Going to a Town Hall This Recess? Questions to Have on Hand to Discuss U.S. Poverty

Meredith Dodson, Director of U.S. Poverty Campaigns
April 07, 2017

We are in the final weeks of RESULTS' First 100 Days Campaign. Starting the weekend of April 7, members of Congress will be on recess for over two weeks. This gives you the opportunity to tell them that Americans did not send them to Washington to make the rich richer and the poor poorer. We strongly urge you to request face-to-face meetings with your members of Congress for the recess; the April Action has tips for your meetings, as well as background information on our next big advocacy push - tax reform. If you cannot get a meeting (or want the chance to reiterate your priorites), ask about any upcoming town halls or public events your members of Congress are doing (you can find some at https://townhallproject.com/). This is a great way to finish your local First 100 Days Campaign

Since we sometimes have the chance to ask several questions (especially if you go in a group), I thought it would be helpful to give you some sample questions for town halls:

Raising issues of tax fairness: "There was a lot of attention on inequality in the last election, yet some in Washington are pushing for more tax breaks for the wealthy. Can you share about your priorities in tax reform – in particular, what you are doing to support tax policies for working and struggling families? And, can we count on you to push that tax reform be at least "revenue neutral" and not put core anti-poverty programs at risk?"

Follow up: "Do you support expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit along the lines proposed by Speaker Paul Ryan?"

For a supporter on policies that create economic mobility: "I know you care about tax policies that promote economic mobility like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). [In 1-2 sentences, share your story/why you care]. Can you share your priorities in tax reform including expanding the EITC and how we can stop proposals that will increase wealth inequality and widen the racial wealth gap?"

To push a member of Congress to protect Medicaid: It’s clear that a lot of people are against the House health proposal. Will you pledge to never vote for legislation that rations care for seniors, kids, and people with disabilities by gutting Medicaid through block grants or per-capita caps to states?

For a more conservative policymaker about anti-poverty programs: "I am very concerned about recent proposals to decimate key anti-poverty programs through block grants to states - not only health coverage under Medicaid, but also SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). [In 1-2 sentences, share your story/why you care]. Will you work to protect the core financing and structure of SNAP and health programs?" 

For a supporter on protecting safety net programs: "I am very concerned about recent proposals to decimate key anti-poverty programs through block grants to states - not only health coverage under Medicaid, but also SNAP (formerly Food Stamps). [In 1-2 sentences, share your story/why you care].  Can you share what you are doing to protect the core financing and structure of these programs, and how advocates can influence the process?" (Generally, I think it is good to amplify the work happening to protect health coverage but also highlight the threats to nutrition programs - not only for members of Congress, but also the audience). 

For guidance on how to make the most of these opportunities, see our Activist Toolkit piece on how to raise poverty issues at town hall meetings and other public forums. and Making the Most of Town Halls webinar recording. As you get these events in your calendar, please enter the meeting info into our First 100 Days Meeting Tracker: http://tinyurl.com/100daysmeetings and contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) to set up a lobby prep call to get you ready. We’ll discuss the April Action and upcoming recess on this weekend’s National Webinar as well.