September 2016 U.S. Poverty Action

Use the New Poverty Data to Build Media Momentum to Expand EITC

On September 13, the Census Bureau released its latest income and poverty data, showing that the poverty rate declined from 14.8 percent in 2014 to 13.5 percent in 2015. That means that 3.5 million fewer Americans lived in poverty in 2015. The poverty rate for children also dropped from 21.1 percent to 19.7 percent. This is encouraging news indeed. But, we cannot celebrate when one in ten US households had incomes below $13,300 last year; when one in seven Americans still live below the federal poverty line (just over $24,000 for a family of four); when almost one in five American children are living in poverty.

Media outlets across the country will be covering the release of this data, giving us a chance to urge candidates for office and policymakers to support expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) . The Census’s Supplemental Poverty Measure showed the pro-work EITC and Child Tax Credit lifted 9.2 million Americans above the poverty line in 2015. Let’s make sure Congress and the new President build on bipartisan proposals to expand the EITC!

Use the New Poverty Data and Election Coverage as a “Hook” for a Letter to the Editor on Expanding EITC

Our first focus is to build momentum to expand the EITC. Use these talking points to craft a letter to the editor (or tailor our online template) or better yet, an op-ed (see our sample).

  1. Respond to a piece in your local newspaper about the election or new poverty data.
  2. Highlight the importance of the new poverty data from the U.S. Census Bureau, which shows a decline in the official poverty rate last year.
  3. Note that still nearly one in seven Americans and one in five American children live below the federal poverty line.
  4. Inform readers that the new President and Congress should address this by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which, along with the Child Tax Credit, lifted 9.2 million people out of poverty in 2015.
  5. Point out that the EITC currently excludes millions of younger workers and others not raising children, including [list information about workers in your state]. 
  6. Note that there is bipartisan support for expanding the EITC.
  7. Call on the new President and Congress to take action to make sure that no American is taxed into poverty and all Americans have a shot at a brighter future.

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/. Be sure to send your published pieces to your members of Congress and campaign offices (and to RESULTS staff as well)

Sample LTE: Candidates Should Support Expanding the EITC

During this hectic election season, it’s easy for important data to get overlooked — but here is some we should all pay attention to.

According to newly released data from the U.S. Census Bureau, the official poverty rate declined last year with 3.5 million fewer Americans living in poverty in 2015 compared to 2014. This is progress we should applaud, but the reality is that more than 43 million Americans still live below the poverty line. We’ve seen we can actually move the needle on this, so where do we go from here?

We can start by expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which, along with the Child Tax Credit, lifted 9.2 million people out of poverty in 2015. The problem is that the EITC currently excludes millions of younger workers and others not raising children. Expanding the EITC for these workers has wide bipartisan support, including from President Obama and House Speaker Paul Ryan. So let’s make sure that whatever happens in November, our new President and Congress take action to make sure that all hardworking Americans have a shot at a brighter future.

Note: if multiple members of your local RESULTS group are sending letters to the same paper, we urge some of you to tailor this sample letters below instead.

Sample Letter: Make Wealth Inequality and the Racial Wealth Gap a Top Priority

I am grateful that inequality is getting some attention in this election, but I fear people don’t understand the depth and danger of this problem.  While brand new data the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the official poverty rate declined last year, nearly one in seven Americans and one in five American children still live below the federal poverty line.

Even more striking is that nearly one in four Black Americans is below the poverty line and the median household income for white Americans is about 70% more than that of Black Americans. And this is just income. When we look at wealth, the gap becomes cavernous. Recent analyses indicate that for every $1 dollar that white Americans hold in wealth, black Americans hold only 6 cents and Latinos hold only 7 cents. This is the legacy of decades of racism and discriminatory public policies.

As candidates vie for our votes this November, we must demand that they make reducing wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap a top priority.

Sample LTE: Let’s End Hunger by Protecting and Strengthening SNAP

As many of us are distracted by the election, let’s not lose sight of the fact that many of in our community are struggling to make ends meet. New data released by the Census Bureau shows progress in reducing poverty, but more work remains. Let’s build on the successful programs we know work. The Census Bureau just released new data showing that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) lifted 4.6 million Americans above the official poverty line in 2015.

Nutrition programs like SNAP and school meals have been shown to not only improve a child's short-term health, but also to have remarkable effects over their lifetimes. Children who benefit from these programs are healthier, do better in school, and have increased economic opportunities later in life. 

I urge candidates to stand up for hungry children and families. Congress and the next President should reject any proposals to cut or restructure nutrition programs, and instead invest making sure no American goes hungry.