Summary of RESULTS U.S. Campaigns for 2010

RESULTS works to find the “trimtab” campaigns that will make a substantial difference in the lives of the lowest-income Americans. Within larger policy debates such as tax policy and health reform, the needs of low-income Americans are not often prioritized, so we’ve chosen to make them our priority as larger battles rage. We’ve pushed for health coverage through an expansion of Medicaid and access to health services by increasing resources for community health centers and increasing reimbursement rates for Medicaid providers within the health reform debate. Our work on another complex debate — tax reform — focuses on the often-neglected needs of those living in poverty by expanding low-income (refundable) tax credits. The following campaigns were approved by the RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund Board of Directors on February 17, 2010.

Low-Income Tax Credits: Creating Economic Opportunity

Goal #1. Protect and strengthen tax supports for low-income families

Why This Campaign Is Important

We at RESULTS strongly believe in a fair tax code and in giving low-income families opportunities to move up the economic ladder. We support features of the tax code that assist working families, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. It is designed to “make work pay” and it is the largest poverty-reduction program in the U.S.; in 2009 the EITC lifted 6.6 million people out of poverty, half of them children. The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a partially refundable tax credit for families with children. The purpose of the CTC is to help low and middle income families with the cost of raising children.

In February 2009, Congress expanded the CTC to include more low-income families as a part of the economic recovery bill. Congress also expanded the EITC benefit for larger families, and reduced the “penalty” for low-income parents when they choose to get married. Unfortunately, these EITC and CTC provisions are only temporary. Unless Congress acts, they will expire at the end of 2010. As a result, millions of low-income Americans will be affected. For example, a minimum wage family with two children working full-time will see their child tax credit drop $1,500 from about $1,750 this year to only $250. The result is that over 10 million families lose benefits and 600,000 children will fall back into poverty. We cannot allow this to happen.

Congress is beginning work on tax legislation to extend many of the Bush tax cuts for middle class families, and it’s critical that this legislation is crafted to support lower- and middle-income working families by including these policies in tax legislation this year:

  • Make the 2009 CTC expansion permanent
  • Make the 2009 EITC expansion for married couples and families with 3 or more children permanent

Status and Key Actions

After months of delay on taxes, on December 2 the House passed the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010 by a vote of 234-188. This bill extended the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers on their first $200,000 of income ($250,000 for married couples). Because of the hard work of RESULTS activists and many others, the bill includes a permanent extension of the $3,000 income eligibility threshold for the Child Tax Credit and the expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit for married couples enacted in 2009 under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. As you well know, these expansions have helped millions of low-income working Americans make ends meet. Unfortunately, on December 4 the Senate failed to get the necessary votes to pass similar middle class tax legislation that included all of the ARRA expansions to the EITC and CTC.

On December 6, President Obama announced a compromise plan with congressional Republicans on taxes. Under this agreement:

  • The 2009 improvements to the EITC and CTC would be extended for two years. This includes the $3,000 eligibility threshold for the CTC and the expanded EITC for married couples and families with 3 or more children.
  • The Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 would be extended for two years, including those cuts for the wealthy.
  • A two-percent reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for one year; employers would still pay 6.2 percent.
  • Unemployment benefits would be extended for the long-term unemployed for 13 months.
  • Taxes on capital gains and dividends will continue at the reduced rate of 15 percent for two years.
  • The estate tax would be cut for two years by exempting the first $5 million per person and taxing assets above that amount at a 35 percent rate (in 2009, the exemption was $3.5 million with a 45 percent rate).

On December 15, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill 81-19. The bill was then sent to the House, where is passed 277-148 on December 16. Although House progressives made a symbolic attempt to change the cut to the estate tax in the bill, as expected the bill passed unchanged. President Obama signed it into law on December 17.

Our allies at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have an excellent breakdown of the tax package, including the costs associated with each provision. For example, the CTC and EITC provisions will cost approximately $27 billion over the next two years. In contrast, the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy including the estate tax cut will cost $139 billion. RESULTS did not endorse this bill because these tax cuts for the wealthy were included in it.

However, we are very pleased that help for working families and the unemployed is included. RESULTS volunteers should be proud of their work on the EITC and CTC. If not for their tireless work the last few years on these issues and in particular their advocacy on these specific provisions in 2010, they would not have been included. Once again, RESULTS volunteers like you, and key coalition work with our allies, have proven that when citizens are persistent and consistent in their advocacy, good things happen. Thank you all for your hard work and commitment to helping working families in 2010.

