November 2014 U.S. Poverty Action

Congress’s Unfinished Business: Protect and Strengthen Tax Credits for Working Families

Congress has a full agenda to deal with when they return to Washington on November 12. They have to finalize FY 2015 appropriations by December 11 and will work on a tax bill for expiring business tax provisions as well. In addition, leadership in the House and Senate will be formulating their agendas for the new Congress when it begins in January. With all that’s going on, we have to keep the pressure on members of Congress to protect Americans struggling in poverty.

In November, use the media to get their attention. Letters to the editor (LTEs) are an easy way to get poverty issues into the press and the public discussion, and influence these key negotiations in the short- and long-term. RESULTS volunteers from across the country will send letters urging Congress to work to end poverty by protecting and strengthening the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). By calling on Congress to make expiring EITC and CTC provisions a top priority in any tax policy negotiations in the Lame Duck session and beyond, and urging Congress to support bipartisan proposals to expand the EITC, we’ll build momentum for tax policies that prioritize creating economic mobility.

Urge Congress to Protect and Strengthen EITC and the Child Tax Credit in Local Media

1. Look through recent media coverage to respond to a specific piece in your local newspaper about the election or Congress’s Lame Duck session.

2. Remind readers that Congress will return to Washington to negotiate final “tax extenders” legislation, which could make several expensive tax breaks for corporations and wealthy individuals permanent and add to the federal budget deficit.

3. Flag for readers that there are smarter tax policies that Congress should focus their energies on: the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for low-income working families, our nation's most successful anti-poverty programs for children which lifted 8.8 million Americans out of poverty in 2013.

4. Specifically mention that EITC and the CTC are a hand up – not a hand out – enabling low-income working families to make ends meet. Perhaps mention that a range of studies also demonstrate that credits like the CTC and EITC boost children's test scores, college enrollment rates, and earnings later in life while incentivizing work and prioritizing families. If you can share a personal story of the impact of these policies in your own life, do so!

5. Note that key improvements to the EITC and CTC are set to expire in 2017. If they do, about 17 million people, including 8 million children, will fall into poverty or deeper into poverty.

6. Urge your members of Congress by name to work with leaders to focus their unfinished business making the important EITC and CTC provisions permanent and building on the success of the EITC by embracing bipartisan efforts to expand it to workers without children.

Note: To find contact information for media outlets in your area, including telephone numbers and addresses, visit our Media Guide at http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/media/. For tips on how to maximize the odds your letter will get published, check out our Activist Toolkit and PowerPoint.

Upcoming Tax Policy Decisions Need Your Voice

As the Census Bureau’s latest income and poverty data revealed, one in seven Americans (14.5 percent, 45.3 million total) lived below the poverty line in 2013. Even more shocking, almost one in five children in America are growing up in poverty. After the election, we must remind policymakers to focus on true economic mobility – making sure those who are working can make ends meet and build for the future. 

The next Congress could make major changes to the tax code, including the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit. Current Senate Finance Committee Chair Ron Wyden (D-OR) says he wants to undertake major tax reform. Furthermore, if Republicans take control of the Senate, they have indicated they might use reconciliation in next year’s budget to do tax reform; reconciliation cannot be filibustered and can be passed by only 51 votes. Finally, Paul Ryan (R-WI-1) is looking to become the next Chair of the House Ways and Means Committee. Rep. Ryan’s recent House budgets have included major tax cuts and he’s also proposed an expansion of EITC that resembles President Obama’s proposal.

In addition to our LTEs, once your local paper is done covering the election, November is a great time to circle back about editorials on poverty and the EITC/CTC. Editors and writers will have more time to devote to your request once the election is over. Use this lull in news coverage and the “hook” of Congress’s unfinished business to push for an editorial again this month. Looking for an opportunity to engage your local Action Network? Ask others to use RESULTS online alert to tell Congress to make protecting and strengthening EITC and CTC a priority.

On the November 2014 RESULTS National Conference Call, we’ll hear from guest speaker Jared Bernstein, a Senior Fellow at Center on Budget and Policy Priorities and was the Chief Economist and Economic Adviser to Vice President Joe Biden. Mr. Bernstein will talk to us about the outcome of the election and what it means for anti-poverty federal policy, both in the Lame Duck session and the new Congress in 2015. The call is Saturday, November 8, at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 by 12:27 pm ET.