Pam Fessler | WGLT

Pam Fessler

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

In her reporting at NPR, Fessler does stories on homelessness, hunger, affordable housing, and income inequality. She reports on what non-profit groups, the government, and others are doing to reduce poverty and how those efforts are working. Her poverty reporting was recognized with a 2011 First Place National Headliner Award.

Fessler also covers elections and voting, including efforts to make voting more accessible, accurate, and secure. She has done countless stories on everything from the debate over state voter identification laws to Russian hacking attempts and long lines at the polls.

After the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, Fessler became NPR's first Homeland Security correspondent. For seven years, she reported on efforts to tighten security at ports, airports, and borders, and the debate over the impact on privacy and civil rights. She also reported on the government's response to Hurricane Katrina, The 9/11 Commission Report, Social Security, and the Census. Fessler was 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 NPR's chief election editor. She coordinated all network coverage of the presidential, congressional, and state elections in 1996 and 1998. In her more than 25 years at NPR, Fessler has also been deputy Washington Desk editor and Midwest National Desk editor.

Earlier in her career, she was a senior writer at Congressional Quarterly magazine. Fessler worked there 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, New Jersey.

Fessler has a master's 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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Copyright 2019 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

The Trump administration is moving forward with regulations that are expected to dramatically reshape the U.S. immigration system by denying green cards and visas to immigrants who use — or are expected to use — a wide range of federal, state and local government benefits, including food stamps, housing vouchers and Medicaid.

The final version of the "public charge" rule, which has been a top priority for immigration hard-liners in the White House, is set to be published in the Federal Register on Wednesday.

Where children grow up can have a big impact on how well they do as adults. Good schools, safe streets, better environment — all can make a difference. The government has tried to use housing subsidies to encourage low-income families to move to better neighborhoods, but past efforts have fallen short. A new experiment in the Seattle area is showing some promise.

The nation's intelligence agencies have designated one person to be in charge of coordinating the government's efforts to identify threats to U.S. elections.

The move by Dan Coats comes as intelligence officials warn that the 2020 elections remain susceptible to attacks from foreign governments or others intent on disrupting the process.

Updated at 9:28 a.m. ET

If you listen carefully, you'll hear something unusual on the presidential campaign trail this year. Democratic candidates are talking a lot about the lack of affordable housing, an issue that rarely, if ever, comes up in an election. They're trying to tap into a growing national concern, as well as a potential voting bloc.

If you're poor or low-income in the U.S. and use government safety net programs, you could be affected by a number of new rules and actions proposed by the Trump administration. Most of the changes are still pending, and anti-poverty groups are trying to stop them from going into effect. Some of the proposals already face legal challenges.

The Department of Homeland Security has finally agreed to conduct a thorough inspection of election equipment used in North Carolina that was supplied by a vendor whose system was targeted by Russian hackers in 2016.

It has been three years since the machines — laptops used to check in voters in Durham County — malfunctioned on Election Day, telling voters that they had already voted, even though they had not.

Mold. Leaks. Rodents. Crime. These are just some of the things the nation's 2 million public housing residents have to worry about. Many of the buildings they live in have been falling into disrepair for decades. Public housing officials estimate that it would cost $50 billion to fix them up.

But the Trump administration wants to eliminate the federal fund now used to repair public housing in favor of attracting more private investment to fix up and replace it.

The Trump administration is considering changing the way the government measures poverty, which has anti-poverty groups worried that many low-income individuals will be pushed off assistance programs such as food stamps, Medicaid and Head Start.

The possible change would involve adjusting the poverty line annually using a different inflation measure, one that would result in a slower increase over time.

It is likely to be a banner year for the voting equipment industry with state and local election offices planning to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on new machines ahead of the 2020 election.

This year's purchases will probably amount to the biggest buying wave since right after the 2000 presidential election, when officials rushed to replace discredited punch card machines with touchscreen voting equipment. Those machines are rapidly aging and are being replaced with machines that leave a paper backup as a result of security concerns about purely electronic voting.

While the headlines about special counsel Robert Mueller's report have focused on the question of whether President Trump obstructed justice, the report also gave fresh details about Russian efforts to hack into U.S. election systems.

The United States is almost alone among industrial countries and other democracies in putting most of the onus of registering to vote on individual voters, a sometimes cumbersome process that may explain a large portion of why turnout rates in the U.S. are lower than in many other countries.

