U.S. Poverty Weekly Update October 1, 2013
New and Urgent in This Week's Update (Two-Ten-Twenty Actions)
Latest from Washington, DC
Last week it was the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), now it’s the entire government. It seems that members of Congress, particularly in the House, are bound and determined to play political Russian roulette by threatening deep cuts to the safety net, the Affordable Care Act, a government shutdown, and a worldwide financial crisis to get what they want. Today’s shutdown of the government is not a game. Cutting of billions in government funding affects real people (see below for details). And even if the shutdown is resolved quickly, the reprieve will only be temporary. This “hostage-taking” governance is likely to return later this month when the debt ceiling needs to be raised and again when the next shutdown approaches. This has got to stop!
TAKE ACTION: Take two minutes to pen a strongly worded letter to the editor publicly telling your members of Congress to stop posturing and start governing. Tell readers that these political games hurt real people, in particular those living in poverty. Copy and paste the sample letter below in an e-mail to your local paper (find contacts in our Media Guide) or draft your own. Be sure to mention your members of Congress by name.
The House of Representatives is at it again. Less than two weeks after passing a proposal to kick 4 million people off SNAP (formerly food stamps), they are again punishing America’s low-income families by forcing us into a government shutdown. Because of their actions, 8 million infants, children, and young mothers needing food assistance will find their local WIC offices closed today. Head Start kids who were lucky enough to survive sequestration cuts could now see their classrooms close and their teachers laid off. What is their ransom? End or delay the Affordable Care Act, a law which will help millions of low-income people get much-needed health coverage. And this is only round one. When we hit the debt ceiling later this month, House leaders are likely to demand even deeper cuts to the safety net in exchange for avoiding a global economic catastrophe. It is time to stop this ridiculous and harmful charade. Actions have consequences and real people are hurting. I urge Rep. _______________ to tell House leaders end this political hostage-taking and work with the Senate and President Obama to strengthen services that help children and families rise out of poverty.
No one knows how long the current government shutdown will last. It could take a few hours, a few days, or weeks. However, when it is resolved, it is likely to be temporary, setting the stage for another fight in a few weeks or months. Eventually, Congress will have to pass a spending bill or bills for the FY 2014 budget. That funding includes money for Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance. The programs have already taken a serious hit because of sequestration – 57,000 Head Start students can no longer get services and 1.3 million classroom hours have been lost. When Congress does pass spending for FY 2014, we must ensure that these important programs are protected.
In July, the Senate Appropriations Committee passed increases in Head Start and child care funding for 2014:
RESULTS strongly supports these funding levels. It is important that you let your members of Congress know that you do as well. While securing these levels will be a challenge, voicing your support for new investments in early childhood services will help ensure that these programs are at the very least protected in the final 2014 spending bill(s).
TAKE ACTION: Take ten minutes to e-mail your members of Congress in support of new investments in early childhood services. Urge them to support the FY2014 spending levels for Head Start, Early Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant passed by Senate appropriators this summer. Use our online e-mail alert to send your message today.
Got Twenty Minutes? Generate a Powerful Op-ed or Editorial about Poverty and SNAP (October Action preview)
As the House and Senate fight over when to fund the federal government, it is important to note that not every program will be impacted by the shutdown. For example, SNAP benefits will continue to be paid, at least for the short term. However, there is little solace in that fact. SNAP is still very much a target in Congress and, at some point this fall, it will be dealt with directly. We already know what happened on September 19, when the House passed $40 billion in cuts to SNAP. Those cuts are expected to be part of Farm Bill negotiations in the coming weeks, but that’s not the only threat. If House leaders insist on negotiating an increase in the “debt ceiling” (something President Obama is refusing to do), one of their demands could be deeper cuts to SNAP.
We must remain vigilant in our work to protect SNAP. If we let up now, it gives opponents an opening to pass something unacceptable. Therefore, in October, we are going to continue the phenomenal media outreach RESULTS volunteers have accomplished so far this year. In 2013, you’ve had 95 U.S. poverty-focused media pieces published around the country. That is fantastic! Your media success is one of the reasons these SNAP votes in the House have been so close. Now as we hit the home stretch, up the pressure by working to get SNAP op-eds and editorials published in your local papers.