TAKE ACTION: Express your thanks to members of Congress for passing the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements as part of the tax bill. Tell them these long overdue improvements will help working families make ends meet and better help low-income children escape the cycle of poverty. Urge them moving forward to work with House and Senate leadership to make these improvements permanent. Also, tell them that you do not approve of the tax cuts for the wealthy, including the estate tax cut, in the bill and that you expect them to allow these cuts to expire on schedule in 2012. These are the fiscally and morally responsible things to do. Use our online e-mail alert to send your message.

Goal #2. Support asset-building programs to help low-income families achieve financial security

Why This Campaign Is Important

Building assets and savings helps low-income families to become financially self-reliant. In addition to increasing financial security through building a stock of capital and access to credit, assets support low-income families in breaking the cycle of poverty through enabling them to make investments in property, educational achievement, and small business. RESULTS urges Congress to enact federal legislation that creates progressive asset-based programs, such as the Saver’s Bonus, Individual Development Accounts (IDAs), KIDS accounts, and the Saver’s Tax Credit. These programs help to ensure that our federal savings and ownership policies assist working-poor families and address growing wealth inequality.

Status and Key Actions

RESULTS will work to strengthen and expand these and other programs not only so people living in poverty can make ends meet, but to create a future in which everyone has the opportunity to reach their full potential. In particular, we will emphasize the Saver’s Bonus because it builds on the tax infrastructure already in place by allowing low-income families to put their tax refunds in a savings vehicle.

In addition, RESULTS staff is doing some targeted work to fight off attempts to enact more tax breaks that deepen the wealth gap and reduce revenues. This revenue shortfall and consequent federal deficits have been used to justify cuts in domestic anti-poverty programs. We are working with coalition partners inside the Beltway to urge Congress to reinstate the estate tax at progressive levels that are fair for all. See our Recent Developments Page for more details.

Health Care for All

Goal #1. Expand and strengthen quality coverage for all Americans at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty level through Medicaid

Why This Campaign Is Important

Lack of access to quality, affordable health care is a huge problem for millions of Americans; 46 million Americans, including 8 million children, are uninsured, millions more are underinsured, and thousands of people are losing their insurance coverage every day.

Our work on expanding access to health care saw results as 2009 began. At the start of the year the president signed new legislation to renew and improve the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which provides health coverage to low- and moderate-income children. This new law will allow 4.1 million children who are uninsured to get health coverage. Also, states will now have the option to cover legal immigrant children and pregnant mothers with federal CHIP funds.

Many adults, no matter how low their income, do not qualify for Medicaid and cannot afford coverage on their own. Because states set their own eligibility levels, only 16 states and Washington, DC, currently cover parents up to the federal poverty level ($22,050 for a family of four in 2009). For almost all adults who do not meet the current categorical standards, Medicaid is not an option no matter their income level. Thirty-five percent of uninsured Americans have income levels below $10,830 a year — by expanding Medicaid, we can reduce the number of uninsured by over one-third.

Status and Key Actions

The most sweeping reform of America’s health care system passed the House of Representatives on March 21! The House passed the Senate health bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, by a vote of 219-212. They then followed up that vote by passing the Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R.4872), which amends and improves upon the Senate health reform bill, by a vote of 220-211. The Senate passed the reconciliation package 56-43 on March 25. These reforms expand coverage and access to care for millions of low-income kids and families. Here are the provisions in the bill related to RESULTS priorities for strengthening Medicaid:

  • In 2014, the Medicaid health program will expand to cover all persons earning up to 133 percent of the federal poverty line (in 2010, $29,326.50 for a family of four). This expansion is expected to provide 16 million uninsured persons with coverage by 2019.
  • The federal government will finance 100 percent of this expansion for three years (2014–2016). In 2017, federal funding will drop to 95 percent, 94 percent in 2018, 93 percent in 2019, and 90 percent in 2020; it will remain at 90 percent thereafter.
  • Payments to doctors who provide primary care services to Medicaid patients will be raised to the same level as Medicare payments in 2013 and 2014. This is expected to increase access to care as more doctors take on Medicaid patients. The federal government will pay 100 percent of the cost for these increases.
  • All new enrollees in Medicaid will be guaranteed a base benchmark package that covers at least basic health services.
  • States may begin expanding their Medicaid programs to cover adults without children beginning next month, but will not receive additional federal funding to cover these persons until 2014.

