Expertise: Poverty, disability, Social Security, criminal justice and re-entry policy
Rebecca Vallas is a senior fellow at American Progress. Previously, she helped to build CAP’s Poverty to Prosperity Program, serving in a range of roles, including as the program’s policy director and vice president—and along the way, helped to launch the Disability Justice Initiative as well as the organization’s criminal justice reform work. In partnership with legal aid leaders, Vallas co-developed the “clean slate” model of automated, automatic criminal record-clearing that is now law in Pennsylvania, Utah, and Michigan, as a strategy to remove barriers to economic opportunity for justice-impacted individuals and families. Vallas later co-founded the national Clean Slate Initiative to support state efforts to adopt clean slate policies. Forever a legal aid lawyer at heart, prior to joining American Progress, Vallas spent several years representing low-income individuals and families at Community Legal Services in Philadelphia, where she began her work as a Skadden Fellow.
Vallas has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News, PBS, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, as well as an array of local television and radio outlets. She also hosts “Off-Kilter” (formerly TalkPoverty Radio), a nationally distributed podcast about poverty, inequality, and everything they intersect with. Vallas has authored a wide range of briefs, articles, and op-eds on anti-poverty policy, income security, disability policy, access to justice, and criminal justice and reentry policy. Vallas has testified before Congress on numerous occasions, and her work has been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Today, and The Wall Street Journal, among other outlets. She serves as a member, as well as a member of the Board of Directors, of the National Academy of Social Insurance and was the inaugural recipient of the National Legal Aid and Defender Association’s New Leaders in Advocacy Award. She was twice named to Forbes Magazine’s “30 Under 30” for Law and Policy as well as Emory University’s “40 Under 40.”
Vallas received her law degree from the University of Virginia, where she was elected to the Order of the Coif and named the recipient of the Margaret G. Hyde Award and the Mortimer Caplin Public Service Award. She graduated summa cum laude from Emory University, where she received a bachelor’s degree in psychology and was elected to the Phi Beta Kappa Society. In a past life, she was an operatically trained mezzo soprano.