U.S. Poverty Weekly Update July 29, 2014
New and Urgent in This Week's Update
Latest from Washington, DC
Last week, 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 last week, reiterating our support for the CTC and EITC for low-income families following hundreds of meetings with Congressional offices, and those actions demonstrated powerful support for tax credits for low-income working families
. The Senate is not expected to move forward with H.R. 4935, and your advocacy sent 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.
TAKE ACTION: Take two minutes to check to see how your member of Congress voted on H.R. 4935 and then use our online alert to send a letter to the editor to your local paper. Check to see how your member of Congress voted on the bill and then tailor your letter accordingly. If your member of Congress voted against the bill, thank him/her and urge action on the expiring CTC and EITC improvements. If he/she voted for the bill, express your disappointment in his/her support of more tax cuts for the wealthy while ignoring the needs of working families. If and when you get published, please contact Jos Linn ([email protected]) so we can celebrate your success.
Got Ten Minutes? Reach Out to “Real Experts” on Poverty to Invite Them to Join August 5 Training Call and District Lobby Meetings (July Action)
As you work to set up face-to-face meetings in August per the July Action, remember that our focus for this action is not merely setting up meetings. It also includes making these meetings powerful and memorable. By including people who know poverty firsthand in your meetings, you bring a reality to the issue that facts and figures alone cannot do. As we learned last week, key figures in Congress are making proposals to address poverty in America. These policies could be good or bad for Americans living in poverty.
Decisions of such importance should not be made without the input of the people directly affected. By inviting people who know poverty in your community to your lobby meetings, you are the most important voices in this debate are being heard. Do members of Congress support tax cuts for corporations without hearing from the companies who will benefit? Do legislators propose gun safety legislation without hearing from the NRA? Do lawmakers vote to protect federal land without hearing from conservationists? Of course not. Why then should they not hear from people living in poverty when they’re making decisions about anti-poverty programs? And, stories can make a huge impact on policymakers – research shows that stories are up to 22 times more memorable than facts or figures alone.
Next week RESULTS and Circles USA are hosting a training call to help those directly impacted by poverty tell their story – this is a great opportunity to help those with expertise engage in your advocacy. This “Telling Your Story” training call will empower participants to tell their own story to then share with others. The training will be co-lead by RESULTS Director of U.S. Poverty Campaigns Meredith Dodson and LaNae Havens of Circles and RESULTS Albuquerque. LaNae spoke on our March National Conference Call and also spoke at the RESULTS International Conference last month. LaNae told us about telling her story of being a single mom without enough to make ends to Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM-1) last year. Rep. Lujan Grisham found it so moving, she told LaNae’s story in a House floor speech during the debate to protect SNAP. That’s what these stories can do. We hope you will join this empowering call. The training call is next Tuesday, August 5 at 9:00 pm ET. To participate, dial (712) 432-3100, passcode 761262.
TAKE ACTION: Take ten minutes to reach out to potential allies to include in your August lobby meetings. Seek out people who know poverty in your community and ask them to share their story, and join the August 5 training call for ideas of how to tell stories effectively. The July Action has tips to help you do this. Potential allies in your community can include Circles USA affiliates, Witnesses to Hunger, Community Action agencies, local Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs, food banks and food pantries, Head Start programs, faith communities, etc. All it takes is a phone call to get things started. Offer to visit and speak with someone in these agencies or have coffee with someone to tell them about your work with RESULTS and why you’d like them (or someone they know) to be a part of your August meetings. The worst that can happen is that they say no, so you try again with someone else. As LaNae Havens has said, it wasn’t until she was invited to a RESULTS lobby meeting did she truly understand the power she had to create change. Help others see that power in themselves too.
Got Twenty Minutes? Get those Face-to-Face Lobby Meetings in August (July Action)
Thank you to everyone who has already requests lobby meetings with your members of Congress during the August recess (if you haven’t requested a meeting yet, it’s not too late). With last week’s vote on expanding the Child Tax Credit for wealthy families and cutting it for low-income children, it is evident they need to hear from us. As we have often cited, face-to-face meetings from constituents are the number one way to influence members of Congress who are undecided on an issue, according to a survey of congressional staff by the Congressional Management Foundation.
