July 2010 U.S. Poverty Action

Create Champions for Protecting the EITC and CTC

Keep Pushing Members of Congress to Take a Strong Stand in Favor of Working Families

Whether your group lobbied members of Congress in Washington, back home, or have not yet gotten a chance to meet with them face-to-face, this is the key time for members of Congress to support, lead on, or champion permanent extensions the 2009 Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) provisions. In your follow up conversations with members of Congress and their staff, be sure to highlight the following:

  1. Tell them that RESULTS groups across the country are lobbying Congress to expand the EITC and CTC. These low-income tax credits are helping keep millions of Americans out of poverty, including millions of children. You can find district-level data for EITC on the Brookings Institute’s website and you can find state level data on the CTC on the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities’ (CBPP) website.
  2. Explain that these tax credits are vital for low-income families — they encourage work, promote responsibility, and maintain family stability.
  3. Use a story from your VITA outreach in May to illustrate how these tax credits are helping people in your home state and/or congressional district. Supplement that information with any data you obtained from your VITA site coordinator on how much EITC and CTC money the VITA programs generates in your community; money that is often spent immediately thus creating important economic activity.
  4. Remind your member of Congress that ARRA expanded the EITC and CTC; these expansions have helped 7 million low-income Americans.
  5. If your VITA coordinator provided stories or data on how much benefit these changes have created, please share it. If not, tell them that a minimum wage family with two children working full-time currently receives a Child Tax Credit of about $1,750. If Congress does not act to extend the current levels, that family’s CTC will drop to $250, a $1,500 loss, a significant blow to their already limited budget.
  6. Remind them that time is running out to make these important changes. Congress must act before the election to enact these extensions otherwise they risk getting overlooked or watered down in election-year politics.
  7. Urge your member of Congress to tell House leadership (Representatives Sander Levin and Dave Camp of the Ways and Means Committee, and Speaker Nancy Pelosi) and Senate leadership (Senators Max Baucus and Chuck Grassley of the Senate Finance Committee, and Majority Leader Harry Reid) to make sure that the 2009 ARRA provisions on the EITC and CTC are made permanent before they expire at the end of 2010.
  8. Thank them for their time and ask them how and when you can follow up to find out what House or Senate leadership said.

Persistent Follow-Up Is Essential to Our Success

On June 22, RESULTS activists from around the nation and world gathered in Washington DC to urge Congress to make tax policy work for low-income families. Those of you who came did an amazing job in your meetings with senators, representatives, and their congressional staff pushing them to protect the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Congress now only has about seven weeks of work time scheduled before the November election. If these tax issues are not resolved before then, our goals will be much harder to accomplish after the election. Therefore, following up now from our contacts with congressional offices over the last few months is very important. Without a strong push, our issues face getting drowned out. Here are the most effective ways you can follow up:

Get face-to-face with your member of Congress (MoCs) during the July 4 recess. Obviously, talking to MoCs is the best way to know where they stand on our issues and to urge further action. See our June Action for more information about face-to-face meetings. If a sit down face-to-face meeting is not possible, asking them questions at public appearances and getting them on the record on our issues is a good alternative.

Meet with or make a phone call to tax aides in Washington, DC. Contacting aides in congressional offices in Washington is the next best thing to meeting face-to-face with your representative or senator. These folks in many ways are the gatekeepers and making the tax aide a champion for our issue can go a long way in getting these issues front and center. Here are a few tips for following up with congressional aides.

  • To find out who the appropriate tax aide is, see our Elected Officials page on the RESULTS website (aides are listed under the “Staff” tab once you find your MoC). You can also call your MoC’s office and ask for the person who works on tax policy, specifically low-income tax credits.
  • When you are speaking with the aide, introduce yourself and mention that you are a volunteer with RESULTS. Ask if they are familiar with RESULTS and briefly explain who we are if they don’t.
  • Mention that you are following up from a previous contact with their office (letter, e-mail, phone call, face-to-face meeting) about the EITC and CTC. If you received a correspondence back from your previous contact, be sure to thank them and use the information in that correspondence to begin the conversation. For example, if your senator wants all the Bush tax cuts extended, you could say “In the letter I received, I was pleased to see that the senator favors extending tax provisions that help working families. I would like to talk about some specific provisions that are important to low-income families, the EITC and Child Tax Credit. . . .”
  • Use the talking points in the box above to point out the benefits of the EITC and CTC.
  • If you do not know already, ask the aide where his/her boss stands specifically on making the 2009 ARRA changes to the EITC and CTC permanent.
  • If they are in favor of extending these provisions, ask the aide if his/her boss would be willing to talk to the House or Senate leadership listed above about making these provisions permanent. In addition, ask if they aide him/herself will contact the House Ways and Means or Senate Finance staff to discuss this issue.
  • Tell the aide that you will follow up with him/her to see what happened in those conversations and ask when it would be convenient for you to do so. Also, thank the aide for taking time to speak with you.

Success Also Comes from Having Concrete Goals

RESULTS needs to have senators and representatives we can count on to go the extra mile to ensure these expansions become permanent. In the wake of the RESULTS International Conference and the great lobbying efforts by RESULTS groups back home, we have set the following immediate advocacy goals in pushing Congress to protect the EITC and CTC:

HOUSE GOAL: We want at least ten confirmed direct conversations between representatives and House Ways and Means Chairman Sander Levin (D-MI-12) and/or Ranking Member Dave Camp (R-MI-4) and at least twenty letters sent to Reps. Levin and Camp or staff to staff contacts between your MoC’s tax staff and House Ways and Means Committee staff.

SENATE GOAL: We want at least six confirmed direct conversations between senators and Senate Finance Chairman Max Baucus (D-MT) and/or Ranking Members Charles Grassley (R-IA) and at last fifteen letters sent to Sens. Baucus and Grassley or staff to staff contacts between your MoC’s tax staff and Senate Finance Committee staff.

How do we accomplish these goals? Good, persistent follow up. If we do not follow up from those meetings with staff and schedule meetings back home (especially with members of Congress who were not contacted on Lobby Day), our influence will quickly fade. As one congressional staffperson said at the conference, it is those constituents who are in regular contact with the congressional offices who get the most attention.

Do you know where your members stand? And do you know how hard they will push for these? Use these above strategies to find out. If you know their position already, please let our Domestic team know so we can identify our core Congressional Team on this. Contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected], (202) 783-7100 x116) on what you learn asap.

To support you, we have wealth of information available, including state a new Q & A to address questions, objections, and concerns, in our Domestic Legislative Handbook and the Economic Opportunity Power Point Presentation created for the International Conference. Please use them when preparing for your meetings and phone calls. See also our Champion Scale to help identify where your members of Congress stand on our issues and how to take them to the next level.

Always remember that it is you that make this work possible. Thank you for your hard work and dedication to creating a poverty-free world.

We will hear highlights about this year’s International Conference and the latest on low-income tax credits on the July 2010 National Conference Call — Saturday, July 10, at 2 pm ET (note different time!). To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.