Domestic Weekly Update October 18, 2011
New and Urgent in This Week’s Update
Latest from Washington, DC
Take Action to Protect Vulnerable Americans in Deficit Reduction Talks (October Action)
Thanks to all of you for being on the October RESULTS U.S. Poverty national conference call this past weekend. Debbie Weinstein of the Coalition on Human Needs was our guest speaker talking about the current work of the Super Committee and its impact on federal anti-poverty programs.
Debbie did a great job at providing us an overview of the Super Committee, pointing out that the choices they make could either hurt or help people. On the one hand, the committee could work on something constructive like job creation. She pointed out that when people go back to work, they pay taxes. This increases revenue and reduces the deficit.
On the other hand, the Super Committee could also do damage by cutting anti-poverty programs like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP (food stamps), the EITC, the CTC, etc. She noted that “if they don’t [protect anti-poverty programs] and emphasize cuts, then we could see proposals like the House FY 2012 budget, which would have block-granted Medicaid.” Block granting could result in half of the approximately 60 million people on Medicaid losing coverage. Debbie also noted that the House proposal to block grant SNAP would result in 8 million people losing benefits, or result in a $145 cut in monthly benefits for families on SNAP.
Debbie also discussed the importance of revenue being a part of the Super Committee plan, specifically revenue that equals or exceeds the amount of any proposed cuts (remember that Congress has already agreed to cut $1 trillion over ten years from the budget as part of the Budget Control Act).
However, Debbie stressed that the most important message for advocates is that a bad deal is much worse than no deal at all, and that it is not imperative that they reach a deal right now. “We can live to fight another day.” Therefore, if the Super Committee comes out with a plan that relies heavily on cuts to important anti-poverty programs but contains little or no new revenue, members of Congress should walk away. We need to make this clear to lawmakers — walk away from a bad deal.
Debbie’s insights and advice are very helpful as we work this month to influence the Super Committee’s negotiations. It is very important that everyday Americans participate in this process, and not just because a deficit reduction deal would have far-reaching implications affecting all Americans. Already lobbyists and special interest groups have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Super Committee members’ campaign chests. Therefore, we need as many voices as possible contacting Congress the next few weeks.
For RESULTS, that means urging others in our communities to pick up the phone or pen or keyboard to take action. Many of you already have local “action networks” made up of people who may not be regular members of your group but are willing to take action from time to time. Now is one of those times. If you already have a local action network, reach out to them now and urge them to contact Congress to tell them to pass a plan based on our three principles: a plan that does not increase poverty, is balanced with substantial new revenue, and creates jobs.
Connect with allies you have cultivated over the years, including friends and family, faith communities, food banks, local anti-poverty organizations, health care advocates, etc. In addition, reach out to new people and groups in your area who may be willing to act. The more people involved in this process, the bigger voice we create. This would include reconnecting with your local Head Start and child care centers you met with last spring. These community allies are ideal advocates on these issues. Contact them and offer to meet to train them on how they can tell Congress to protect low-income Americans in budget negotiations. In addition, if you have not reached out to your contacts from our “To Catch a Dollar” work earlier this year, this is a great opportunity to contact them again and engage them in action.
TAKE ACTION: Take the October Action. Make your voice heard by contacting representatives and senators about protecting the poor in deficit reduction talks. Urge them to talk the members of the Super Committee as well as House and Senate leadership urging a balanced approach to deficit reduction that protects America’s most vulnerable. Magnify your voice by activating your local action network and urge them to call (toll free number is (888) 245-0215), write, or e-mail Congress as well. Here is the message for representatives and senators (feel free to copy and paste this message directly into any e-mails you send to your local action networks):
Hi, my name is _____________ and I am constituent from __________________ and also a RESULTS volunteer. I know that the Super Committee is working on a plan to reduce the federal deficit. I am very concerned that Congress will try to balance the budget on the backs of low-income Americans. This is wrong. Any deficit reduction plan must do three things:
I urge Representative/Senator ______________ to talk with Super Committee members and House/Senate leadership about drafting a plan based on these principles. If it does not, lawmakers must walk away. A bad deal is much worse than no deal at all.
We also have a one-page outreach action sheet you can give print off and use for tabling or trainings you may be doing in the coming week. You can also use the media to push Congress to pass a balanced deficit reduction plan. Use our online letter to the editor action to submit a letter to your local paper. See our recent blog post with many of the great new resources and tools to help advocates influence deficit reduction talks.
Finally, we again thank Debbie Weinstein from CHN for giving her time on our conference call this month. We look forward to the next time she can join us. If you would like to listen to a recording of this month’s (or previous months’ calls), you can listen from the RESULTS National Conference Calls page.