But making the request is only the first step. While some offices are good about responding to requests after the first try, many others are not. These offices are inundated with e-mails and calls; it is understandable they some things would get overlooked. That’s why you have to follow up with the scheduler about your request. Keep pushing for those meetings and let’s make August the month where Congress truly understands that Americans care about ending poverty.
TAKE ACTION: Take twenty minutes to follow up with your House and Senate offices about your face-to-face meeting requests. Contact the scheduler for each office this week to see if and when you member of Congress can meet with your local RESULTS group during the August recess. If you have not made your meeting requests, use our downloadable meeting request letter or our online meeting request to make your requests today (see also our January 2012 Laser Talk for an example of a phone conversation with a scheduler). The July Action has tips to help with scheduling your meetings. If you need help with scheduling meetings, are having trouble getting a response, or need help with connecting with local “real experts” on poverty, please contact Jos Linn ([email protected]). Once you get a meeting scheduled, please contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) to strategize on specific lobby requests. As you prepare, use the materials on our RESULTS Conference Lobby Resources page to help you.
Last Thursday, July 24, House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan spoke at the American Enterprise Institute to introduce his new proposal, Expanding Opportunity in America. One key component of the proposal is to consolidate 11 different federal safety-net programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF, or welfare), housing assistance, Head Start and child care assistance, into a single block grant to states called an “Opportunity Grant.” States would have the flexibility of deciding how to spend the funds, as long as they were targeted at people living in poverty. States would be required to impose work requirements and time limits for people receiving assistance (excepting the elderly and disabled). Initially, this would be a pilot program that states could choose to opt into. The plan is deficit-neutral, so states would initially receive the same amount of funding as they receive now. The danger of this plan is that converting these funding sources into a block grant makes the funding more vulnerable to cuts over time and doesn’t allow it to grow to meet increased need during poor economic times. SNAP, which would make up the largest portion of the Opportunity Grant, is currently an entitlement program, meaning that everyone who is eligible receives benefits, even during recessions when a larger number of people become eligible. If the program were to become a block grant, there would be no guarantee that everyone who is in need would receive this critical benefit. Ryan’s proposal does include several options to allow resources to respond to states’ changing economies, but these options would not be implemented during the pilot program. For more on why the Opportunity Grant proposal would hurt low-income households, see the analysis by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
Ryan’s plan would also double the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) for childless workers and lower the eligibility age from 25 to 21. RESULTS supports the expansion of the EITC for childless workers; however, Ryan proposes to pay for this expansion by making the refundable portion of the Child Tax Credit unavailable for millions of low-income children in immigrant families, and by eliminating the Social Services Block Grant and several child nutrition programs. In contrast, President Obama’s proposal to expand the EITC for childless workers would be paid for by closing tax loopholes for corporations and wealthy individuals. See more on the EITC expansion proposal from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
In addition, Rep. Ryan highlighted the need to address the “cliff effect” in some anti-poverty programs, when benefits dramatically drop off with small increases in income. Unfortunately, Rep. Ryan does not propose additional resources to smooth out these cliffs; the cliff effect is particularly dramatic in many states in child care assistance and yet federal funding now only provides child care assistance for one of every seven eligible children, so states struggle to meet current demand much less the additional resources to support families as they transition out of poverty. To read Representative Ryan’s entire proposal, click here (pdf), and we urge you to also read the reactions of anti-poverty leaders including Witness to Hunger Tianna Gaines-Turner on the TalkPoverty.org blog.
At last month’s RESULTS/REF International Conference, RESULTS advocates shared individual state fact sheets with hundreds of members of Congress. These fact sheets contain information on poverty and hardship, as well as the impacts of successful programs the RESULTS supports. Thanks to the great work of our summer intern Jay Carroll, these fact sheets are now online and include new data on the impacts of proposed CTC reforms on low-income families.
