August 2011 U.S. Poverty Action

Use the August Recess to Meet with Members of Congress

RESULTS volunteers are focused this month on meeting with legislators and attending town hall meetings back home to protect investments in Head Start and child care. See below for talking points, and adapt our online template letter to request meetings. Once you get a meeting scheduled (or town hall date and time confirmed), please contact the RESULTS Domestic Staff to help you prepare.

Take Action: Schedule Face-to-Face Meetings with Your Representative and Senators during the August Recess

  1. Request meetings with both your senators and your representative for the August recess.
  2. Find contact information for your member of Congress’ DC or district office through the RESULTS website. You can also dial directly to the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s or senator’s office. Once connected, ask for the scheduler. See our August Laser Talk for an example conversation with the scheduler.
  3. Do your research on Head Start and child care and your member of Congress before your face to face meeting. Check in with RESULTS staff to learn about the most strategic points to discuss during your meetings. Be sure to practice your meeting with your group and assign which roles each person will take during the meeting.
  4. During the meeting, introduce yourself, as a RESULTS activist and a constituent committed to making sure at-risk children and their families get the quality, affordable early childhood services they deserve.
  5. Share a story from your recent Head Start site visit about the benefits these programs bring to your legislator’s state or district. You can also share statistics about how investments in Head Start and child care programs have helped children and families in your state in the last few years.
  6. Ask that your member of Congress to speak directly to Senate Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Ranking Member Richard Shelby (R-AL) or House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3), urging them to:
    • Allocate a $1.2 billion funding increase for Child Care Development Block Grant in FY 2012
    • Allocate a total allotment of $8.1 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start in FY 2012
  7. These investments will help maintain current service levels for these important programs.
  8. Also let your members of Congress know that while you are glad we avoided a default on our debt, you are you are very frustrated with the final bill passed. Specifically, you are very disappointed that deal’s “cuts only” approach forces middle class and working Americans to sacrifice while the wealthy and big corporations are asked to sacrifice nothing. Tell them you expect the new “Super Committee” to take a balanced approach with at least 50 percent of the savings coming from new revenue.
  9. Thank them for their time.

Refer to our Face-to-Face Meeting Activist Milestone for further information on preparing for face to face meetings, as well as tips on ensuring a successful meeting. Make sure to also follow up with your member of Congress.

Take Action: Attend Town Hall Meetings during the August Recess

  1. Find out where your member of congress is by visiting congressional calendars and websites, calling the local office, and checking local media sources.
  2. Prepare your questions ahead of time. Make sure your questions are concise, but also descriptive. See our August Laser Talk for an example of a question about early childhood funding. Also, contact RESULTS staff for guidance on the best questions to ask of your specific legislators.
  3. Go to the town hall in a group, if possible. Work together sitting in different places at the event. Wear conspicuous clothing and when it is time for question, raise your hand first, fast, and high. Also, make sure you designate somebody as a note-taker as to accurately record the response you get.
  4. If you do not get called on for a question, find the exit your legislator will use and stake it out before he/she leaves. Put out your hand to shake theirs and ask your question then. You can also seek out their staff at the event and talk to them about your issue, as well as leave information about your request.

Refer to our Town Hall Activist Milestone for more information on asking questions at town hall meetings, as well as suggestions for how to follow up with the media, speakers, and staff after the event.

Budget/Debt Ceiling Update

Just before the summer recess, both the House and Senate passed the Budget Control Act of 2011. This bill resolved the months-long debate over raising the debt ceiling and reducing the deficit. The bill does give the president the authority to raise the debt ceiling through 2012 (in 3 separate increments). Unfortunately, Congress abandoned any balance to offset the increase, relying exclusively on spending cuts (at least in the short-term) to reduce the deficit. Domestic discretionary programs will see $1 trillion in cuts over the next decade. For FY 2012, this means about $7 billion in cuts. While this amount does include cuts to defense, it also means that important programs like Head Start and child care face an uphill funding battle in FY 2012 and beyond. RESULTS and our allies were able to protect Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) from deep cuts in FY 2011; we will need the same energy and determination to protect these programs in FY 2012.

In addition to the domestic discretionary cuts, the Budget Control Act also creates a new “Super Committee” that must find at least another $1.2 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving. Because discretionary funding has seen so many cuts this year, they will have to look elsewhere to find the bulk of those savings. This means that entitlement programs like Medicaid, SNAP could be targeted, as well as tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). While the committee may also raise revenue as part of their recommendations, we can see from this most recent debate that House Republicans will vehemently oppose any new revenue, thus putting more pressure to make deeper spending cuts. If the Super Committee fails to reach agreement, automatic across-the-board cuts will begin in January 2013. Fortunately, many low-income entitlement programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and EITC and the CTC will be exempt if this contingency occurs.

Head Start/Child Care Update

Now that the debt ceiling debate is over, attention turns to the FY 2012 budget. As mentioned above, domestic discretionary programs will see $7 billion in cuts compared to FY 2011. Remember that FY 2011 already cut these programs by more than $30 billion. The House and Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittees will be holding hearings to mark-up their budgets after Labor Day. This means that August will be a key time to speak with your members of Congress in both the House and the Senate while they are back home for the summer recess. Members of Congress must know their constituents want Head Start, Early Head Start, and CCDBG protected from unnecessary cuts.

Recently, RESULTS highlighted some new research on the effectiveness of Head Start. A study was done by the American Psychological Association exploring the impact of Head Start compared to various other early childhood care settings. Compared to parental care or other non-parental care, Head Start, along with prekindergarten and center-based care, was associated with higher levels of cognitive development at ages three and give. However, compared to parental-care, prekindergarten, and center-based care Head Start was is associated with increased social competence and reduced attention problems. This study reflects the comprehensive nature of Head Start programs, as opposed to merely a preschool program. This is important information to share with your members of Congress.

The Importance of Face-to-Face interactions

This month we are focusing on the importance of in-person contact with legislators. This graph from the Congressional Management Foundation based on a survey of congressional staff shows that most members of congress rate that in-person visits and contact with constituents as most influential.

Unlike letters, e-mails, or phone calls, in-person contact forces representatives to respond to issues directly. They also provide you, the constituent, the chance to develop a more personal relationship with your member and/or their staff. You can enhance this by making your meetings conversational and keeping a 50/50 balance between speaking and listening. This will allow you not only to speak on issues important to RESULTS, but will also give you a chance to learn valuable information about your representatives and their position on our issues.