TAKE ACTION: Thank members of Congress by writing letters to the editor to thank Congress for passing health reform. Use our online Letter to the Editor Action Alert and the March Action sheet to brush up on the benefits of reform. Also, as noted above, reimbursement rates for doctors treating Medicaid patients will increase in 2013. However, this increase only takes place for two years, just as the Medicaid expansion is getting under way. After that, they will decrease again unless Congress extends the new payment rate. When following up with members of Congress, urge them to work with their House and Senate colleagues to make these increases permanent. You can use our e-mail alert to contact them about this issue.

Goal #2. Increase access for underserved communities through Community Health Centers

Why This Campaign Is Important

Many people in rural areas and urban inner cities lack nearby health care facilities and primary care providers. Health reform must increase access to quality care, especially for underserved communities.

Currently, there are approximately 1,100 community health centers in the U.S., serving 19 million people. This is the nation’s largest primary care system. Although anyone can seek treatment at a CHC, most of those cared for in this system are uninsured or on Medicaid (Medicaid makes up a large portion of CHC budgets). In addition, CHCs primarily serve lower income and minority communities; 70 percent of patients have incomes below 100 percent of the poverty line and 91 percent below 200 percent of the poverty line. Yet, the CHC budget averages about $2 billion per year, about .08 percent of the $2.5 trillion the U.S. spends on health care each year.

Status and Key Actions

The most sweeping reform of America’s health care system passed the House of Representatives on March 21! The House passed the Senate health bill, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, by a vote of 219-212. They then followed up that vote by passing the Reconciliation Act of 2010 (H.R.4872), which amends and improves upon the Senate health reform bill, by a vote of 220-211. The Senate passed the reconciliation package 56-43 on March 25. These reforms expand coverage and access to care for millions of low-income kids and families. Here are the provisions in the bill related to RESULTS priorities for expanding Community Health Centers:

  • The National Health Service Corps will get $1.5 billion over five years. The NHSC provides loans and scholarships to medical students who agree to serve in areas where there are physician shortages after graduation, many times in CHCs. This funding is expected to help train 15,000 new primary care providers.
  • Health reform also establishes new programs to support school-based health centers and nurse-managed health clinics.

TAKE ACTION: Thank members of Congress by writing letters to the editor to thank Congress for passing health reform. Use our online Letter to the Editor Action Alert and the March Action sheet to brush up on the benefits of reform.

In addition, RESULTS continues to build support for a National Health Program (aka single payer system) as the long-term vision for the health system we need. RESULTS groups will urge Congress to support single payer bills, including H.R.676, introduced by Rep. John Conyers, D-MI-14, and S.703/H.R.1200, introduced by Sen. Sanders, I-VT/Rep. McDermott, D-WA-7. Later in 2010 (perhaps during the fall election season), we may mobilize to build support for a national health program during candidate appearances and other public events.

Support efforts to end childhood hunger in the United States through investments in Child Nutrition (secondary campaign)

Why This Campaign Is Important

Federal child nutrition programs help ensure that children in low-income families are getting the food they need to be healthy and productive. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s report, Household Food Security in the United States, 2009, more than 50 million Americans lived in households struggling against hunger in 2009, including 17.2 million are children. In 2008, 49.1 million Americans were in food insecure households. The 2009 number is the highest since USDA first started the survey in 1995. The report shows that 23.2 percent of all children in the U.S. are struggling against hunger. Research shows that even moderate under-nutrition can have lasting effects on the cognitive development of children. For poor and near-poor families, nutrition assistance programs are a safety net they cannot afford to do without.

While RESULTS is not focused on child nutrition programs as a major part of our health campaign work this year, we are working with our allies in Washington to support improvements in the child nutrition programs, which include:

  • The National School Lunch Program
  • The School Breakfast Program
  • Summer Food Service Program
  • Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC)
  • Child and Adult Care Feeding Program

Status and Key Actions

On August 5, 2010 the Senate passed S.3307, Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010, its child nutrition reauthorization bill, by a voice vote (no recorded vote). On December 2, the House passed the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (S.3307), 264-157. This bill will invest $4.5 billion in new money over the next ten years to improve access, administration, and resources for child nutrition programs. This is a good step forward in helping hungry kids get the healthy snacks and meals they need for their development. At a signing ceremony at a local elementary school on December 13, the President, alongside Mrs. Obama, signed the bill into law. Mrs. Obama said at the event, “We can agree that in the wealthiest nation on earth all children should have the basic nutrition they need to learn and grow. Nothing is more important than the health and well-being of our children. Nothing.” RESULTS applauds Congress for getting a child nutrition bill passed before adjourning this year. However, there is still work to be done. The cuts to future Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits are now part of the law and will go into effect in two years if action is not taken.

