February 2012 U.S. Poverty Action

Set Up Face-to-Face Meetings with Members of Congress

In-Person Lobby Meetings Make an Impact

RESULTS has long promoted face-to-face visits between local constituents and members of Congress as the most effective way to build the political will for change. 

A recent poll of more than 250 congressional staff by the Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) confirms that position confirms the efficacy of this strategy. CMF asked what kinds of contact make the biggest impact on members of Congress, especially when they have not made up their mind on an issue. Respondents overwhelmingly said that in-person visits from constituents made the biggest difference; 97 percent for visits to DC offices and 94 percent for visits to district offices. The poll also found that constituents who make an effort to personally contact members of Congress are more influential than paid lobbyists and news editors.

Now is a great time to put in those requests for face-to-face meeting with your members of Congress. The outcome of our work this year on the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC), Saver’s Bonus, Head Start, and Child Care will not be decided until after the November elections. Therefore, laying the groundwork early for these policies will help up build the momentum when decisions are finally made. Use the first box below to help contact the schedulers for your senators and representatives to set up your meetings; use the second box to prepare your remarks during the meeting itself as a part of planning the meeting (see our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress, which includes a planning guide). Note: if you only have a few minutes and are looking for some quick actions you can take with members of Congress, personalize one of our Online Action Alerts and sign up for our Action Network.

Call the Scheduler to Set Up a Meeting in February

  1. Request your meeting now to increase the likelihood of getting a meeting during one of the recesses.
  2. Find contact information for your member of Congress’ DC or district office through the RESULTS website. You can find their Washington DC scheduler’s name under the “Staff” tab. You can also dial directly to the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s or senator’s office.
  3. Before calling, prepare what to say (see below).
  4. Once connected to the office, ask for the scheduler. Be ready to leave a succinct voicemail.
  5.  Use the following conversation as a template for the conversation with the scheduler: Hi, my name is _________________, and I am a constituent of Rep./Sen. _________________ from _________________. I am also a volunteer with RESULTS, a grassroots group working to end hunger and poverty. RESULTS has a proven track record of working with legislators from all backgrounds to support smart and cost-effective policies to break the cycle of poverty. I know that Rep./Sen. _________________ values input from constituents on the issues that matter to us. With that in mind, our local RESULTS group would like to schedule meeting with Rep./Sen.______________ while he/she is still home this month. Would it be possible to set that up today? There will be at least ____ of us at the meeting and we would like to discuss tax policies that break the cycle of poverty and investments in early childhood development programs. What times would he be available to meet?
  6. Be sure to note the name of the scheduler and thank that person for their assistance. If you don’t get a firm answer when you call, mention when you’ll be following up. Also, if the member of Congress has no time to meet this month, ask to schedule a meeting the next time he/she is back home.

For additional tips on how to schedule your face-to-face meeting, check out our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress, which includes a sample letter to the scheduler. Some offices may ask for a written request; ask the scheduler if you can e-mail the request.

Talking Points: Discuss RESULTS 2012 Campaigns in Your Lobby Meetings

Economic Opportunity for All: Low-income Tax Credits

  1. Tell your member of Congress that as a RESULTS volunteer, you support policies that help low-income families lift and keep themselves out of poverty.
  2. Remind them that the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit are very effective at poverty reduction; in 2010, these credits lifted 9.3 million people out of poverty, many of them children.
  3. These credits are also good for the economy. Recipients of the EITC and CTC tend to spend these credits quickly and locally, which helps their communities. Economists estimate that for every one dollar in EITC refunds, $1.50 to $2.00 in economic activity is created.
  4. Inform them that in 2009, Congress made long-overdue improvements to the EITC and CTC. For the EITC, they increased the credit for larger families and reduced the marriage penalty for the credit, while the CTC was expanded so that lower-income working parents could claim it. These changes alone lifted 1.6 million out of poverty in 2010.
  5. Tell them that, unfortunately, these improvements will expire at the end of this year. If Congress does not extend them, millions of children and families will be put at risk of falling back or deeper into poverty.
  6. Ask your members of Congress to speak to House Ways and Means Chairman Dave Camp (R-MI-4) and Ranking Member Sander Levin (D-MI-12) or Senate Finance Committee Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and Ranking Member Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and urge them to protect America’s working families by making the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent, and protecting low-income taxpayers’ access to EITC and CTC in any deficit reduction package. 

Economic Opportunity for All: Asset Development

  1. Tell your member of Congress that as a RESULTS volunteer, you also support policies that help low-income build savings and assets because they ensure economic mobility – increasing the odds that the next generation will be better off than their parents. 
  2. Savings helps families build the savings they need to weather economic emergencies and break the cycle of poverty. It especially has a profound impact on children — children with a savings account in their name are six times more likely to attend college than those who don’t.
  3. RESULTS supports the Saver’s Bonus as an innovative way to help families build savings. It works by letting low-income families deposit all or part of the tax refund into a matched savings account right on their tax return. Because of the EITC and CTC, tax time is a perfect opportunity for households to start saving. A similar pilot program called $aveNYC has been very successful in New York City and now other cities as $aveUSA.
  4. Ask your members of Congress that to also speak to House Ways and Means and Senate Finance Committee leaders about the Saver’s Bonus and to include the Bonus in any upcoming tax reform legislation.

Early Childhood Development: Head Start and Child Care

  1. Tell your member of Congress that RESULTS is also focused on the urgent need to protect children enrolled in Head Start and child care programs.
  2. Inform them that Head Start and child care enable low-income parents to access reliable child care while they work and provide at-risk children with early learning experiences needed for success in school & life.
  3. Also tell them that society benefits from these programs through reduced need for special education and remediation, better health outcomes, reduced need for social services, lower criminal justice costs, and increased self-sufficiency and productivity among families. These programs also support thousands of jobs around the country.
  4. Express that you are pleased that Congress realized the merit of early learning programs by protecting Head Start and child care from deep cuts in 2011. However, remind them that only half of all eligible children can access Head Start services, only 1 in 20 eligible children can get into Early Head Start, and only 1 in 7 children and their families can get child care assistance.
  5. Remind elected officials that Head Start and child care programs are smart investments for America’s future and should be strengthened not cut. Ask your senators and representative to urge Senate Labor-HHS Subcommittee Chairmen Tom Harkin (D-IA) and ranking member Richard Shelby (R-AL) or House Labor-HHS Chairman Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) and Ranking Member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) to fund Head Start, Early Head Start and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) so all children currently enrolled continue to be able to access these services in FY 2013.

We will discuss best practices for in-district lobby meetings on the RESULTS February 2011 National Conference Call — Saturday, February 11, 2012 at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.