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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3:45am

Tue February 12, 2013
It's All Politics

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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1:43am

Wed January 30, 2013
Economy

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

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

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

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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5:38am

Sat January 19, 2013
Inauguration 2013

Turning The 'Day Of Service' Into A Longer Commitment

Originally published on Sat January 19, 2013 1:39 pm

Chelsea Clinton makes cards with 8-year-old Addison Rose on the National Mall on Saturday as part of the National Day of Service events. Clinton, daughter of former President Bill Clinton and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, is the honorary chair of the National Day of Service.
Steve Helber AP

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of people — including President Obama and his family — are participating in volunteer activities around the country. Saturday's National Day of Service kicks off the president's second inauguration and honors the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s birthday.

As budgets tighten and personal schedules fill, nonprofits are looking for new ways to attract extra helpers, and organizers for the national event hope it will lead to a permanent boost in volunteerism.

Willingness To Give Back

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5:33am

Sat January 12, 2013
U.S.

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

Originally published on Sat January 12, 2013 1:36 pm

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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5:49pm

Wed January 9, 2013
Around the Nation

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

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

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

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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4:49am

Mon November 26, 2012
U.S.

'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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3:25am

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

Want To Help Sandy Victims? Send Cash, Not Clothes

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

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

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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5:00pm

Tue November 13, 2012
The Salt

Storm-Battered Food Banks Struggle To Help The Hungry

Originally published on Tue November 13, 2012 5:20 pm

After Superstorm Sandy, the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties in Neptune, N.J., is filled with water bottles, canned food and other goods. But these supplies are going out almost as fast as they come in.
Amy Walters NPR

Food banks in New York and New Jersey were already hard-pressed to meet the demands of families struggling with a bad economy. Add to that a natural disaster and the upcoming holidays, and they're looking at a whole new set of challenges.

Preparation did help some organizations. Five days before Superstorm Sandy hit the Jersey Shore, the Food Bank of Monmouth and Ocean Counties got its new generator up and running. Thank goodness for that, says Executive Director Carlos Rodriguez.

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3:27am

Thu November 8, 2012
It's All Politics

Fixing Long Election Lines May Be Easier Said Than Done

Originally published on Thu November 8, 2012 10:46 am

Voters line up in the dark Tuesday to cast their ballots at a polling station in Miami. President Obama said the long lines nationwide were something "we have to fix."
Wilfredo Lee AP

Although voting problems in Tuesday's election were fewer than some people had expected, there were extremely long lines at many polling sites; so many that President Obama noted them in his victory speech.

"I want to thank every American who participated in this election, whether you voted for the very first time, or waited in line for a very long time," he said, adding, "by the way we have to fix that."

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7:47pm

Tue November 6, 2012
Election 2012

Voting By Email In New Jersey Runs Into Snags

Originally published on Tue November 6, 2012 8:08 pm

Melissa Block talks with Pam Fessler about voting issues that arose on Tuesday.

4:20pm

Fri November 2, 2012
It's All Politics

What If There's No Winner? Presidential Campaigns And Their Lawyers Prepare

Originally published on Fri November 2, 2012 5:46 pm

People cast their ballots at an early-voting center in Columbus, Ohio, on Oct. 15.
Jewel Samad AFP/Getty Images

The presidential race is expected to be extremely close, and that has a lot of people nervous about what it will mean for election night.

Does it mean that the vote count could drag on for days, or even weeks, as it did in 2000?

Lawyers for the campaigns, the political parties and state election offices are preparing for the possibility.

Ohio Secretary of State Jon Husted could very well be the man in the middle of any election night storm. By all accounts, the vote in his crucial battleground state will be extremely close.

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5:17pm

Tue October 30, 2012
Election 2012

Large Power Outages Raise Concerns For Election Day

Transcript

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Robert Siegel.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

Looming over the recovery from Super Storm Sandy is what to do about next Tuesday's election? The prospect that some voters could still be displaced or without power a week from today has election officials trying to come up with alternative plans.

It even has some people talking about the highly unusual step of delaying the vote, as NPR's Pam Fessler reports.

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1:16pm

Tue October 23, 2012
It's All Politics

Florida Officials Investigate Fake Voter Eligibility Letters

Originally published on Tue October 23, 2012 1:58 pm

It's a sign that Election Day is getting closer: increasing reports of efforts to intimidate or mislead voters. Florida officials say they're now investigating fake letters that have been sent to voters in at least 20 counties questioning their citizenship and eligibility to vote.

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3:46pm

Thu October 18, 2012
It's All Politics

Swing-State Billboards Warning Against Voter Fraud Stir Backlash

Originally published on Thu October 18, 2012 8:00 pm

An anonymous "family foundation" is paying for billboards warning against voter fraud, like this one in a minority neighborhood on the east side of Cleveland. Clear Channel, which owns the space, says the anonymity violates its policies but it will not take the ads down.
Ken Barcus NPR

Dozens of anonymous billboards have popped up in urban areas in the crucial battleground states of Ohio and Wisconsin. The signs note that voter fraud is a felony, punishable by up to 3 1/2 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Civil rights groups and Democrats complain that the billboards are meant to intimidate voters.

