U.S. Poverty Weekly Update December 17, 2013

I hope readers will urge their representatives to strengthen SNAP in the farm bill. We must search for common ground, not fight over partisan politics. The majority of us are suffering in this economy, regardless of our political beliefs.

– RESULTS Columbus volunteer Kristen Neumann-Martiensen in a December 14 letter to the editor in the Columbus Dispatch

New and Urgent in This Week's Update (Two-Ten-Twenty Actions)

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates


This will be the last U.S. Poverty Weekly Update of 2013. Everyone at RESULTS wishes you and yours a very safe and happy holiday season. We look forward to an exciting 2014.

Please note that all RESULTS office will be closed December 25 – January 1.


Got Two Minutes? Put It in Your Calendar to Join Tomorrow’s 2014 U.S. Poverty Campaigns Webinar

Because Congress has left for the year without completing the Farm Bill (including SNAP) nor the FY 2014 budget (which impacts Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance programs), our 2013 campaigns will spill over into January. This means we will not be finalizing our 2014 campaigns until after the holidays. Despite the delay, we do have ideas for possible focus areas next year. This could include strategies to address the “cliff effect” (as families move up the income ladder they rapidly lose supports such as child care and SNAP), addressing wealth inequality with asset building, a comprehensive campaign to address the needs of very young children, looking at state-based efforts to address poverty, and engaging local experts with firsthand experience in poverty. To move this process forward, the RESULTS U.S. Poverty Team is hosting a webinar presentation tomorrow about these ideas. It is important to us to get your thoughts and feedback – we hope you will join the call.

TAKE ACTION: The RESULTS 2014 U.S. Poverty Campaigns webinar is tomorrow (Wednesday) December 18, at 9:00 pm ET. To join from your computer or mobile device and view the slides, go to: http://fuze.me/22230495. So you can provide your feedback, plan to also dial in toll-free (855) 346-3893, meeting number 22230495# (note: if you prefer not to see the slides or have trouble logging in online, you can still participate via phone by calling the number).


Got Ten Minutes? Set Up Face-to-Face Meetings This Month (December Action)

Thanks to everyone who participated in the December 2014 RESULTS National Conference Call this past weekend. It was great to hear from both RESULTS U.S. and Global Poverty volunteers around the country about the great things you’ve accomplished this year.

As noted on the call, Congress has tabled its work on Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and the Farm Bill for now (the House is already on recess and the Senate will be leaving this week). Although we will not see any details until January, it appears that both sides have agreed to $8.6 billion in cuts to SNAP over ten years. These cut would be to so-called “Heat and Eat” programs in 15 states (CA, CT, ME, MA, MI, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, PA, RI, VT, WA, and WI. Let’s briefly review how these programs work. One of the factors in determining SNAP benefits for a household is the household’s utility costs. If the household has to pay high utility costs, their SNAP benefits go up to compensate. In Heat and Eat programs, states give people benefits (sometimes as little as one dollar) under the Low-income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), which allows the household to receive the maximum utility allowance under SNAP, and increase their SNAP benefits. These households are still low-income and must still qualify for SNAP like anyone else. In addition, it’s estimated that households with seniors and people with disabilities, who sometimes receive only $15 per month from SNAP, are the ones who primarily benefit from Heat and Eat programs.

What the Farm Bill proposal would do is require states to pay at least $20 in LIHEAP benefits before a household could get the maximum utility allowance. This will dissuade states from continuing this practice; the result is that approximately 850,000 households would lose an average of $90 per month. This is of course disappointing because we all know that SNAP benefits are already low (about $1.40 per meal per person) and all SNAP recipients have seen their benefits drop over the last month when the Recovery Act “boost” ended on November 1.

Despite this setback, we can also celebrate some success in our SNAP work. Because of your strong advocacy work in coordination with our allies, several egregious provisions passed by the House of Representatives are not in this deal and will not be considered. These notable omissions include:

  • Elimination of state flexibility in administering SNAP (called Categorical Eligibility or “Cat El”), which would have forced 2.1 million people off SNAP and denied 210,000 low-income children free meals at school.
  • The Southerland amendment, which would have imposed strict work requirements, including parents with children as young as one, who cannot find work or cannot find safe and affordable child care for their young children; amendment allowed states to keep half the money saved from removing people from SNAP.
  • Banning SNAP benefits for some convicted felons.
  • Requiring SNAP applicants go through drug testing to receive benefits.

