Pam Fessler

Pam Fessler is a correspondent on NPR's Washington Desk, where she covers poverty and philanthropy. She's produced stories on homelessness, hunger, and the impact of the recession on the nation's less fortunate. She's also reported 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. Previously, she 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. Pam 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.

At NPR, Fessler has also been 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 during the Carter Administration, 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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12:24am

Tue July 7, 2015
U.S.

For Homeless Families, Quick Exit From Shelters Is Only A Temporary Fix

Originally published on Tue July 7, 2015 10:53 am

Kyra Brooks, 8, strokes her mother's head. After years in and out of various programs, McClellan finally received a permanent housing voucher for the apartment she and her three children live in now. That means she has to pay up to 30 percent of her income in rent, but there's no time limit, unlike in the rapid rehousing program.
Lexey Swall GRAIN for NPR

More than 150,000 U.S. families are homeless each year. The number has been going down, in part because of a program known as rapid rehousing, which quickly moves families out of shelters and into homes.

But new research by the Obama administration finds that for many families, rapid rehousing is only a temporary fix.

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3:38am

Tue June 9, 2015
U.S.

For Baltimore Businesses, Aid For Riot Repair Is Not Coming Fast Enough

Originally published on Sun June 14, 2015 9:57 pm

Volunteers clean up a business damaged during an evening of riots following the funeral of Freddie Gray on April 28 in Baltimore.
Evan Vucci AP

It took only minutes for stores in Baltimore to be destroyed on the night of April 27. But six weeks later, the repair process is still limping along. And stores not directly affected by the violence say they've also seen a sharp decline in business.

"Look outside, there's nobody," says Pedro Silva, owner of Carolina's Tex-Mex Restaurant in Fells Point, a usually busy tourist spot. "Before, we used to be no parking space. Now it's empty. It's empty — day, night."

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5:18pm

Sat June 6, 2015
U.S.

Trans In Transition: Finding Friends And Community In D.C.

Originally published on Sun June 7, 2015 12:42 am

Ruby Corado, second from right, and Selena Cruz whip their hair around playfully while joking with Lazema Mills, left, and Giselle Gartzog, right, at Casa Ruby, a drop-in and service center for transgender people in Washington, D.C. Through the center, Corado helps people find housing, medical care and get food.
Lexey Swall GRAIN for NPR

Hanging out on the front porch on a warm evening, people tend to open up a little more than usual. Which is what happened when I sat with Ruby Corado and two other trans women outside a house Corado runs for homeless transgender adults. I was there to do a profile of Corado, an activist in Washington, D.C.

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3:31am

Wed May 27, 2015
Doing More With Less

Casa Ruby Is A 'Chosen Family' For Trans People Who Need A Home

Originally published on Wed May 27, 2015 8:06 pm

Ruby Corado runs Casa Ruby, a drop-in and service center for transgender people in Washington, D.C. Through the center, Corado helps people find housing, medical care and get food. Corado also has 22 beds in transitional housing for transgender adults and youth who would otherwise be homeless.
Lexey Swall GRAIN for NPR

Editor's note: This story contains language that some may find offensive.

This story is part of an occasional series about individuals who don't have much money or power but do have a big impact on their communities.

If you're transgender in America, you're far more likely than other people to be unemployed, homeless and poor. And there's a 4 in 10 chance you've tried to kill yourself.

It can be a confusing and lonely life.

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5:18am

Wed May 20, 2015
Law

FTC And States File Suit Against 4 Sham Cancer Charities

Originally published on Wed May 20, 2015 12:09 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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3:55pm

Mon May 18, 2015
It's All Politics

Cheap And Fast, Online Voter Registration Catches On

Originally published on Tue May 19, 2015 7:42 pm

Debra Bowen, then California secretary of state, demonstrates the state's online voter registration system when it was launched in 2012. Voters can also still register using a paper form.
Rich Pedroncelli AP

Voters in more than half the states will soon be able to register online, rather than filling out a paper form and sending it in.

Twenty states have implemented online voter registration so far, almost all in the past few years. Seven other states and the District of Columbia are now in the process of doing so. That includes Florida, where Republican Gov. Rick Scott signed a bill last Friday requiring the state to allow online voter registration by 2017.

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5:49pm

Sat May 2, 2015
U.S.