RESULTS has been engaged a lot of outreach activity recently. On October 7-9, RESULTS Domestic Outreach Organizer Jos Linn spent in New Jersey at the 2011 Fall Bonner Congress meeting. The Bonner Foundation provides scholarships to students who pledge to devote time during school creating ideas and plans for addressing various social justice issues. At the Congress, Jos did several advocacy presentations and also talked with students about getting involved with RESULTS. This effort netted us 25 new college students for the RESULTS Action Network, a number of who are interested in possibly starting a RESULTS presence on their campuses.
Jos will be traveling again next week, this time to St. Louis, MO to restart the RESULTS group there. Jos and local RESULTS volunteers will hold a meeting on Monday, October 24 at 6:30pm CT at the First Unitarian Church in St. Louis. He will also be meeting with allies while there. If you know anyone in the St. Louis area who might be interested in attending, please contact Jos this week at [email protected].
In early November, RESULTS Director of Domestic Campaigns Meredith Dodson will be presenting at the National Student Campaign Against Hunger and Homelessness conference at the University of Maryland. This conference is another great opportunity for us to reach out to college students and engage them in anti-poverty advocacy. Meredith will also be traveling to the northeast in early November to work on starting groups there. She will be there the week of November 7 meeting with potential advocates in southern and mid-costal Maine, Boston, MA and meeting with Springfield College (MA) students on November 9. She will also be doing a group start presentation in Northampton, MA on November 10. If you know people in these areas, please contact Meredith at [email protected] for details.
Also, don’t forget to invite people you know to our bi-monthly RESULTS Introductory Calls. These 30 minutes “Meet and Greet” calls are designed to introduce new people to RESULTS. Our next call will be Monday, October 24 at 9:00 pm ET. If you know people who might be interested, please encourage them to sign up using the registration page. In addition, we will be starting our next New Activist Orientation series in early November. This is a two-session series of conference calls designed to give people a more in depth overview of RESULTS’s work. It is perfect for new members of your local RESULTS group or anyone interested in learning more about us. The calls will be November 2 and 16 at 9:00 pm ET. Urge your new members or others you know to attend. To RSVP, please contact Lisa Marchal at [email protected].
If you have any questions about these outreach opportunities and trainings, or if you know people in other areas who might be interested in RESULTS, please contact the RESULTS Domestic staff.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps) is one of the most successful weapons in the fight against poverty. SNAP provides monthly benefits to low-income households to help them purchase food using electronic benefit cards (like a debit card). SNAP is a counter-cyclic program, which means in good economic times when households have more income, fewer people have need for benefits. Conversely, in bad economic times as people lose jobs and income, SNAP picks up the slack by helping put food on the table. This is clearly evident in SNAP’s current enrollment (in a bad economy), which is approximately 45 million people per month, half of them children; this is more than double the participation than in 2000 (17 million) when the economy was in much better shape.
SNAP is doing its job as it was designed to do. This is reflected in the fact that, despite a record 46 million people lived in poverty in 2010, SNAP kept 3.9 million people out of poverty that year. Despite its success, some members of Congress are proposing drastic changes in SNAP.
In the House FY 2012 budget passed back in April, SNAP was cut by $127 billion over ten years. This would have resulted in 10 million people forced off the program by 2021 or $147 per month in household benefits. Fortunately, the Senate rejected the House plan. However, that has not stopped the attacks on SNAP. Earlier this month, Sen. Richard Lugar (R-IN) proposed his own version of the Farm Bill, which includes reauthorization of SNAP. In his bill, he changes the eligibility rules for SNAP and other nutrition programs, which could result in 1 million losing food assistance benefits. In addition, it is rumored that SNAP is a big target for cuts by the Super Committee.
Fortunately, there are members of Congress who strongly support SNAP and oppose these reckless and short-sighted efforts. To shore up support for SNAP, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is circulating a “Dear Colleague” letter to the Super Committee, urging it to protect SNAP. She is urging other senators to sign on in support before she sends it to the Super Committee at the end of the month.
TAKE ACTION: Urge lawmakers to protect nutrition assistance programs that literally help families put food on the table. Use our online alert to tell them to oppose cuts to SNAP and other anti-hunger program. Also, be sure to urge your senators to sign onto the Gillibrand SNAP letter to the Super Committee. The deadline for signatures is October 27.