Note that the provision to eliminate waivers for 18-50 year olds without children (Able-Bodied Adults without Dependents or ABAWDs), which would have forced 1.7 million people off SNAP is also not part of the deal but may be brought up as an amendment when the Farm Bill conference committee votes on the final bill. Experts expect it not to pass but we must remain vigilant and remind conferees to vote NO if it does come up.

While RESULTS is pleased that many of the most harmful provisions passed in the House are not part of this deal, we strongly oppose further cuts to SNAP and urge policymakers to reconsider the $8.6 billion cut to SNAP.

This brings us to the December Action. With the House and Senate on recess the next few weeks, this is an ideal time tell them how you feel about the proposal Farm Bill. As we know, face-to-face meetings with constituents are the most effective way to influence lawmakers, especially when they are undecided on an issue. In meetings this month or early January, you can tell lawmakers that you’re pleased that some of the most egregious provisions of the House SNAP bill are being dropped but that you are disappointed in the $8.6 billion cut to SNAP. Tell them to urge Farm Bill conference committee members to reconsider these cuts and to also vote NO on any harmful SNAP amendments that might come up. To help you, see this handy guide with some basic facts about SNAP to help in your meetings.

TAKE ACTION: Take ten minutes to call or e-mail the schedulers for your members of Congress to set up face-to-face meetings. The December Action has all the information you need to help with your requests. Ask to meet with them when they are home in December or early January. Also ask about any public events they may be holding during the holidays. If you cannot get a meeting in the next few weeks, push for a meeting as soon as possible in early 2014. If your meeting occurs after the Farm Bill is finished, we will have new issues to discuss with them in 2014 so get on their calendars now.

Once you confirm a lobby meeting, please contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) or Jos Linn ([email protected]) for help in preparing for the meeting. Also, please remember to download and copy our 2013 SNAP, Tax Policy, and Early Childhood Lobby Meeting Requests Sheets to give to members of Congress or their staff at your meetings. For more information about last Saturday's national conference call page, including a recording of the call and the conference call slides, go to our National Conference Call page.


Got Twenty Minutes? Fill out Your 2014 Individual Planning Form

Although January will likely involve action on SNAP as Congress works to finish the Farm Bill, our main focus for the month - as with most Januarys – will be on 2014 RESULTS Group Planning. For those of you new to RESULTS, Group Planning is a process all RESULTS groups and Free Agents go through set their goals for the year as well as the strategies to achieve those goals. This is an important process and one relatively unique among advocacy organizations. Where else do volunteers get to set their own goals, our actions, own strategies to accomplish a common organizational goal? It is a process we value and one that has helped you create the successes you have over the years. And this year, we’re going to step up our support in helping you do group planning.

On our January 11 national conference call, we help you actually do group planning on the call itself. Our hope is that this will facilitate an easier group planning process. To make this work, you’ll need to be prepared before the call so we already have our 2014 Group Planning resources available. We know that most of your time the next few weeks will be spent with family and friends for the holidays. However, if you take 20 minutes during all the holiday hubbub to complete the 2014 Individual Planning Form, you’ll be ahead of the game when January rolls around. You’ll want to complete the form before the January 11 call, so why not get started now.

TAKE ACTION: Take twenty minutes to start the 2014 Group Planning process by downloading and filling out the Individual Planning Form. This one-page lets you reflect on your successes from this year, your hopes for the coming year, and concrete actions you’d like to see taken in 2014. Each group member and Free Agent should fill out this form; it will be used during the Group Planning session we’ll conduct on the January 11 call.

We also encourage you to look over the other Group Planning Resources on the website: the Group Planning Summary, Group Planning Guide, and Grassroots Roles. These will be used during Group Planning in January; briefly reviewing them now will help you get ready. If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Jos Linn ([email protected]) for help.


Murray-Ryan Budget Deal Moves Forward; Learn More on the CHN Budget Deal Webinar this Thursday

Before the House left on recess last week, it voted on the Murray-Ryan budget deal to fund the government over the next two years. It passed overwhelmingly, 332-94. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the deal would replace $63 billion of the sequestration cuts (automatic across-the-board cuts that began in March) slated for 2014 and 2015. $45 billion would be restored in 2014 and $18 billion in 2015. This new funding is paid for by extending sequestration cuts to certain entitlement programs (principally Medicare provider payments) imposing higher fees for airline passengers, increasing premiums for pension plans insured by the federal government and retirement contributions for federal civil service workers, and reducing cost-of-living increases for working-age military retirees. 

