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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9:00am

Wed November 2, 2011
Politics

In Voter ID Debate, A Few Go Against Party Lines

Originally published on Wed November 2, 2011 4:42 pm

Former Democratic Rep. Artur Davis of Alabama is in favor of voter ID laws. He says that over the years there have been numerous allegations of absentee voter fraud β€” and even a handful of convictions β€” in Alabama.
Dave Martin AP

The debate over requiring voters to show photo ID at the polls has been a heated one. Democrats accuse Republicans, who support such laws, of wanting to suppress the votes of minorities, the elderly and the poor. Republicans accuse Democrats, who oppose ID rules, of condoning voter fraud.

It's a sharp partisan divide. But a few people have gone against the tide β€” and they're getting some political heat for doing so.

A Democrat Criticized For Fraud Concerns

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10:09am

Mon October 24, 2011
Politics

A Push To Register New Voters Reaches Behind Bars

Originally published on Tue October 25, 2011 4:50 am

Dr. Brenda Williams, right, with her husband, Dr. Joe Williams, in their Sumter, S.C. medical clinic. The two routinely register their patients to vote. Brenda also seeks out new voters at the county jail.

Pam Fessler NPR

Tens of millions of Americans who are eligible to vote are not registered. So before every big election there's a flurry of activity to sign them up.

One South Carolina woman is passionate about registering those who others might ignore. Dr. Brenda Williams, a physician in Sumter, S.C., regularly visits the county jail to sign up inmates.

Williams says it's important for them to become part of the community after they're released. She thinks this will make them less likely to end up back behind bars.

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2:30am

Mon September 26, 2011
Election 2012

Voters May Face Slower Lines In 2012 Elections

Elections are expensive. And with money tight, election offices across the country are facing cutbacks.

This means voters could be in for some surprises β€” such as longer lines and fewer voting options β€” when they turn out for next year's primary and general elections.

A lot of decisions about the 2012 elections are being made today. How many voting machines are needed? Where should polling places be located? How many poll workers have to be hired?

'We're Down To A Critical Level'

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10:01pm

Thu September 15, 2011
Economy

New Programs Aim To Close The Wealth Gap

Originally published on Sun September 18, 2011 4:55 pm

With the help of a San Francisco nonprofit, Helena Edwards was able to buy a home. The group helped her set up a matched savings account and also gave her financial advice.
Pam Fessler NPR

Part two of a two-part report.

The gap in the wealth of white families and what's owned by blacks and Hispanics has widened in recent years. Researchers say it will widen even more unless steps are taken to break what's become a vicious cycle β€” the rich getting richer and the poor struggling to keep from falling further behind.

The city of San Francisco is taking one step to help even the playing field. Children entering the city's kindergartens are getting their own college savings accounts.

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2:00am

Wed September 14, 2011
Economy

Census Bureau: Poverty Rate Rises Past 2009 Level

The nation's overall poverty rate climbed to 15.1 percent last year, according to new data from the Census Bureau. That's up from 14.3 percent in 2009 β€” which means 46.2 million Americans were living in poverty in 2010.

3:56pm

Tue September 13, 2011
Economy

Census: 2010 Saw Poverty Rate Increase, Income Drop

Originally published on Wed September 14, 2011 1:33 am

The nation's poverty rate rose last year to 15.1 percent, up from 14.3 in 2009, according to a new report from the Census Bureau.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

The nation's poverty rate rose last year to 15.1 percent, the highest level in 17 years, according to new data from the Census Bureau. The agency's latest poverty report, released Tuesday, shows that 46 million people were poor and that the median income dropped last year by more than two percent to about $49,445.

Not unexpectedly, the continued lack of jobs was the main cause.

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1:51pm

Wed September 7, 2011
Around the Nation

USDA: Food Aid Kept Hunger Rate Down

Originally published on Thu September 8, 2011 2:17 am

A sign in a New York City market window advertises the acceptance of food stamps.
Spencer Platt Getty Images

Despite the bad economy, the number of Americans who struggled to get enough to eat did not grow last year, and in some cases declined, according to new government data. Still, a near-record number β€” almost 49 million people β€” were affected.

Federal officials say an increase in government food aid kept the numbers from going even higher.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program

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1:09pm

Fri September 2, 2011
Television

End Of An Era: A Telethon Without Jerry Lewis

Jerry Lewis, shown here in July, was dropped from the MDA Labor Day Telethon for reasons that are still unclear.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

For decades, Labor Day weekend has meant the Jerry Lewis telethon for muscular dystrophy. But this year, for the first time in 46 years, Jerry Lewis won't be on the show. The 85-year-old comedian has been dropped from the program for reasons that are still unclear.

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11:50am

Thu September 1, 2011
The Two-Way

Jerry Lewis Will Not Participate In MDA Telethon, Says Publicist

Originally published on Thu September 1, 2011 11:55 am

Jerry Lewis speaks during "The Method to the Madness of Jerry Lewis" panel at Television Critics Association Tour in Beverly Hills.
Frederick M. Brown Getty Images

Jerry Lewis will not participate in any way β€” live or pre-recorded β€” in this Sunday's telethon for muscular dystrophy. That's the final word, says the comedian's publicist, Candi Cazau. She says she spoke with Lewis last night and he dispelled rumors that he might record a song today that would air as part of the show.

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10:01pm

Thu August 18, 2011
Economy

In Hard Times, Welfare Cases Drop In Some States

Monday marks 15 years since President Clinton signed an overhaul of the nation's welfare system into law. The president said the measure wasn't perfect, but provided a historic opportunity to fix a system that didn't work.

"Today we are ending welfare as we know it," he said in a Rose Garden ceremony on Aug. 22, 1996. "But I hope this day will be remembered not for what it ended, but for what it began."

What it was supposed to begin was a program that would get the poor into the workforce and end their dependence on public aid.

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