Resources to Help Advocates Organize Site Visits of Head Start and Child Care Programs for Lawmakers
One of the most effective strategies to develop members of Congress into leaders (i.e. move them up what we describe as the “champion scale”) is to help your members of Congress see for themselves the impact of anti-poverty programs firsthand. As Representative Rodney Alexander (R-LA) noted last month, “We sit in D.C. in committee hearings and hear about all of the needs for funding. It&rsquols much easier to seek funding and defend funding if we see the impact that it&rsquols having.”
Last Friday, RESULTS joined the Early Care and Education Consortium, National Head Start Association, First Five Years Fund, National Women’s Law Center and the National Association for the Education of Young Children to train advocates on how to facilitate site visits by senators and representatives to see Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) programs themselves. Approximately 40 advocates joined last Friday’s call to discuss how to go about inviting a member of Congress, how to host a tour, what to say, and other details. We reviewed materials like fact sheets, sample media advisories and invitations, and talking points available on the website designed to support this site visit campaign: including:
TAKE ACTION: With your group, consider organizing a site visit for your own members of Congress to see these programs firsthand during an upcoming Congressional recess (Nov 7-11, 21-28). Contact Meredith Dodson for support or if you have questions.
And, of course, continue to use our updated September Action sheet to send letters urging your senators and representatives to support Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). Urge representatives and senators to fund these programs at the highest levels possible. Tell them you are pleased with the strong funding levels from both the House and Senate Labor-HHS committees and urge leaders to continue this strong support for Head Start and child care as they finalize the FY 2012 budget. You can use our online e-mail action to contact your members of Congress.
RESULTS Participates in Tax Credit Briefing. Last week, the National Community Tax Coalition (NCTC) held a briefing and then lobby day on Capitol Hills about protecting the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), and other low income tax provisions. The EITC is America’s largest poverty-reduction program, having lifted 5.4 million people out of poverty in 2010. President Reagan called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job-creation measure to come out of Congress.” NCTC is also pushing for Congress to protect and expand the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA), which provides free tax preparation services for low-income taxpayers. Many people would be unaware of the EITC and CTC without the VITA program. Sen. Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rep. Mike Honda (D-CA-15) have introduced the VITA Act of 2011 (S.816/H.R.2151), which would authorize an annual appropriation of $30 million in matching grants to VITA centers. RESULTS joins NCTC calling on Congress to permanently authorization the VITA program.
Schedule Face-to-Face Meetings for Fall Recesses. Members of Congress will be heading back home in October for various recess weeks. Take advantage of this opportunity by requesting a face-to-face meeting with your representatives and senators to talk about our priorities. Use our online e-mail to contact their offices about setting up a meeting. Once you get a meeting scheduled, please contact the RESULTS Domestic staff to help you prepare.
Fundraising Staff Is Here to Support You. A fundraiser at the end of the year? Yes! If you haven&rsquolt yet held a fundraising event, there is still time to plan a simple, small fundraiser in the fourth quarter. A pre-holiday wine tasting? A holiday party in December? A potluck house party? These are a few easy ways that your group can contribute to the resources that support our powerful advocacy. We have a great “Save the Date” graphic to email to guests that can be customized for your event and sent to you quickly at no cost to your group. Contact Cindy Levin at [email protected] for assistance. Your fundraising coaches stand ready to assist you.
(See a complete calendar)
Wednesday, October 19: RESULTS Seattle Fundraiser. Contact Karen Gielen at [email protected] for details.
Monday, October 24: RESULTS Group Start Presentation in St. Louis, 6:30 pm CT. First Unitarian Church, 5007 Waterman Blvd, St. Louis, MO. Contact Jos Linn ([email protected]) for details.
Monday, October 24 – Friday, October 28: Senate recess.
Friday, October 28: RESULTS Houston Fundraiser. Contact Claudia Morgan at [email protected] for details.
Friday, November 4: RESULTS Santa Fe Fundraiser. Contact Lydia Pendley at [email protected] for details.
Monday, November 7 – Friday, November 11: House recess.
Wednesday, November 9: RESULTS Presentation at Springfield College (MA). Contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) for details.
Saturday, November 12: RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET.
Monday, November 21 – Monday, November 28: House recess.
Saturday, July 21 – Tuesday, July 24, 2012: RESULTS International Conference, Washington, DC (more details to come).
Main Office: (p) (202) 783-7100, (f) (202) 783-2818, 1730 Rhode Island Ave, NW, 4th Floor, Washington, DC 20036. If mailing a donation to our DC office, please address the envelope to the attention of Cynthia Stancil.
Domestic Legislative and Grassroots Support Staff:
The RESULTS Domestic Update is sent out every Tuesday over e-mail to RESULTS volunteers and allies all over the country. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our domestic campaigns.