Because of the deal, Congress can stop a portion of the 2013 sequestration cuts to non-defense discretionary (NDD) programs such as Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance. While not a full repeal of sequestration, it is certainly better than allowing the cuts to continue under current law.

The Senate is expected to vote on the plan this week. Assuming it passes, work would then move to the House and Senate appropriators January. Since the budget deal only sets overall spending levels, appropriators must still determine funding for individual discretionary programs. A new budget needs to pass by January 15, when the current continuing resolution (CR) expires. Although they will be working with more money for FYs 2014 and 2015 than under the Budget Control Act of 2011 (which created sequestration), some programs will still be short-changed compared to funding had sequestration not gone into effect. In addition, the budget deal includes no money to extend long-term unemployment benefits, which expire at the end of the year.

TAKE ACTION: Urge your members of Congress to fund Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance at the highest possible levels in FY 2014. Use our online e-mail alert to send your message to representatives and senators today. In addition, our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs is hosting a webinar this Thursday, December 19 at 4:00 pm ET to overview what’s in and what’s not in the Murray-Ryan deal. If you’re interested to learn more about the deal, sign up at the CHN website today.

Finally, if you have not done so already, please sign your local RESULTS group on as an endorser of the Strong Start for America’s Children Act. This Act would make significant new investments in early childhood education, targeted to children living in poverty.


Use Our Matching Challenge to Double Your Donation to RESULTS Before December 31

We still have a matching campaign challenge until the end of the year! Any donation to RESULTS or RESULTS Educational Fund mailed or made online by December 31 will be matched by a generous — up to $20,000.  Let's not leave money on the table. Will you consider making an end-of-year gift that will have twice the impact? Check out our donation page online and make your donation today, and share it with friends and family who care about ending poverty just as you do!

Thank you to our partners who hosted a fundraiser in Olympia, WA! Fifty-two people attended a house party with RESULTS/REF Board Member Ernie Loevinsohn as a featured speaker. They raised $3,000 from the party and their online website. Congratulations, Olympia!


RESULTS Outreach Update – Visiting CA and Welcome Waterloo

RESULTS Grassroots Manager Jos Linn took a whirlwind tour of southern California this weekend, meeting with volunteers from four of our RESULTS groups. He met with volunteers in Orange County, West Los Angeles, San Fernando Valley, and San Diego. This was a great opportunity to revisit both veteran and new volunteers with RESULTS and get great feedback on their activities and group health. For RESULTS staff, there are few things more inspiring than meeting with volunteers out in the field and seeing the amazing work you all are doing to create a world without poverty. Thank you to all the volunteers in California who participated this weekend and keep up the great work!

We also welcome our newest group to the RESULTS family – Waterloo, IA. This fall, Jos has been working with the volunteers in Waterloo and just last week, they completed their new group training. This inspiring group of Midwesterners covers both the first and fourth districts of Iowa. We look forward to great things from them in January. This brings our new group total for 2014 up to eight groups: Creston, IA; Whitefish, MT; Arlington, VA; Orange County, CA; Kansas City, MO; Cincinnati, OH; Boston, MA, and now Waterloo. Welcome Waterloo!

Finally, the RESULTS U.S. Poverty Free Agents tonight, December 17 at 9:00 pm ET. The NEW dial-in number is (443) 453-0034, passcode 703096. If you are an advocate in an area with no existing RESULTS U.S. Poverty group, join us for the call. On this call, we’ll celebrate actions people have taken over the last month, discuss the latest going on in DC, and review actions you can take to make an impact on poverty. Be sure to join us.

Thank you to everyone who helped 2013 be the most successful outreach year in recent RESULTS history. We look forward to even greater success with you in 2014!


Quick News

New Study Shows Safety Net Cut Poverty in Half. With the 50th Anniversary of the War on Poverty coming up next year, a new study shows that it was a tremendous success. Columbia University researchers found that safety net programs, many created by President Lyndon Johnson in the War on Poverty in the 1960s, reduced the U.S. poverty rate from 26 percent in 1967 to 16 percent in 2012. Furthermore, had the safety net not been in place during the recent economic downturn, the poverty rate would be a staggering 29 percent. When you hear politicians talking about failed social safety net programs, point to this study and remind them that problem with the War on Poverty is not that it failed, it is that we haven’t finished it yet.

