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December 2013 U.S. Poverty Action

Set Up Face-to-Face Meetings with Members of Congress

Congress will adjourn in December without completing work on the Farm Bill, including possible cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps). Nor will they finalize FY 2014 spending bills until early next year. Shortly after, they will work on FY 2015 appropriations and other priorities. Want to make a difference? The most effective strategy to influence policymakers is face-to-face visits between local constituents and members of Congress. The Congressional Staff on What Advocacy Strategies Have the Most InfluenceCongressional Management Foundation (CMF) asked congressional staff what kinds of contact make the biggest impact on members of Congress, especially when they have not made up their mind on an issue. Respondents overwhelmingly said that in-person visits from constituents made the biggest difference; 97 percent for visits to DC offices and 94 percent for visits to district offices – more influential than paid lobbyists! (see results at right). As your group meets in early January to lay out your goals for the year, set yourselves up for success by putting in requests for face-to-face meetings with your members of Congress this month.

Call the Scheduler to Set Up a Face-to-Face Lobby Meeting

  1. Request your meeting now to increase the likelihood of getting a meeting during one of the recesses.
  2. Find contact information for your member of Congress’ DC or district office through the RESULTS website. You can find their Washington DC scheduler’s name under the “Staff” tab. You can also dial directly to the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s/senator’s office.
  3. Once connected to the office, ask for the scheduler (be ready to leave a succinct voicemail).
  4. Use the following conversation as a template for the conversation with the scheduler.

Hi, my name is _________________, and I am a constituent of Rep./Sen. _________________ from _________________. I am also a volunteer with RESULTS, a grassroots group working to end hunger and poverty. I know that Rep./Sen. _________________ values input from constituents on the issues that matter to us. With that in mind, our local RESULTS group would like to schedule meeting with Rep./Sen.______________ while he/she is still home for an upcoming recess. Would it be possible to set that up today? There will be at least ____ of us at the meeting and we would like to discuss how we can end hunger in America and protect key nutrition programs, and discuss ways we can work together to support innovative approaches to helping families move out of poverty. What times would he/she be available to meet?

  1. You may be asked for a written request – use our online template to create a request letter.
  2. If the member of Congress has no time to meet this month, ask to schedule a meeting the next time he/she is back home and if he/she is holding any upcoming town hall meetings.

7.Be sure to note the name of the scheduler and thank that person for their assistance. If you don’t get a firm answer when you call, mention when you’ll be following up.

For additional tips on how to schedule your face-to-face meeting, check out our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress and our accompanying PowerPoint. Once you confirm a lobby meeting, please contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) for help in preparing for the meeting.

Congress Will Leave DC without Finishing Farm Bill – More Time to Protect SNAP

We must continue to urge Congress to work to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) in the final Farm Bill, and face-to-face meetings in the next few weeks can give us a great opportunity to do just that.  On December 4, key House and Senate negotiators met and announced they had reached a deal on the nutrition portion of the Farm Bill that would cut $8.6 billion in cuts to SNAP over ten years. While no official details have been released yet, these cuts will be to “Heat and Eat” programs in 15 states, which help increase SNAP benefits for people who receive benefits from the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). Those states are: CA, CT, ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, and WI. The cut would amount to an average loss of $90 per month in SNAP benefits for approximately 850,000 low-income households. These discussions to cut SNAP are coming on the heels of an $11 billion across-the-board cut to SNAP benefits for all program participants that went into effect on November 1.

The formal Farm Bill conference committee will not meet until January to finalize the agreement, and the conference committee could vote on additional harmful amendments to SNAP, notably a provision to cut off SNAP to 1.7 million 18-50 year olds with no children (Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents or “ABAWDs”) who live in high unemployment areas and want to work. Fortunately, because of your strong advocacy work in coordination with our allies, several egregious provisions passed by the House of Representatives will not be considered. These notable omissions include:

  • Elimination of state flexibility in administering SNAP (called Categorical Eligibility or “Cat El”), which would have forced 2.1 million people off SNAP and denied 210,000 low-income children free meals at school.
  • The Southerland amendment, which would have imposed strict work requirements, including parents with children as young as one who cannot find work or are unable to find safe and affordable child care for their young children; the amendment would have let states keep half the money saved from removing people from SNAP.
  • Banning SNAP benefits for some convicted felons.
  • Requiring SNAP applicants go through drug testing to receive benefits.

While RESULTS is pleased that many of the most harmful provisions passed in the House are not part of this deal, we strongly oppose further cuts to SNAP and urge policymakers to reconsider the $8.6 billion cut to SNAP. RESULTS volunteers have done fabulous work to protect SNAP this year -- 81 face-to-face meetings with members of Congress, 137 print media pieces, and gerat work engaging others to take action. And, fortunately, the story isn’t over yet. Because negotiations are still taking place, we still have the opportunity to shape the final Farm Bill and meeting face-to-face with policymakers is a key strategy. Once the formal conference committee process is complete, then the package would need to be approved by both the House and Senate and signed into law by President Obama.  

Looking Ahead to 2014: Start the Year off Right with Group Planning

Because Congress has yet again procrastinated on its agenda, no one is sure what major issues Congress will be dealing with next year. For RESULTS, this means we will not have our 2014 U.S. Poverty Campaigns confirmed until early 2014. However, we do have ideas for possible focus areas, including strategies to address the “cliff effect” (as families move up the income ladder they rapidly lose supports such as child care and SNAP), addressing wealth inequality with asset building, a comprehensive campaign to address the needs of very young children, state-based efforts to address poverty, and engaging local experts – those with firsthand experience of poverty. On December 18, we will host a webinar to overview our possible 2014 U.S. Poverty Campaigns. Because we value your input and feedback, please plan to participate in this presentation. The webinar is Wednesday, December 18, at 9:00 pm ET. To join from your computer or mobile device and view the slides, go to: http://fuze.me/22230495, or dial (855) 346-3893, meeting number 22230495#, to join via audio.

In addition, January is when RESULTS activists and groups engage in their annual planning process, and it’s been an important part of RESULTS’ successes over the years. Group planning is one of our most important activities of the year because it allows you to envision your advocacy and outreach goals and put them into concrete action steps, including your strategies to get face-to-face meetings with your members of Congress. We will have group planning materials available in the next few weeks (found at: http://www.results.org/skills_center/group_resources_and_admin/) and on January 11, we will do actual planning on the RESULTS National Conference Call. 

We will review the latest on SNAP and how you can impact the debate on our RESULTS December 2013 National Conference Call — Saturday, December 14, 2013 at 2 pm ET (note different time!). To participate, call (888) 409-6709 by 1:58 pm ET.