September 2014 U.S. Poverty Action

Building a Media Groundswell to Protect and Expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit

On September 16, the Census Bureau will release its latest income and poverty data, likely showing that about one in seven Americans still lives below the poverty line. Meanwhile, important provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit (CTC) -- some of the country’s most effective anti-poverty strategies – are set to expire if Congress doesn’t act. This month we’ll focus on generating editorials about the need to address poverty in America and why policymakers should support specific tax policies to protect and expand the EITC and CTC to shape upcoming policy debates.

Steps to Generate an Editorial in Your Local Paper

Here are the steps you can take to generate an editorial in your local newspaper:

  1. Do your homework and have it ready before you call. Be prepared to share your research with the writer. Newspapers are overworked and understaffed, so the more you can provide the writer up front, the better. Helpful information to compile:
  • Research the newspaper’s coverage of poverty and  the EITC/CTC
  • Gather the latest information on poverty and how many people in your state will be impacted if Congress allows EITC and CTC provisions to expire using our state fact sheets (note: these will be updated with the new Census data by September 19, and TalkPoverty.org will update their interactive map within hours of the data release),
  • Use the RESULTS Elected Officials page and RESULTS Election Guide to compile information about how members of Congress and candidates have voted on these issues or their campaign platforms.
  1. Draft an EPIC Laser Talk of your “pitch” to explain the issue and why the paper should take your position. Use  a “hook” in your argument to increases your chances. Practice your pitch before calling the writer (please contact RESULTS staff if you need help). Some talking points you may want to include:
  • Introduce yourself as a RESULTS volunteer in the community and ask if they have two minutes to talk.
  • Mention up front that you are calling about an opportunity for an editorial, highlighting the Census Bureau’s poverty data release and how it relates to specific policy debates in Congress. These “hooks” increase the chances of your piece getting published.
  • Share your specific concern that important provisions of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit– one of the country’s most effective anti-poverty strategies – are set to expire if Congress doesn’t act – and include specific numbers of children and families who will be impacted in your state. 
  • Share that these programs are effective, a real success story – both the EITC and the CTC generate large decreases in poverty and substantial increases in employment, as well as decreasing the number of single parents receiving cash welfare. 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. [Quickly share 1-2 sentences about the impact of these tax policies if you can].
  • Flag for the editorial writer that the Census data release on September 16 offers a great opportunity to connect the dots between poverty in the local community and specific policy decisions in Washington. As we head into elections, what our elected officials do – or don’t do – in Washington has real consequences everyone back at home. 
  1. Send an e-mail ahead of time to the writer with a brief explanation of why you are contacting him/her and the include RESULTS editorial memo you want to discuss. Tell him/her that you plan to call them later that day about writing an editorial.
  2. Call up the writer that covers your issue, tell him/her that you sent the e-mail, and ask if they have a few minutes to talk about an editorial idea – using the talking points above.
  3. Make your “pitch” to the writer. Have a conversation. The writer may or may not know about your issue so be prepared to answer questions, including counter arguments. If you don’t know the answer to a question, ask the writer if you can get back to him/her with an answer. Be sure to thank the writer for his/her time and that you will follow up. Be sure to send a thank you e-mail with any additional information/research to help the writer.
  4. Follow up in a few days to see if the writer has any questions and to check on the status of your request.

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/. In addition, see our Activist Toolkit pieces on generating an editorial in your local paper. If others in your RESULTS group are taking the lead in generating editorials, we urge you to use these talking points to submit an op-ed or write a letter to the editor (you can use our template) to your local papers. Be sure to send your published pieces to your members of Congress!

Background: House Passes Tax Legislation that Benefits Wealthier Families, Leaves Cold Families Out in the Cold

http://www.cbpp.org/images/cms/7-22-14ctc-f1.png

On July the House of Representatives passed H.R. 4935, which would expand the Child Tax Credit (CTC) so that upper-income taxpayers could claim it, while also cutting 5.5 million children of immigrant parents – 4.5 million of which are U.S. citizens – off the CTC. The vote was 237-173. It is bad enough that the House would cut the CTC for millions of low-income children while giving wealthy families another tax cut, but it doesn’t stop there. H.R. 4935 also completely ignores the critical improvements to the CTC (and the Earned Income Tax Credit or EITC) for low-income families passed in 2009 which will expire in 2017. Here’s how messed up these priorities are, from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities:

  • As a result, a married couple with two children making $160,000 a year would receive a new tax cut of $2,200 in 2018 under the bill. But a single mother with two children who works full time throughout the year at the minimum wage of $7.25 an hour (which House leaders oppose raising) and earns just $14,500 would lose $1,725. Her CTC would disappear altogether.

Hundreds of RESULTS volunteers called their members of Congress and mobilized others, and have already met with almost 100 members of Congress, reiterating our support for the CTC and EITC for low-income families. These actions demonstrated powerful support for tax credits for low-income working families. However, we must keep on sending a strong message to policymakers that they should prioritize tax policies that foster economic mobility in final negotiations over tax legislation after the November election.

On the September 2014 RESULTS National Conference Call, we’ll hear from guest speaker Inez Russell Gomez, an editorial writer at the Santa Fe New Mexican and winner of the 2014 Cameron Duncan media award. Inez will share with us her insider perspective on working with local editorial boards. This will be a helpful and informative call – please plan to join us. The call is Saturday, September 13, at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 by 12:27 pm ET.

In addition, RESULTS is offering two webinars this month on generating media around the U.S. Census release of its 2013 U.S. poverty data:

  • On Monday, September 8 at 8:00pm ET, RESULTS will host a Media Training webinar. On this webinar, the RESULTS Media Support Team will talk about best practices for reaching out to local editorial boards and working with editors to get the EITC and CTC into their coverage of the new poverty data. Register for the webinar TODAY at: https://www.fuzemeeting.com/webinar/register/1028546.
  • On Tuesday, September 16 at 8:00pm ET, RESULTS will host a 2013 Poverty Data Webinar. On this webinar, we will review the data from the U.S. Census, which will have been released earlier that day. We’ll also talk about how to use the information with local editorial writers and what to expect from future data releases later in September. Register for the webinar TODAY at: https://www.fuzemeeting.com/webinar/register/1028550.