June 2014 U.S. Poverty Action

Mobilize Your Community into Action to Expand Economic Mobility

This month, work to engage your community in pushing Congress to expand economic mobility in America. Many RESULTS volunteers will be traveling to Washington, DC this month for the RESULTS International Conference to lobby Congress to protect and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), as well as enacting the Financial Security Credit can help address the growing wealth gap. Let’s reinforce the conversations in DC by mobilizing others into action!

TAKE ACTION: Get At Least 5 People Into Action This Month

  1. Create a list of 10 or more people you’ll target. Not everyone you ask will take action, so you’ll have to ask at least twice as many as your goal. Think of people in your local action network, friends and colleagues at work, online contacts through Facebook and Twitter, and others you know who might be willing to take action and list them out.
  2. Engage people directly and tell them what’s at stake. Your friends, family members, work colleagues, and others are much more likely to do something if you tell them directly why taking action is important to you, how they can make a difference because of their passion, skills and/or connections, and what’s at stake.   Go to where people are -- many RESULTS groups are tabling at community events, religious services, college campuses, etc. A few statistics you can use to engage them:
    • According to the U.S. Census, 1 in 5 American children were living in poverty in 2012 (21.8 percent, 16.1 million children). In total, 46.5 million Americans (15 percent) were living in poverty in 2012 (latest numbers available).
    • 43 percent of American households are “liquid asset poor” meaning that faced with a loss of income, they do not have enough cash or savings to live above the poverty line for more than 3 months. This means they are one financial emergency away from poverty.
    • The racial wealth gap is staggering. African Americans and Latinos have 5 to 7 cents of wealth for every dollar of wealth a white household has. African-Americans and Latinos are more than twice as likely to have no financial assets and no net worth as whites.
    • Rather than address poverty in America, Congress is moving forward to extend tax breaks for corporations, while allowing critical tax provisions for low-income working families to expire -- if these improvements expire, 12 million Americans, including 7 million children, will fall into poverty or deeper into poverty.
  3. Give people a specific action to take.
  4. Amplify your work using social media. Post a short message like, “I’m outraged that Congress wants to cut tax for corporations while ignoring the needs of working Americans. Join me in taking action: http://tinyurl.com/EconMobility.” and ask your friends to let you know they’ve taken action. If you are in Washington, post pictures of your lobby meetings on Facebook and Twitter using the #RESULTSconf hashtag.  

We will discuss using the upcoming RESULTS International Conference to help expand economic mobility in America on our June national conference call (June 14, 2014, at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.

Hold a Local “Debriefing” Party after the RESULTS International Conference

If you are coming to the RESULTS International Conference this month, you will come away with quite a few inspiring stories to tell. What better way to show your appreciation to people back home for the support they provided you than to share your stories and tell people how much their actions mattered.

Plan to host a RESULTS conference “debriefing” party within a week or two of your return home from Washington, DC. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy – a potluck, a gathering at your local library, or a presentation at your local faith community or community event. Make the planning simple and invite everyone you reached out to before the conference to come. At the event, tell people about your experience. Tell them what you learned at the conference. Share about your lobby meetings and about delivering their letters to your members of Congress in person. This is a great way to help people back home feel like they were a part of the conference and hopefully inspire them to come next year.

Despite the fact that 15 percent of Americans, and over one in five children, live below the poverty line ($23,624 for a family of four), Congress is considering legislation to give over $300 billion in tax breaks to large corporations while ignoring the needs low-income working families. We need to speak out forcefully to push back on policies that favor corporate tax breaks over critical anti-poverty programs, and instead urge Congress to focus on expanding economic mobility.

Tell Congress to Focus on Expanding Economic Mobility

Use these talking points to craft a letter to your members of Congress (sample also below):

  1. Introduce yourself to your representative or senator as a constituent and add information about your work in the community if appropriate. Tell them you want Congress to support policies that foster economic mobility.
  2. Express outrage that Congress is ignoring the needs of millions working Americans living in poverty by focusing on corporate tax breaks while allowing critical Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) improvements to expire in 2017.
  3. Point out what's at stake: if these improvements expire, 12 million Americans, including 7 million children, will fall into poverty or deeper into poverty. 
  4. Illustrate what this could mean for you or someone else in your community. A single parent with two children working full-time in at the minimum wage (about $15,000 per year) will see his Child Tax Credit drop by $1,500 after 2017 (from about $1,750 to only $250). [Note: if you can share how this could have on your and your family, or someone else in your community, it will make your letter more powerful].
  5. Highlight that you are concerned that many Americans are just one financial crisis away from poverty – and urge Congress to prioritize on tax policies that help low-income families build emergency savings.
  6. Urge your senators and representative to oppose efforts to make corporate tax breaks permanent while ignoring expiring EITC and CTC improvements, which will impact 12 million Americans.
  7. In addition, urge Congress to enact tax policies that will create economic mobility by expanding the EITC and help families save for the future by including the Financial Security Credit (FSC) in tax legislation. We must make ending poverty by 2030 a priority.

Sample Letter to Congress on Expanding Economic Mobility

Dear Senator or Representative _______________,

My name is _________________ and I’m a constituent of yours from ____________________. I am writing to urge you to do all you can to expand economic mobility in America.

Right now, there are nearly 50 million Americans living in poverty, including 1 in 5 children. Instead of seeing a problem we cannot hope to fix, I see an opportunity to make a real difference in people’s lives. We should be investing in smart, effective ideas we know work – not tax breaks for corporations. For example, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) address the crisis of low-wage work in America, going to people in jobs that pay too little to live on. The U.S. Census reports that in 2012, the EITC and CTC lifted more than 10 million people out of poverty, half of them children. Unfortunately, Congress is moving forward to extend tax breaks for corporations, while allowing critical EITC and CTC provisions to expire -- if these improvements expire, 12 million Americans, including 7 million children, will fall into poverty or deeper into poverty. We must protect these tax credits and, in addition, increasing the EITC for single workers.

But getting out of poverty is just the first step. If people don’t have savings to fall back on, they are just one financial emergency away from poverty. The Financial Security Credit would allow low-income taxpayers to create a savings account on their tax return and deposit all or part of their refund into it, receiving a partial match of their deposit. A similar program called SaveUSA has shown that when people have this kind of opportunity and incentive to save, they will do it.

Sen./Rep._________________, we can end poverty as we know it. Will you speak with House Ways and Means/Senate Finance Committee members urging them to do the following in upcoming tax legislation:

  1. Help workers make ends meet by making the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent and expanding the EITC for workers without children.
  2. Create the Financial Security Credit so that low-income Americans can save for the future.

Thank you for your time and I look forward to a response from your office on my request.