TAKE ACTION: Follow up on your recent lobby meetings in Washington by contacting the aide responsible for the issue you discussed in your meeting to see if they have followed through on your requests. Share electronic copies of your state’s fact sheet and our (Economic Mobility Lobby Request (Word). Specifically, push aides to get your members of Congress to co-sponsor H.R. 769, H.R. 2116, and H.R. 2917, or S. 836, if they haven’t done so. And, push to make sure your members of Congress speak directly and/or write to House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Dave Camp and Ranking Member Sander Levin or Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch, urging them to help families save for the future by including innovative asset development strategies for low-income Americans such as the Financial Security Credit (FSC) in any tax reform legislation, and ensure families can meet their basic needs by protecting and strengthening tax credits for low-income Americans.
Finally, if you have not filled out a report for your recent lobby meetings, please take a few minutes fill out our online Lobby Report form at: http://tinyurl.com/LobbyReportForm. This information is important in keeping track on the progress of our issues.
Ready to be inspired? Want to get in touch with your personal power? Want to hear more about RESULTS from the beginning? Consider joining the book discussion of Reclaiming Our Democracy by Sam Daley-Harris, founder of RESULTS. Sam will be leading the conversation to help mark the 20th anniversary of this great book. The discussion series will be held August 13, 20, and 27 at 9:00 pm ET. We hope you can come to the entire series, but don't hesitate to attend any one of the sessions. Sign up to attend this inspiring series here. We look forward to a vibrant conversation!
Read Ron Haskins Interview about the EITC and CTC. As noted a few weeks ago, our friends at Tax Credits for Working Families have started a new blog called “Ideas from the Right” that focuses on conservative ideas regarding tax credits such as the EITC and CTC. Last week, they interviewed Ron Haskins of the Brookings Institution (who also participated in Paul Ryan’s poverty presentation last Thursday). In the interview, Haskins expressed some optimism in being able to enact beneficial changes to the EITC, including expanding it for workers without children in the home. Read the interview at the Tax Credits for Working Families website then send an e-mail to Congress urging them to protect and expand tax credits low-income Americans.
For updates on all our U.S. Poverty Campaigns, see our U.S. Poverty Campaigns Summary page on the RESULTS website.
Thanks to our Washington DC group for a great fundraiser on July 22! Don't forget that July 31 is the last day to take online donations for any current campaigns or events that are accepting donations online through events or friends and family. On August 1 we will be transitioning to a new platform and all current pages will go inactive. We will notify you when those pages are up and running again and you can again start setting up friends and family campaigns for the remainder of the year. Thank you in advance for your patience as we work to make it easier for you to collect online donations during your campaigns.
Last Week to Vote for Grassroots Board Members. This is the final week of voting for the new Grassroots Members of the RESULTS Board. We have two vacancies to fill this fall. Read about each nominee on the RESULTS website and then cast your vote at: https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/RESULTS2014. You can also send your vote to Jack McLaughlin at [email protected]. All active RESULTS volunteers are eligible to vote. Voting ends next Tuesday, August 5.
Please Fill Out the Lobby Report Form. If you have not filled out a report for your recent lobby meetings, please take a few minutes fill out our online Lobby Report form at: http://tinyurl.com/LobbyReportForm. This information is very important in our work so please take time to fill it out for each your meetings today.
(See a complete calendar on the RESULTS website)
Upcoming Congressional Recesses: House and Senate: August 4 – September 5. Request face-to-face meetings.
Tuesday, August 5: “Telling Your Story” Training Call, 9:00 pm ET. (712) 432-3100, passcode 761262.
Saturday, August 9: RESULTS U.S. Poverty National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET. Listen to previous conference calls online.
Wednesday, August 13: 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/.
Wednesdays August 13, 20, and 27: Reclaiming Our Democracy book discussion with Sam Daley-Harris, 9:00 pm ET. Sign up to attend here.
Tuesday, August 19: RESULTS U.S. Poverty Free Agents Calls, 1:00 pm ET and 9:00 pm ET. (443) 453-0034, passcode 703096.
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.