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July 2013 U.S. Poverty Action

Set Up Face-to-Face Meetings with Members of Congress during the International Conference or the Next District Visit

RESULTS volunteers have important work to do to protect the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps)Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), Head Start, and child care assistance in the months ahead. The most effective strategy to influence policymakers is face-to-face meetings with them. A poll of more than 250 congressional staff by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) showed that in-person visits from constituents have the most impact; 97 percent for visits to DC offices and 94 percent for visits to district offices – more influential than paid lobbyists. This month, we want to work on scheduling face-to-face visits during the upcoming RESULTS International Conference (July 20-23) and/or next in-district visit.

Contact 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 the RESULTS International Conference Lobby Day on July 23. If you can’t attend the Conference, request your meeting for the next time your member of Congress is back home. Remember, Congress will be home for most of August.
  2. Find contact information for your member of Congress’ DC or district office through the RESULTS website or dial directly to the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s or senator’s office. Once connected to the office, ask for the scheduler. Be ready to leave a succinct voicemail.
  3. Use the following conversation as a template for speaking 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. RESULTS has a proven track record of working with legislators from all backgrounds to support smart and cost-effective policies to break the cycle of 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 a meeting with Rep./Sen.______________ while I am in Washington D.C. on July 23 (or when he/she is home for the upcoming August 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 ___________________ (see below for topics). What times would he/she be available to meet?

  1. You may be asked for a written request. Download our Lobby Meeting Request letter and tailor it to your specific request. Be sure to follow up with a phone call to see if the scheduler got your request and to check the status.
  2. If you cannot meet with your member of Congress in Washington, DC, ask to schedule a meeting during the August recess. Also, find out if your members of Congress will be doing any town hall meetings.
  3. 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.

See our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress and our Activist Milestone: Ask a Question at a Town Hall for additional guidance.

Preparation is the Key to Any Successful Lobby Meeting

How well you prepare for a congressional lobby visit will determine how successful it will be. Knowing about your members of Congress before you meet with them will make you a more effective and confident advocate. The RESULTS website has lots of information about your members of Congress, including biographical information, committee assignments, and voting records on legislation we are following. You can find information about their positions on the issues from their website and Google searches online. Go to our Elected Officials page (http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/) to get started on your research. Once you get a meeting scheduled, either in DC or at home, please log it into our 2013 Lobby Meeting Form.

You should also plan out your meeting. Congressional meetings, particularly face-to-face meetings with your members of Congress, are typically short (15-20 minutes). Sitting down to plan out your meeting agenda, the roles each person will play, and the topics you will discuss, will ensure that you and your group will make the most of your time. Our Lobby Meeting Planning Form (http://www.results.org/uploads/files/2013_RESULTS_Lobby_Meeting_Planning_Form.doc) can help you.

As always, RESULTS staff is available to help you prepare for your lobby meetings. If you need help with scheduling or planning your meeting, please contact Jos Linn at [email protected] or (515) 288-3622.

Focus Your Meetings on Protecting Programs that Lift People Out of Poverty

Promoting Nutrition and Health: Protect and strengthen the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) in any new Farm Bill or current Farm Bill extension. Oppose cuts to the program.

Unless otherwise noted below, SNAP is your first topic of discussion with all members of Congress, especially House or Senate Leadership and House or Senate Agriculture Committee members.

On June 10, the Senate passed its new Farm Bill, 66-27. It contains $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP (over ten years), which would cut benefits for nearly half a million households by an average of $90 per month. The House Farm Bill would cut almost $21 billion from SNAP (over ten years), forcing 2 million low-income people off the program and denying free school meals to 210,000 children. The House Farm Bill was defeated after even more harmful amendments passed on June 20, 195-234. Congress must act to pass a new Farm Bill or extend the current one by September 30.

Be sure to print off and take our SNAP Lobby Meeting Request Sheet with you to your meeting (for those attending the International Conference, we will have copies of these available for you). For more information about SNAP, see our SNAP page on the RESULTS website.

Economic Opportunity: Make the 2009 improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit permanent and include the Financial Family Security Credit in tax reform.

Taxes and Assets is your first topic of discussion with members of the House Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. In all other meetings, it should come second behind SNAP (see below for exception).

As a part of the January “Fiscal Cliff” deal, Congress extended 2009 EITC and CTC improvements for low-income working families for only five years. This leaves the low-income tax credits vulnerable to cuts in future budget negotiations. Working Families Tax Relief Act of 2013 (S. 836), the Child Tax Credit Permanency Act, (H.R. 769), and the Earned Income Tax Credit Improvement and Simplification Act, H.R. 2116 would make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent. RESULTS supports these bills. In addition, RESULTS strongly supports creating the Family Financial Security Credit (FFSC), which would help low-income taxpayers build assets by allocating part of their EITC and CTC refunds into a matched savings account. This helps families build the savings and assets needed to move out of poverty.

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp (R-M-4) are working to build momentum for tax reform. If Congress does do tax reform, we must make sure that the EITC and CTC are strengthened and protected. Tax reform is also a great opportunity to start creating asset building policies that benefit low-income households.

Be sure to print off and take our Economic Opportunity Lobby Meeting Request Sheet with you to your meeting (those attending the International Conference will receive Request Sheets for Lobby Day). For more information about the EITC, CTC and asset building policies, see our Economic Opportunity Campaign page on the RESULTS website.

Early Childhood Development: Fund Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant at the highest possible levels in FY 2014 and restore funding lost during sequestration.

Because early childhood is a secondary campaign for RESULTS this year, you will only lead with this topic in meetings with members of the House and Senate Appropriations Committees.

Sequestration has hit Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance programs hard, with 70,000 children potentially losing access to Head Start and 30,000 losing access to child care. On top of that, the House is proposing an 18 percent cut to Labor-HHS programs, which includes these important early learning services. Fortunately, President Obama has proposed new investments in early learning so that all low- to moderate-income children have access to pre-school. The first step in building the movement for expanding pre-school is protecting the investments and infrastructure we already have, thus ensuring that Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant are all funded at the highest possible levels in FY 2014.   

Be sure to print off and take our Early Childhood Lobby Meeting Request Sheet with you to your meeting (those attending the International Conference will receive Request Sheets for Lobby Day). For more information about our early learning work, see our Early Childhood Development Campaign page on the RESULTS website.

Learn more about how you can protect critical anti-poverty services on the next RESULTS National Conference Call, Saturday July 13 at 12:30pm ET. The call-in number is (888) 409-6709.