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August 2013 U.S. Poverty Action

Use the August Recess to Get Face Time with Lawmakers

Members of Congress are home this month for the congressional August recess. This is a great time to make your voice heard about making the end of poverty a priority. The best way to do this is by talking to your legislators. Budget decisions impacting food assistance, economic security, and early childhood education will likely be made in September so it’s imperative that you let lawmakers know what you want this month. Last month, RESULTS volunteers submitted requests for face-to-face meeting with their representatives and senators during the recess. Now it’s time to meet with them. In addition to sit-down meetings, members of Congress will also be holding town hall and other public events this month.

Follow Up on Face-to-Face Lobby Requests

As Senator Richard Burr (R-NC) told RESULTS volunteers at the 2013 RESULTS International Conference last month, “In my book there is no difference between a Ben Affleck and you.” In other words, your voice matters. Face-to-face lobby meetings have the biggest impact of any advocacy strategy. If you submitted a meeting request last month, contact the scheduler to follow up on your request. See if your representatives and senators can sit down with you and your RESULTS group to discuss important issues concerning poverty in America.

If you have not submitted a request, it is not too late. Members of Congress will not be back in DC until after Labor Day. Use the July Action for guidance in making your request and/or our use our August Recess Meeting Request letter to make your request now.

Attend Town Hall Meetings and Events

Here are tips to make the most of town hall meetings in your area.

  1. Find out where your members of Congress will be: Start by looking on their websites for any event listings or visit: http://capwiz.com/results/directory/congdir.tt.
  2. Here are some types of events to be on the lookout for:
    1. Traditional town hall meetings. Many members of Congress also do these by phone.
    2. Forums: This is an opportunity to find out where a Congress member stands on RESULTS issues.
  3. Get there early: Getting there early will give you a chance to get a good seat near the front of the room and Congress members sometimes show up early. This could be a chance for you to introduce yourself and informally get to know your members of Congress. This does not need to be a laser talk or a discussion about issues. It is about building a relationship.
  4. Seize the opportunity: Make the most of this opportunity. Raise your hand immediately when it is time to ask questions.
  5. Use a laser talk. Mention that you are a RESULTS volunteer and be polite. Stay focused and remember to ask a specific question that requires a response. If your question goes unanswered, remain cordial and simply repeat your question.
  6. Submit similar questions: If they are collecting written questions, they will sometimes ask the questions that have been asked most frequently. If your whole RESULTS group asks similar questions, this will increase the chances that your question gets asked.
  7. Work the media: Find the media to share your issues, whether they were covered or not during the meeting.
  8. Follow Up and Be Persistent: After a few days, send a follow up e-mail or letter to the member of Congress and the staff person reminding them that you were at the forum. Recap your issue, question, and request. If you were not able to ask your question at the meeting, contact the appropriate legislative staff person to present your issue. Keep following up until you get a response to your question or request.
  9. Share Information: Share information with your group, local network and RESULTS staff. Give them tips and anything else you learned from your experience. Be sure to complete our online Lobby Meeting Report Form after your meeting.

Use our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress and U.S. Poverty 2013 Lobby Meeting Planning Worksheet to plan as a group. Also, be sure to research your members of Congress, including voting records and co-sponsorship info, on the Elected Official page of the RESULTS website: http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/.

Sample Questions for Meetings and Town Halls

To help you get ready for your interactions with members of Congress this month, below are some sample questions to ask in your meetings and at town hall events. As always, if you have local data and, more importantly, local stories that put a face on these issues, please use them. It is important that members of Congress understand how these issues impact people in their states and district.

Once you get a meeting or plan to attend a town hall meeting, please contact Jos Linn ([email protected]) or Ann Beltran ([email protected]) of the RESULTS U.S. Poverty staff to help you prepare with the latest strategy and messaging insights for your specific policymakers.

PROTECT SNAP

1 out of 5 children (more than 16 million) in the U.S. live in households that struggle to put food on the table. Studies show that children who are regularly hungry struggle in school and suffer from weakened immune systems, slowed and abnormal growth, and anemia. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program is the first line of defense against hunger in America. The U.S. Census reports that SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2011. SNAP also boasts one of the highest accuracy rates and lowest fraud rates. Unfortunately, both the House and Senate are proposing cuts to this vital program. The House in particular is proposing a $40 billion cut to SNAP, which would force 4-6 mllion people, some earning as little as $2,500 per year, off the program. This is not right.

House Request: Will you tell House leadership that you oppose the new House SNAP proposal and urge them to protect and strengthen SNAP in any final Farm Bill or other legislation?

Senate Request: Will you tell Senate leadership that you oppose harmful changes to SNAP and urge them to protect and strengthen SNAP in any final Farm Bill or other legislation?             

INVEST IN HEAD START AND CHILD CARE

Recently, 300 military leaders called on more investments in early childhood education – they said that early learning is a national security imperative. Head Start and Early Head Start have been proven to help at-risk children get a true head start when entering kindergarten. In addition, child care assistance helps low-income parents afford child care so they can go to work. Unfortunately, sequestration cuts are forcing Head Start and child care programs to close classrooms, lay off staff, and scale back services. These cuts will force 65,000 children out of Head Start and 30,000 will lose child care this year. Thankfully, the Senate is doing its best to reverse course and make a renewed commitment to early childhood development.

Senate Request: Will you talk to Senate leadership and express your support for the Senate Labor-HHS funding levels, which increase Head Start funding by $1.6 billion, increase funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant by $176 million, and invest $750 million to help expand preschool to all low- and moderate-income children?

House Request: Will you speak with House Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chairman Jack Kingston and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro urging them to match the Senate Labor-HHS proposal by increasing Head Start funding by $1.6 billion, increasing funding for the Child Care Development Block Grant by $176 million, and investing $750 million to help expand preschool to all low- and moderate-income children?

STRENGTHEN THE EITC and CTC, and CREATE THE FINANCIAL SECURITY CREDIT

Economic insecurity is a reality for far too many low-income families in today’s America. Fortunately, there are tools at our disposal that can help. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) provide vital financial resources to families with children; in 2011 alone, they lifted 9.4 million people out of poverty. We also know that savings are important for lifting people out of poverty. Yet more than half of all Americans receive only a tiny fraction of the benefits the tax code provides to encourage savings. The Financial Security Credit would allow low-income taxpayers to deposit part of their tax refund into a matched savings account right on their tax return. A similar pilot program called SaveUSA has shown that this kind of program works.

Senate Request: Will you talk to Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus and ranking Member Orrin Hatch, urging them to strengthen progressivity in the tax code by making the 2009 improvements to the EITC and CTC permanent? In addition, will you talk to them about the Financial Security Credit and urge them to include it in any tax reform legislation?

House Request: Will you speak with House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI) and Sander Levin (D-MI) and urge them to strengthen progressivity in the tax code by making the 2009 improvements to the EITC and CTC permanent? In addition, will you also show your support for low-income savings by co-sponsoring the Financial Security Credit Act of 2013 (H.R. 2917) and urge tax leaders to include it in any tax reform legislation?

We will discuss these strategies and the larger fight for the protection of SNAP on the RESULTS August 2013 National Conference Call — Saturday, August 10, 2013 at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.