We’ve had great success with letters to the editor this year (81 so far), but it’s important to remember how powerful the op-ed and editorial are. Op-eds give you a more prominent presence in the paper and the chance to highlight additional data, stories, and arguments that are too long for LTEs. For example, see this amazing graph from Feeding America, basically showing that food banks around the country would have to double the number of meals served to make up for the looming SNAP cuts (the end of the ARRA boost plus the House cuts). This is a perfect comparison for an op-ed. An editorial, meanwhile, is important because it has the backing of the newspaper as an organization (as opposed to just one person’s opinion). In addition, when a newspaper takes a stand in an editorial, they usually stick by it and write about it on numerous occasions. This month, take your media outreach to the next level this month and work to get an op-ed or editorial published about protecting SNAP. The October Action (available later this week) will have helpful tips on how to do this.
TAKE ACTION: Take twenty minutes to draft an op-ed to your local paper about protecting SNAP or start drafting a laser talk to make a pitch to your local paper for an editorial about protecting SNAP. For inspiration and guidance, see this great op-ed from RESULTS Baltimore volunteer Jami-Lin Williams, which got republished in New Mexico a few weeks ago. Use the recently released local poverty data to highlight the importance of protecting SNAP (note: If you are submitting something this week, use language from our draft LTE above to incorporate into your piece).
Please contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) or Jos Linn ([email protected]) for help with your media outreach. As always, if you are pressed for time this week, you can send a letter to the editor about SNAP using our online LTE alert.
At midnight last night, the federal government officially shut down. Because Congress has yet to pass spending bills for FY 2014 (which begins today), many government services are now closed. Critical services such as national defense, law enforcement, and air traffic control will be unaffected. Social Security checks, Medicare and Medicaid coverage, and SNAP benefits will continue to be paid (funding for these programs have already been allocated in other legislation). However, many other services are severely impacted, especially those helping low-income Americans. The Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), which provides food assistance to more than 8 million infants, children, young mothers, and pregnant women each month, has no money for administration and thus benefits will stop (unless states pick up the slack). In addition, Head Start classrooms could also begin to close and/or staff could be laid off (depending on how long the shutdown lasts).
Also, 800,000 to 1 million federal employees are expected to be furloughed. These are people who have mortgages, car loans, grocery bills, and other expenses just like everyone else. They will not get paid until the shutdown is over, thus impacting their ability to support their families and possibly damaging their credit rating. With spending by these employees and a large part of the government no longer happening, economic growth will slow, thus hurting the economy. For a good overview of what the government shutdown means for you, see this analysis from USA Today. Meanwhile, members of Congress will continue to get paid (although their staff will be furloughed).
How did we get here? There are lots of factors (constant delays in the appropriations process, heightened partisanship in Congress, etc.) but many observers believe that House leadership's insistence on defunding or delaying implementation of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) is causing the current stalemate. House leaders want any temporary spending bill to keep the government running (called a continuing resolution or “CR”) to include major changes to the ACA. The Senate has repeatedly refused to consider these changes and President Obama has vowed to veto any such changes if passed. The Senate has instead proposed a six week “clean CR” that maintains funding for the federal government at current levels through November 15, thus giving Congress time to negotiate final spending for FY 2104. The Senate CR maintains the spending cuts from sequestration, a compromise by the Senate (the Senate’s proposed FY 2014 budget ends sequestration). House leaders disagree. They want the lower spending levels and the ACA changes, and are refusing to bring the Senate’s clean CR up for a vote (likely because it would pass with support from Democrats and moderate Republicans).
TAKE ACTION: Because no one is in congressional offices today to answer phones or reply to e-mails, send a letter to the editor publicly telling your members of Congress that their political games are hurting real people. Use the sample letter in our Two Minute section above or draft your own and submit it today.
Welcome Orange County! RESULTS volunteers in Orange County, CA completed their new group training last week and are now an official RESULTS group. We welcome their passion and commitment and look for great things from them. Congratulations to the OC!
We are pressing forward to expand our coverage even more. Following her successful group start in Albuquerque, RESULTS Organizer Myrdin Thompson is traveling to Lexington, KY this Saturday to start a new group in the Bluegrass state. The meeting is Saturday, October 5 at 4:00 pm at the Lexington Public Library – Beaumont Branch, 3080 Fieldstone Way, Lexington, KY. If you know people in central Kentucky, please invite them to come. Learn more by contacting Myrdin at [email protected].