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3:59pm

Mon October 15, 2012
Solve This

Candidates' Views On Poverty Get Little Attention

Originally published on Mon October 15, 2012 6:46 pm

People eat a free community meal at The Center in Lima, Ohio, earlier this year. Although more than 46 million Americans are poor, the issue has gotten little attention in the presidential race.
Mario Tama Getty Images

The nation's poverty rate is as high as it's been in almost two decades. Last year, 1 in 6 Americans was poor — more than 46 million people, including 16 million children.

But on the campaign trail, the issue of poverty has received surprisingly little attention.

When he first ran for president, Barack Obama went to a low-income neighborhood in Washington, D.C., and spoke passionately about hunger and poverty. He repeated Bobby Kennedy's question in 1967: "How can a country like this allow it?"

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5:31pm

Thu October 4, 2012
It's All Politics

Voter Registration Deadlines Begin Passing This Week

A voter registration form and absentee ballot application at a Franklin County polling place in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday. The deadline to register to vote in Ohio is Oct. 9.
Matt Sullivan Reuters/Landov

If you want to vote in the November elections and you aren't registered yet — you'd better hurry. The registration deadline in five states is this weekend. By the following weekend, the deadline will have passed in more than half the states.

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3:01pm

Fri September 28, 2012
It's All Politics

Citing 'Zero Tolerance' For Voter Fraud, RNC Fires Firm Over Florida Questions

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 4:31 pm

A big embarrassment came this week for the Republican Party, which has made voting integrity and fighting voter fraud a major issue.

A consulting firm hired by the Republican National Committee to register voters in five battleground states has been let go after one of its workers apparently submitted over 100 questionable registration forms in Florida's Palm Beach County.

The party severed its ties with the firm — Strategic Allied Consulting — because it has "zero tolerance" for voter fraud, said RNC spokesman Sean Spicer.

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3:37am

Thu September 27, 2012
Politics

Pa. Voters Battle Bureaucracy Ahead Of ID Law Ruling

Originally published on Thu September 27, 2012 9:08 am

Beverly Mitchell shows off her new photo ID card outside a Philadelphia DMV office. She decided to get the card in case a Pennsylvania court rules to allow the enactment of a state law that requires voters to show photo ID in order to vote.
Pam Fessler/NPR

The first sign that getting a new ID isn't going to be easy for Beverly Mitchell and Kathleen Herbert comes before the pair have even left their downtown Philadelphia senior center. As they wait for a ride to a nearby Department of Motor Vehicles office, they get the news: The van that was supposed to take them is broken.

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3:29am

Thu September 20, 2012
Election 2012

Voter Purges Under Review Ahead Of Election Day

Originally published on Thu September 20, 2012 5:14 am

Noncitizens aren't allowed to vote in federal and state elections, but efforts to remove them from the nation's voter registration rolls have produced more angst than results.

Opponents say the scope of the problem has been overblown; those behind the efforts say they've just begun to look at the problem.

'Early Stages'

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5:39pm

Wed September 12, 2012
Economy

Poverty Rate Unchanged, But Still Historically High

Originally published on Wed September 12, 2012 9:45 pm

A child waits with a box of food at a mobile food bank in Oswego, N.Y., in June. New census data show that 46.2 million people in the U.S. lived below the poverty line last year.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

The U.S. poverty rate last year was unchanged from the year before, according to new figures Wednesday from the Census Bureau. But that still means almost 1 in 6 Americans was poor.

The new data show that 46.2 million people in the U.S. lived below the poverty line — about $23,000 for a family of four. The number of poor was almost exactly the same as it was the year before, but still historically high.

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4:11pm

Mon September 10, 2012
Election 2012

Voting Laws In Several States Remain Unsettled

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 6:26 pm

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

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.

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5:09pm

Wed September 5, 2012
The Salt

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

Originally published on Wed September 19, 2012 4:12 pm

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

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.

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3:23am

Fri August 24, 2012
Election 2012

Pre-Election Legal Battles Target Voting Rules

Originally published on Fri August 24, 2012 11:56 am

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

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.

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12:46am

Mon August 20, 2012
Around the Nation

Study Reveals The Geography of Charitable Giving

Originally published on Mon August 20, 2012 1:50 pm

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

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.

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4:17pm

Wed August 15, 2012
Politics

Judge Won't Block Pa. Voter ID Law

Originally published on Wed August 15, 2012 6:23 pm

Transcript

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

And I'm Melissa Block. This presidential campaign season features not only battles between candidates, but fights over how the voting process should work. Today in Pennsylvania, a judge refused to block the state's new voter ID law from going into effect before the election. The law requires voters to show identification at the polls.

As we hear from NPR's Pam Fessler, opponents of the law say they will appeal.

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5:12pm

Wed July 25, 2012
Election 2012

Black Business Owners Urge Obama To Aid Growth

Originally published on Wed July 25, 2012 7:29 pm

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

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.

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12:03am

Wed July 18, 2012
Election 2012

Study: Many Could Face Obstacles In Voter ID Laws

Originally published on Wed July 18, 2012 9:57 am

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

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.

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3:50pm

Fri July 13, 2012
It's All Politics

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

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 4:05 pm

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.

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3:02pm

Fri July 13, 2012
Poverty In America: The Struggle To Get Ahead

Struggling Families Lift Themselves Out Of Poverty

Originally published on Fri July 13, 2012 10:24 pm

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

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.

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4:26pm

Thu July 12, 2012
Poverty In America: The Struggle To Get Ahead

Turning Trash Into Cash To Help Nation's Poor

Originally published on Thu July 12, 2012 6:10 pm

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

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

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