After Police Are Charged In Gray's Death, Baltimore Awaits Next Steps

Originally published on Sat May 2, 2015 9:57 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

7:59am

Sat May 2, 2015
Race

Demonstrators Jubilant After Baltimore Police Charges

Originally published on Sat May 2, 2015 2:23 pm

Copyright 2015 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

5:06am

Thu April 16, 2015
It's All Politics

Vulnerable Voting Machine Raises Questions About Election Security

Originally published on Sat April 18, 2015 12:17 pm

Voters in Los Angeles County, Calif., cast their ballots in 2012.
Frederic J. Brown AFP/Getty Images

Computer security experts have warned for years that some voting machines are vulnerable to attack. And this week, in Virginia, the state Board of Elections decided to impose an immediate ban on touchscreen voting machines used in 20 percent of the state's precincts, because of newly discovered security concerns.

The problems emerged on Election Day last November in Spotsylvania County. The AVS WINVote touchscreen machines used in precinct 302 began to shut down.

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6:11pm

Thu April 9, 2015
Around the Nation

On Welfare? Don't Use The Money For Movies, Say Kansas Lawmakers

Originally published on Fri April 10, 2015 8:09 pm

Welfare recipients in Kansas may soon be barred from spending their benefits on activities like going to the movies or swimming, or from withdrawing more than $25 per day from bank machines.

If Gov. Sam Brownback signs the bill, it will become one of the strictest welfare laws in the country. It's one of a number of such measures popping up in states that say they're trying to reduce fraud and get people off the welfare rolls. But opponents say the laws are mean-spirited and hurt the poor.

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4:39pm

Wed April 1, 2015
Shots - Health News

Trading Walkathons For Ice Buckets, Charities Try To Hold On To Donors

Originally published on Fri April 3, 2015 11:43 am

A big crowd turned out for the March of Dimes walkathon in Gainesville, Fla., in early March. But overall, the March of Dimes' March for Babies raised $3.5 million less in 2014 than it did the year before.
Elizabeth Hamilton Gainesville Sun/Landov

Springtime means outdoor charity events, and there are plenty to choose from.

You can walk, run, bike, swim or even roll around in the mud to raise money for a cause. But some of the bigger, more established events aren't doing as well as they used to, and charities are trying to adjust.

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3:55am

Wed April 1, 2015
Goats and Soda

Engineer Turned Cabbie Helps New Refugees Find Their Way

Originally published on Tue April 7, 2015 11:55 am

After a long day at the Somali American Community Center he founded in Clarkston, Ga., and then at an after-school program, Omar Shekhey drives a taxi to earn extra money. Often he gives his earnings to refugees to help them with expenses.
Kevin Liles for NPR

This story is part of an occasional series about individuals who don't have much money or power but do have a big impact on their communities.

Almost 70,000 refugees — victims of war, hardship and persecution — are allowed into the U.S. each year. But settling into their new homes can be a challenge, from learning English to figuring out how to turn on the dishwasher.

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4:29pm

Mon March 23, 2015
It's All Politics

Supreme Court Declines To Hear Challenge To Strict Wisconsin Voter ID Law

Originally published on Tue March 24, 2015 3:52 pm

"This is just one more development in the ongoing debate about voter identification, but it is by no means the last word," the ACLU's Dale Ho said.
J. Scott Applewhite AP

The U.S. Supreme Court's decision Monday not to hear a case involving the constitutionality of Wisconsin's strict voter ID requirement shifts attention now to voter identification laws working their way through the courts in Texas and North Carolina.

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5:05am

Fri March 20, 2015
The Salt

Both Parties Agree The Food Stamp Program Needs To Change. But How?

Originally published on Fri March 20, 2015 12:21 pm

A new budget plan that calls for turning food stamps into a block grant program for states could affect stores that accept food stamps through an Electronic Benefits Transfer, or EBT, system like this one in Memphis.
Thomas Hawk/Flickr

When it comes to the food stamps — or SNAP benefits as they're now called — there are few areas where Republicans and Democrats agree. But getting some of the 46 million people now receiving SNAP into the work force is one of them.

Last year Congress approved $200 million for states to test the best way to move people into jobs. And today, the Obama administration is announcing grants to 10 states to do just that.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack says the demonstration projects should help able-bodied recipients take advantage of an improving economy.

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1:04pm

Mon March 9, 2015
Around the Nation

Many Unaccompanied Minors No Longer Alone, But Still In Limbo

Originally published on Tue March 10, 2015 7:45 am

Boys wait in line to make a phone call at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Nogales Placement Center in Arizona in June. Many of the minors who arrived from Central America last year are now awaiting court hearings to determine if they can stay in the U.S.
Ross D. Franklin/Pool Getty Images

Last summer, NPR spoke with a teenage boy who fled the violence in his home country to come live with his aunt just outside of Washington, D.C. Jose was just one among the wave of unaccompanied youths from Central America who poured across the border last year.

