Expertise: Poverty, disability, Social Security, criminal justice and re-entry policy
Rebecca Vallas is a senior fellow at American Progress, where she has spent the past five years helping to build and lead CAP’s Poverty to Prosperity Program in a range of roles including as the program’s managing director and vice president—and along the way, helping to launch the organization’s criminal justice reform and disability justice work. In partnership with legal aid leaders, Vallas co-developed the clean slate model of automated criminal record-clearing that became law in Pennsylvania in 2018 and is now spreading to states across the United States, enabling millions of justice-involved individuals to move on with their lives and have a fair shot at jobs and housing. 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.
A noted speaker and frequent commentator on poverty issues, Vallas has appeared on MSNBC, CNN, CNBC, C-SPAN, Fox News, PBS, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, as well as several local television and radio outlets, and she is frequently quoted in national and local media. She also hosts “Off-Kilter,” a nationally distributed radio show and podcast about poverty and inequality. Vallas has authored a wide range of briefs and articles on poverty, income security, disability, and criminal justice/reentry policy, and she regularly testifies before Congress. She serves on the board 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.