012 12:07 pm

The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation is facing a fight to keep controversy from undermining its fundraising efforts.

After announcing that it would withdraw funding from Planned Parenthood screening programs last week — and then reversing that decision three days later — the foundation now faces the challenging task of repairing its image and trying to lure back disillusioned donors.

One of the nation's largest breast cancer charities, the foundation spends tens of millions of dollars annually on breast cancer research, education and screening.

Read more
It's All Politics
3:09 pm
Wed January 18, 2012

In Former Steel Town, Residents Question GOP Candidates' 'Entitlement Society' Talk

Almost every office building in downtown McKeesport, Pa., is abandoned or boarded up. Since the departure of the steel industry, the city's population has dropped from 55,000 to 19,000.
Pam Fessler NPR

Originally published on Wed January 18, 2012 5:27 pm

Republican presidential candidates have had some harsh words about the role of government aid in the Obama administration.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich calls President Obama the "food stamp president" and says more people are on food stamps than ever before because of his policies.

Read more
Election 2012
10:01 am
Tue December 20, 2011

In Iowa, The Final GOP Ground Game Takes Shape

A supporter of Republican presidential candidate Texas Gov. Rick Perry passes out stickers on Dec. 16 in Cherokee, Iowa.
Scott Olson Getty Images

Originally published on Wed May 23, 2012 9:11 am

Two weeks from Tuesday, Iowa voters will head out to almost 1,800 caucus sites to help select a Republican presidential nominee. It could be cold. It could also be snowing. And the campaigns know they'll have to work hard to make sure their supporters show up. Those get-out-the-vote efforts could make all the difference in a race that now appears to be up for grabs.

Read more
Politics
3:26 pm
Mon December 5, 2011

Maryland Case May Dissuade Political Dirty Tricks

A little-noticed trial in Maryland could affect how many dirty tricks voters will see in the upcoming elections — things like anonymous fliers or phone calls telling people to vote on the wrong day, or in the wrong precinct, or that they can't vote at all if they have an outstanding parking ticket.

The tactics are often illegal, but it's rare for anyone to get caught, let alone end up in court.

Read more
U.S.
3:15 pm
Mon November 7, 2011

New Measure Shows Higher Poverty Rate In U.S.

Joseph Byrd, unemployed and living on disability, prepares to pick up groceries at the Bed-Stuy Campaign Against Hunger food pantry in Brooklyn, N.Y., in 2010. The new experimental poverty measure takes into account cost of living associated with geographic differences.
Bebeto Matthews AP

Originally published on Mon November 7, 2011 6:04 pm

The government released a new experimental poverty measure Monday that found that the poverty rate was 16 percent last year — slightly higher than previously thought.

The new measure won't replace the official one, but it is an effort to get a more accurate picture of who is and isn't poor.

Read more

Pages