Nine months later, he says he's very worried about the safety of his three younger siblings, who still live back home. We agreed not to use Jose's full name or say which Central American country he's from, because his parents were murdered there in 2012 for not cooperating with drug traffickers from a local gang.

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5:50pm

Wed February 25, 2015
Africa

Terrorism Fears Complicate Money Transfers For Somali-Americans

Originally published on Wed February 25, 2015 8:46 pm

Customers wait to collect money at the Juba Express money transfer company in Mogadishu, Somalia, on Feb. 12.
Mohamed Abdiwahab AFP/Getty Images

Regulations intended to block money from getting into the hands of terrorist groups has led the last bank that handles most money transfers from the United States to Somalia to pull out of the business.

Somali refugees in the U.S. say their families back home need the money they send each month to survive, and they're counting on lawmakers and Obama administration officials, who are meeting in Washington on Thursday, to try to find a solution.

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9:51am

Sat February 14, 2015
It's All Politics

Around The U.S., Voting Technology Is All Over The Place

Originally published on Sun February 15, 2015 12:46 pm

Election worker Bradley Kryst loads voting machines onto a truck at the Clark County election warehouse on Nov. 3, in North Las Vegas. As voting machine technology changes, state elections officials are trying to keep up.
John Locher AP

Remember all that new voting equipment purchased after the 2000 presidential election, when those discredited punch card machines were tossed out? Now, the newer machines are starting to wear out.

Election officials are trying to figure out what to do before there's another big voting disaster and vendors have lined up to help.

During their annual meeting in Washington, D.C., this week, state election officials previewed the latest voting equipment from one of the industry's big vendors, Election Systems and Software.

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3:25am

Wed January 28, 2015
Around the Nation

Homeless Man Encourages Others On The Streets To 'Get Up'

Originally published on Tue March 31, 2015 3:33 pm

Tony Simmons leads a group of Johns Hopkins University students on a "justice walk" in downtown Baltimore, during which they learn about public policy, providing services, and the connections between income inequality and health.
Gabriella Demczuk for NPR

This story begins an occasional series about individuals who don't have much money or power but do have a big impact on their communities.

Sometimes, the people you'd least expect are those who do the most. People like Tony Simmons, a homeless man in Baltimore who helps others get off the street. Simmons says he does it as much for himself as for anyone else.

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3:48am

Tue January 27, 2015
Shots - Health News

Child Abuse And Neglect Laws Aren't Being Enforced, Report Finds

Originally published on Tue January 27, 2015 11:27 am

Will Crocker Getty Images

Laws intended to protect children from abuse and neglect are not being properly enforced, and the federal government is to blame. That's according to a study by the Children's Advocacy Institute at the University of San Diego School of Law, which says children are suffering as a result.

The numbers are grim. Almost 680,000 children in the United States were the victims of abuse and neglect in 2013. More than 1,500 of them died.

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5:32pm

Mon January 12, 2015
Around the Nation

An Exhibit Offers A Different Angle On Life In Public Housing

Originally published on Mon January 12, 2015 6:44 pm

Ephraim Benton, a former resident of Tompkins Houses in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, is now an actor. Benton started a community-based organization called Beyond Influencing Da Hood, which puts on health fairs, film festivals and various free community events in his old housing project. This photo was taken in front of his old building in Tompkins Houses.
Courtesy of Shino Yanagawa

Life in public housing sometimes can be difficult, but it's also a lot like life anywhere — made up mostly of work, school, family and friends. Still, many who don't live in public housing have a negative image of those who do.

Two former residents are trying to change that.

Rico Washington is one of them. The 38-year-old with long dreadlocks and a neatly trimmed beard grew up in Kimberly Gardens public housing apartments in Laurel, Md. When he was younger he was embarrassed about where he lived, he says, and would have co-workers drop him off down the street.

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4:21pm

Tue December 23, 2014
Around the Nation

Near Police Killings, A Community With A Cycle Of Crime

Originally published on Tue December 23, 2014 6:26 pm

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

4:53am

Fri October 10, 2014
Law

U.S. Supreme Court Court Halts Wis. Voter ID Law; Texas Law Overturned

Originally published on Fri October 10, 2014 8:05 am

Copyright 2014 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

3:05am

Thu October 9, 2014
It's All Politics

Rules For Provisional Ballots All Over The Map

Originally published on Thu October 9, 2014 11:46 am

Adreanne Lewis signs up for a photo ID at a senior center in Arlington County, Va., with the help of Bill Sands, outreach coordinator for the county registrar.
Pam Fessler NPR

The fail-safe for many voters who run into problems at the polls — such as a lack of ID or an outdated address — is called provisional voting. The person votes, and his or her ballot only counts after the problem is resolved.