This past weekend, Zahara Heckscher, our New England Organizer, was working to start new RESULTS groups in Maine and New Hampshire. She was in New Hampshire for an event with Nobel Prize winner Muhammad Yunus and has also been meeting with other allies and potential activists. If you know people in Maine and New Hampshire who might be interested in getting involved, please contact Zahara so she can connect with them on her next trip to the area ([email protected] or (202) 489-8908).
RESULTS is also presenting at upcoming conferences to generate more interest in our work. This weekend, Director of U.S. Poverty Campaigns Meredith Dodson is traveling to Chapel Hill, NC to present at the Resolve to Fight Poverty Conference and meeting with local activists. Also, Myrdin will be presenting at the Fall Bonner Network Conference in Memphis, TN, October 18-20. She will also be meeting with local activists. For details about these events, please contact Meredith or Myrdin.
Finally, Jos Linn will be traveling to Big Sky Country October 9-12 to meet with our advocates in Whitefish. MT. They are holding an outreach event on Thursday, October 10 at 6:30pm at 133 Mallard Loop in Whitefish. Contact Jos ([email protected]) for more details. You can also RSVP via Facebook.
If you know people in these or other areas of the country and would like to connect them to RESULTS, please contact Meredith Dodson or Jos Linn. You can also invite them to one of our bi-monthly RESULTS Introductory Calls, which are designed to inspire new people to get involved. The next RESULTS Intro Call is next Wednesday, October 9 at 9:00 pm ET. Register for this or another upcoming call at www.tinyurl.com/RESULTSMeetandGreet.
Affordable Care Act Exchanges Open Today. Despite the government shutdown, today marks an important day for the future of U.S. health care. The Affordable Care Act, passed in 2010, opens its online insurance exchanges today, which are unaffected by the government shutdown. These exchanges allow persons without insurance to search and compare plans to buy affordable health insurance coverage. In addition, people with lower incomes could qualify for subsidies to help purchase insurance. While this plan is not as comprehensive as a national health program which RESULTS supports, it is still projected to help 7 million people who could not get insurance before today now get coverage. Even more will get coverage when the ACA’s Medicaid expansion begins in January. To learn more about the exchanges work and how to compare policies, go to https://www.healthcare.gov/.
Despite Shutdown, Advocates Press On for Early Childhood Investments. RESULTS’ Meredith Dodson is spending all day at a meeting with early childhood advocates sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund to strategize how to protect and expand our national investments in early childhood services. See this video from Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke on the importance of early learning to our economy. Also, tomorrow, October 2 at 10:00 am ET, the National Head Start Association (NHSA) is holding a rally on the U.S. Capitol Grounds, gathering hundreds of Head Start teachers, administrators and families from around the country to call on Congress to end the sequester. More than 57,000 children lost access to Head Start this school year due to sequestration. Head Start champions will gather in Washington to send a clear message: increased investment in America’s vulnerable children is the only way to fortify the American Dream for the future. Use our online e-mail alert to send your message today about protecting Head Start and child care services.
How can you help raise resources for RESULTS without hosting an event? Any individual or group can host an online fundraiser. Online fundraising with RESULTS has never been easier. Here are three ways partners can engage with RESULTS fundraising this fall without changing out of your comfy clothes. Contact Cindy Levin at [email protected] for help in planning your event.
(See a complete calendar on the RESULTS website)
Upcoming Congressional Recesses: Senate: October 14-18. Request face-to-face meetings.
Saturday, September 28 – Tuesday, October 1: RESULTS New England Organizer in New Hampshire and Maine. Contact her at [email protected] to connect with her while she is there.
Saturday, October 5. RESULTS Lexington (KY) Outreach Meeting, 4:00 pm ET. Lexington Public Library – Beaumont Branch, 3080 Fieldstone Way, Lexington, KY. Contact Myrdin Thompson ([email protected]) for details.
Wednesday, October 9: RESULTS Introductory Call, 9:00 pm ET. Register for this or another Intro Call at www.tinyurl.com/RESULTSMeetandGreet/.
Saturday, October 12: RESULTS U.S. Poverty National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET. Listen to previous conference calls online.
Tuesday, October 15: RESULTS U.S. Poverty Free Agents Call, 9:00 pm ET. (218) 486-1611, passcode RESULTS (7378587, plus #).
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.