Three-quarters of a million people would likely lose their food stamps later this year under a new proposal by the Trump administration. The goal is to encourage able-bodied adults to go to work and get off government aid. But opponents predict people would go hungry instead, if the rule goes into effect.

A public comment period, which ends Tuesday, has so far drawn more than 28,000 comments overwhelmingly against the proposed rule.

The House on Friday approved a sweeping measure that would, among many others things, expand voters' access to the polls. But Senate Republican leaders say that chamber will not take up the bill, calling it a power grab.

Child poverty in the U.S. could be cut in half over the next 10 years with a few simple steps, according to a new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.

About five years ago, immigration attorneys started contacting Pennsylvania election officials to report that many of their clients had gone to get a driver's license and, a few weeks later, received a voter registration card in the mail.

Sundrop Carter, executive director of the Pennsylvania Immigration and Citizenship Coalition, says it was especially disturbing for immigrants who were trying to become citizens.

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On Nov. 6, I'll join almost a million other Americans who have volunteered — for a minimal fee — to help man the polls.

It's an extraordinary thing when you think about it. This army bands together for a single day (or several, if you include early voting) to make sure every American can exercise one of their most fundamental rights. For all the talk of "rigged" elections, cyberthreats, voter suppression and fraud, it's often those on the front lines who most affect your voting experience. And that responsibility has only become more complicated.

If anyone knows how easily voting can be disrupted, it's a county election supervisor in the state of Florida. That's one reason several dozen of them gathered in Orlando recently to discuss ways to protect against the most recent threat — cyberattacks by Russia or others intent on disrupting U.S. elections.

Marion County elections supervisor Wesley Wilcox said he realizes the threat has evolved far beyond the butterfly ballots and hanging chads that upended the 2000 presidential race. And even beyond the lone hacker.

President Trump has shown little interest in fighting the threat of Russians hacking U.S. elections. He's shown a lot of interest in fighting voter fraud, something he insists — without evidence — is widespread.

Parts of his administration are doing just the opposite.

Bob Kolasky, an acting deputy undersecretary at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), told a group of election officials gathered in Washington, D.C., this week that the threat of Russian hacking in future elections is "a national security issue."

Poor families in the United States are having an increasingly difficult time finding an affordable place to live, due to high rents, static incomes and a shortage of housing aid. Tenant advocates worry that the new tax bill, as well as potential cuts in housing aid, will make the problem worse.

President Trump dissolved the presidential commission he established last year to investigate claims of voter fraud in the 2016 election. Multiple states have refused to comply with the commission's requests for information, but the commission was also mired in several lawsuits, including one from Democratic members of the panel.

Christine Thompson is eager to leave the two bedroom apartment she rents in a shabby house on the north side of Milwaukee. There are so many things wrong with the place.

"In the bathroom I have to turn my shower on in order for the light to come on. And when I turn the shower off, the light goes off," she says.

The apartment also has mice, cockroaches, and so many bedbugs that she and her sons — ages 3 and 7 — sleep on an air mattress on the dining room floor, where's there's no carpet. She also has no oven or stove, and water leaking from the ceiling.

Homelessness in the United States went up slightly this year for the first time since 2010. During a one-night count in January, 553,742 people were found living outside or in shelters across the country, a 0.7 percent increase from the year before, according to new data released by the Department of Housing and Urban Development on Wednesday.

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House Republicans say the tax bill they introduced Thursday will grow the economy, create jobs and simplify tax returns, in part by eliminating tax deductions.

"Over 90 percent of Americans will be able to fill out their taxes on a postcard. That's what simplicity means," House Majority Whip Steve Scalise said.

But charities and nonprofit groups say that simplicity comes with a price. Even though Republicans promise to preserve the deduction for charitable donations, these groups say other proposed changes in the bill will discourage giving.

The work of President Trump's commission studying voter fraud and other voting problems has been stalled by the eight lawsuits filed against it, according to one commission member.

Indiana's Republican Secretary of State Connie Lawson says the suits, which seek release of all of the commission's correspondence, among other things, have had a "chilling" effect.

Some Democrats on the 11-member panel have complained in recent weeks that they're being kept in the dark about its activities and plans.

Five years ago, James Brown moved into his first apartment after more than two dozen years living on the streets of Los Angeles. Brown was housed as part of a joint effort by the federal government, local communities and nonprofit agencies to help tens of thousands of homeless veterans in the U.S.

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