But many of these ballots never do count, raising questions about how good a fail-safe they really are.

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4:27pm

Wed September 24, 2014
Law

As Election Nears, Voting Laws Still Unclear In Some States

Originally published on Fri September 26, 2014 11:12 am

Voters walk to an early voting site to cast their ballots on Aug. 11 in Miami. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court in Ohio upheld a decision extending early voting in that state. Meanwhile, as Election Day nears, courts are still considering cases about early voting in North Carolina, and voter ID requirements in Texas and Wisconsin.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

Midterm elections are less than six weeks away, but the rules for voting in some states are still unclear. This week alone, courts have been considering challenges to voter ID requirements in Texas and Wisconsin, and whether limits on early voting in North Carolina should stay in place. On Wednesday, a federal appeals court panel in Ohio upheld a decision extending early voting in that state, although state officials say they'll appeal.

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7:42am

Thu September 18, 2014
Politics

Ads Get Creative, Even Seductive, To Attract Voters

Originally published on Thu September 18, 2014 9:17 am

In this Illinois ad, Doris and her friend Betty suggestively encourage two young men to come in ... and get voter ID cards.
YouTube

September is voter registration month, but inspiring Americans to register and vote isn't always easy. Especially with politicians held in such low esteem. So some groups — and a few election officials — are taking a page from the book of Mad Men's Don Draper to get voters to the polls. Who knew that voting could be this much fun?

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5:12pm

Tue September 16, 2014
Economy

A 'Circle' Of Support Helps Families Stay Out Of Poverty

Originally published on Tue September 16, 2014 7:14 pm

Cara Russo of Gettysburg, Pa., here with 9-year-old Shayla, one of her two daughters, has found success in a program geared to help struggling families navigate past some of the day-to-day obstacles that keep many poor.
Pam Fessler NPR

Go around the country and you'll hear lots of frustration about just how difficult it is to get out of poverty — and more importantly, how to stay out. The official U.S. poverty rate may have gone down to 14.5 percent in 2013 according to new numbers out Tuesday, but still more than 45 million were poor.

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2:00pm

Wed September 3, 2014
The Salt

Millions Struggle To Get Enough To Eat Despite Jobs Returning

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 3:27 pm

People shop in a Miami grocery store on July 8. USDA says that despite the drop in unemployment, the number of food insecure Americans has not declined because higher food prices and inflation last year offset the benefits of a brighter job market.
Joe Raedle Getty Images

The number of U.S. families that struggled to get enough to eat last year was essentially unchanged from the year before, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's latest report on "food security."

The agency says that about 17.5 million families — or 1 in 7 — were food insecure last year. That means that at some point during the year, the household had trouble feeding all of its members. In 2012, the number was 17.6 million.

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2:46pm

Fri August 29, 2014
It's All Politics

Texas Voter ID Law Goes To Trial

Originally published on Wed September 3, 2014 11:09 am

A voter in Austin, Texas, shows his photo identification to an election official in February.
Eric Gay AP

Dozens of lawyers will gather in a federal courtroom in Corpus Christi, Texas, on Tuesday for the start of a new challenge to the state's controversial voter ID law.

The trial is expected to last two to three weeks, but it's unlikely to be the end of what's already been a long, convoluted journey for the Texas law — and many others like it.

First, some background:

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5:12pm

Wed August 27, 2014
Shots - Health News

Life After Ice Buckets: ALS Group Faces $94 Million Challenge

Originally published on Wed August 27, 2014 7:29 pm

Bill Gates, Martha Stewart, LeBron James, Lindsay Lohan, Kermit the Frog and Conan O'Brien all got icily drenched for charity.
via YouTube

The ALS ice bucket challenge continues to bring in huge donations this summer for efforts to cure and treat what's commonly known as Lou Gehrig's disease. As of today, the viral campaign has raised more than $94 million for the ALS Association. That's compared with $2.7 million raised by the group during the same time last year.

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3:28am

Mon August 25, 2014
Politics

On The Fall Docket: Who Gets To Vote — And Who Gets To Decide?

Originally published on Tue August 26, 2014 1:23 pm

Voters crowd into their polling place Aug. 15 at Keonepoko Elementary School in Pahoa, Hawaii.
Marco Garcia AP

A federal appeals court in Denver is scheduled to hear arguments Aug. 25 in a dispute over whether Kansas and Arizona can require voters using a federal registration form to show proof of citizenship.

It's the first of several significant cases this fall that could determine who gets to vote, and how, in at least six states. The outcomes could also answer a much broader question: Who gets to decide?

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