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December 2016 U.S. Poverty Action

Use the Media to Defend Anti-Poverty Programs Against Devastating Changes

On the heels of the election, millions of Americans are asking “what comes next?” Unfortunately we expect the new Congress to waste no time in attempting to make radical changes to the social safety net, dismantling programs that allow millions of people to make ends meet every year.

Earlier this year, the Census Bureau released new data, showing that almost 1 in 7 Americans is below the poverty line. The good news is that the number of people in poverty is actually down since last year, and that federal anti-poverty programs have allowed millions of Americans to move out of poverty. We cannot let Congress risk this progress: as the media continues to cover the consequences of the election and what lies ahead, they need to hear from you. Make sure our government policies make things better, not worse, for hardworking Americans – and that starts with protecting and strengthening what we already know works.

Use these talking points to write a letter to the editor calling on Congress to protect and strengthen the country’s safety net. If this is your first letter, check out some letter to the editor basics.

  1. Respond to a piece in your local newspaper about the election and its impact.
  2. Emphasize that whatever lies ahead next year, Congress must protect the programs that support people to move out of poverty. We cannot balance the federal budget on the backs of hardworking Americans.
  3. Inform readers that almost 1 in 7 Americans lives below the poverty line, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
  4. Remind them that anti-poverty programs are making an enormous impact. Were it not for smart anti-poverty policies, more than 45 million additional people would be below the poverty line. This includes things like tax credits for low-wage workers and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps).
  5. Call on Congress to defend what’s working against harmful changes – whether its threats to restructure and restrict SNAP or to reduce access to Medicaid.
  6. Offer Congress something positive they can do instead – like expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which currently leaves out millions of low-wage workers not raising children.
  7. Call you your new and returning members of Congress by name to protect and strengthen what’s working so more Americans have a shot at a brighter future.

Note: To find contact information for media outlets in your area, including telephone numbers and addresses, visit our Media Guide. Be sure to send your published pieces to your members of Congress and campaign offices (and to RESULTS staff as well).

Sample Letter to the Editor:

To the Editor:

If inequality and the wellbeing of hardworking Americans are truly important to the new Congress, they are now in a position to prove it.

More than 43 million people in this country still live below the poverty line, and that number would be more than twice as high were it not for federal anti-poverty policies, according to the Census Bureau. Why then would the new Congress be gearing up to attack some of these programs?

I hope we can count on [Rep. XXXX], [Sen. XXXX], and [Sen. XXXX] to reject any proposals that would take us backwards – whether gutting SNAP by turning it into a “block grant” or reducing access to Medicaid. Instead they should focus on doing some good, like expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit to workers not raising children, who are currently taxed deeper into poverty.

Now more than ever, we need to focus on making things better for hardworking Americans. Dismantling our safety net is not the way to do that.

For additional tips on generating media, see the RESULTS Blog post from RESULTS volunteer and expert letter-writer Willie Dickerson.

If you don't have time to draft and personalize your own letter, use our online media alerts on protecting SNAP (food stamps) and expanding the EITC to send letters quickly and easily today.