New Poverty Report Released Today. Half in Ten, a project dedicated to building the political and public will to cut the U.S. poverty rate in half in 10 years, is releasing a new report, Renewing the Poverty Debate: State of the States 2013, examining Half in Ten’s annual indicators of economic security and opportunity at a state-by-state level. The report ranks the states by indicator, (including indicators that are very helpful for current and ongoing fights/debates including unemployment insurance overage rates, food insecurity rates, and lack of health insurance coverage), highlights state policies that coincide with data trends, and includes facts sheets for every state. Half in Ten has also launched its new Half in Ten Education Fund site where you can compare and interact with our indicators data by state across all of our report years, including each state’s best and worst indicators. Find out how your state fares at: http://halfinteneducation.org/.

New Study Links Poverty and Child Brain Development. A new research study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison confirms what many already knew – poverty has a detrimental impact on brain development in children. Researchers found that, “by age 4, children in families living with incomes under 200 percent of the federal poverty line have less gray matter than kids growing up in families with higher incomes.” In addition, they found that children in poverty had slower growth in the development of the parietal and frontal regions of the brain, which can help explain the behavioral, learning and attention problems more prevalent in at-risk children.


Announcements

Give Feedback to Grassroots Board Members. The four RESULTS Grassroots Board Members have taken on a larger role of communication between the RESULTS grassroots network to the Board. They would like to hear from you if you have questions or ideas. For questions or suggestions to the Grassroots Board Members please contact them at: [email protected]. With congratulation for all your accomplishments and gratitude for all your work, commitment and passion, they are your proud Grassroots Board Members: Heide Craig, Lydia Pendley, Ginnie Vogts, Beth Wilson.

RESULTS Is Looking for a New England Organizer. The RESULTS U.S. Poverty Team is looking to hire an organizer for our expansion efforts in New England. The U.S. Poverty Grassroots Expansion Associate will be responsible for expanding the number of RESULTS grassroots chapters in New England of the U.S., starting at least three new groups by the end of 2014. The organizer will report to the Director of RESULTS U.S. Poverty Campaigns. This is a part-time 20 hour per week contract position available to start as soon as possible. There is a possibility of the position becoming a full-time staff member with additional responsibilities in the future. While some work will take place during the regular business day, work on weeknights and weekends will also be necessary. Some travel, primarily to nearby states, is required. For more information, see our announcement on the RESULTS website. Strong preference will be given to people who live in New England. Interested applicants should send a cover letter, resume and short writing sample to Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) by December 20, 2013.

For updates on all our U.S. Poverty Campaigns, see our U.S. Poverty Campaigns Summary on the RESULTS website.


RESULTS Activity Calendar

(See a complete calendar on the RESULTS website)

Upcoming Congressional Recesses: House: December 13 – January 6; January 20-24; Senate: December (no date set) – January 5; January 20-24. Request face-to-face meetings.

Tuesday, December 17: RESULTS U.S. Poverty Free Agents Call, 9:00 pm ET, (443) 453-0034, passcode 703096.

Wednesday, December 18: RESULTS 2014 U.S. Poverty Campaigns webinar, 9:00 pm ET. Go to http://fuze.me/22230495 to join the webinar and dial (855) 346-3893, meeting number 22230495#, for the audio.

Wednesday, December 25 – Wednesday, January 1: All RESULTS offices closed for the holidays. Note than many RESULTS Staff will be on vacation beginning December 23.

Wednesday, January 8: RESULTS Introductory Call, 9:00 pm ET. Register for this or another Intro Call at http://www.results.org/take_action/become_a_results_activist/.

Saturday, January 11: RESULTS U.S. Poverty National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET. Listen to previous conference calls online.

Saturday, June 21 - Tuesday, June 24: RESULTS International Conference, Washington, DC. More details soon.


RESULTS Contact Information

Main Office: (p) (202) 783-7100, (f) (202) 466-1397, 1101 15th St NW, Suite 1200, Washington, DC 20005. If mailing a donation to our DC office, please address the envelope to the attention of Cynthia Stancil.

RESULTS U.S. Poverty Legislative and Grassroots Support Staff:

The RESULTS U.S. Poverty Update is sent out every Tuesday via email to RESULTS volunteers and allies all over the country. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our U.S. poverty campaigns.