However, there is still work to be done. Unfortunately, the bill cuts future Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (Food Stamps) benefits to pay for part of the bill, something RESULTS strongly opposes. The President and Democratic leaders have pledged to remedy this and we must hold their feet to the fire.

TAKE ACTION: Send an e-mail to both Congress and the President urging them to make sure these important SNAP benefits are restored before Congress adjourns in December. And, use our online media alert to send a letter to the editor to newspapers about hunger in your community.

Early Childhood Development (Secondary Campaign)

Goal #1. Substantially increase funding for Head Start, Early Head Start and child care

Why This Campaign Is Important

RESULTS has been a long time advocate of quality early childhood development policies. Research shows that children who participate in a quality program during their preschool years are better prepared to learn, have higher self-esteem, and more developed social skills when they start kindergarten. RESULTS strongly supports increased investments in Head Start, a federally funded preschool program that provides comprehensive services to low-income children and their parents, and Early Head Start, a child development program for pregnant women and low-income families with infants and toddlers. We also advocate for investments for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) which provides child care assistance to low-income families and provides critical funds to states to help them improve the quality of child care. Unfortunately, Head Start serves less than 50 percent of eligible preschoolers, Early Head Start serves less than 6 percent of all eligible families, and CCDBG serves only one out of seven eligible children.

The 2009 economic recovery bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), included $2.1 billion in temporary funding for Head Start ($1.1 billion of that is for Early Head Start). ARRA also included an additional $2 billion in CCDBG funds to provide services to an additional 300,000 children and their families. These programs face a funding “cliff” when ARRA funding runs out at the end of this year. To protect services and jobs, RESULTS supports at least a $800 million increase in appropriations for CCDBG and a $989 million increase in funding for Head Start and Early Head Start.

Status and Key Actions

In February, President Obama propsed funding increases for Head Start/Early Head Start by $989 million and an increase for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) by $800 million These increases would have helped maintain enrollment and services resulting from expansions of these programs in the 2009 economic recovery bill. While both the House and Senate Labor, Health and Human Services and Education ("Labor-HHS") Appropriations Subcommittees later passed increases in Head Start and child care (House: an additional $866 million for Head Start and $700 million for CCDBG; Senate: an additional $990.3 million for Head Start and $1 billion for CCDBG), the election season and congressional calendar have delayed floor votes on these bills. Now Congress is scrambling to pass its appropriations bills before adjouring for the year.

On December 8, the House passed a continuing resolution (CR) for fiscal year (FY) 2011; this bill will keep the government open for the next year at 2010 funding levels. Fortunately, the House included a $374 million funding increase for CCDBG and $300 million increase for Head Start in it. This was encouraging news and hoped for an event better outcome in the Senate. The Senate was looking to pass an “omnibus” appropriations bill for FY 2011 that included an $840 million funding increase for Head Start/Early Head Start and a $681 million increase for child care. RESULTS strongly supported passage of the omnibus bill.

Unfortunately, with only 48 hours left before a potential government shutdown, the Senate failed to pass the omnibus appropriations bill. After months of negotiation, Republican senators who had previously indicated support for the bill withdrew that support. Without the requisite 60 senators to overcome the filibuster of the bill, the Senate is forced to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which will extend current funding for discretionary programs through early 2011. With the new Republicans House majority arriving in January, it is almost certain that they will demand further spending cuts before agreeing to pass these critical FY2011 spending bills. Securing the Senate increases when the short-term CR expires will be difficult, but not impossible. The one thing we do know is that if Congress does not pass these increases, children and their families will lose these important early childhood services.

TAKE ACTION: Use our online e-mail alert to send a message to Congress urging members to put kids first. Tell them to pass the highest funding levels possible for Head Start and child care so that children currently enrolled in these programs are not forced out next year.