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October 2011 U.S. Poverty Action

Urge Your Communities to Tell Congress to Protect Those in Poverty

Our action this month is two-fold: 1. each RESULTS activist weighs in with members of Congress directly as Congress’ work on a deficit reduction deal continues, and 2. as a group, focusing on strengthening your group and coalition building, engaging others in our campaign work this fall. In other words, let’s focus on building a bigger movement to end poverty!

TAKE ACTION ON NOVEMBER 1: Join Social Media Day of Action to Urge Congress to Protect Low-income Americans in Budget Talks! See our RESULTS Blog post or Weekly Update on how you can participate.

Take Action! Tell Congress to Protect Our Most Vulnerable in Deficit Reduction

Tailor these talking points for your calls, letters and direct conversations with members of Congress and their staff this month, and share with others to help them also be in action, including during the SAVE (Strengthening America’s Values and Economy for All) for All Campaign National Call-In Days October 4–5 using this toll-free line: (888) 907-1485.

  1. Introduce yourself to your representative or senator as a constituent and as a RESULTS volunteer. Tell them you are focused on the needs of low-income children and families in the budget debate.
  2. Relate a personal story to demonstrate why you care about those who are most vulnerable in our society (e.g. personal experience with poverty, recent visit to local Head Start center or food bank, faith background as motivation).
  3. Explain your concerns about deficit reduction deals that slash government services. The recent Budget Control Act (debt ceiling law) relies on cuts alone to reduce the deficit and asks America’s wealthy to do nothing to fix our fiscal woes. It does, however, devastate the lives of millions of American families through arbitrary cuts to important programs.
  4. Ask your senators and representative to support a balanced approach to deficit reduction that protects low-income Americans and creates jobs.
  5. Specifically, urge them to talk with Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-NV) and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) and Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-8) urging them and the Super Committee to draft a deficit reduction plan that:
    • Protects low-income Americans and does not increase poverty. Low-income entitlement programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and Social Security, as well as critical anti-poverty discretionary spending, must be protected from cuts and restructuring (e.g. turning Medicaid and SNAP into block grants).
    • Includes significant new revenue. Any deficit reduction plan must rely at least as much on revenue increases as spending cuts. A cuts-only approach, like the recent Budget Control Act, serves only to hurt middle and low-income Americans while America’s most affluent sacrifice nothing.
    • Revives our economy and create jobs. The surest way to reduce current budget deficits is to get people back to work. Any plan that does not include proven strategies to create jobs is a plan doomed to fail.
  6. Thank them for their time and ask for specific feedback on their actions to influence the deficit reduction debate.

Super Committee to Decide Fate of U.S. Anti-Poverty Funding

On August 2, Congress passed Budget Control Act of 2011 (BCA). This act resolved the months-long stalemate over raising the federal debt ceiling allowing the U.S. to honor its debts. As a condition for raising the debt ceiling through the November 2012 election, the BCA mandates steep budget cuts. The first round of cuts totals $1 trillion, which begin in FY 2012 and come from discretionary spending (annually appropriated). These cuts put funding for programs like Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care assistance in serious jeopardy in the years to come. In addition, the BCA mandates that a new “Super Committee” of Congress (six Democrats, six Republicans) find at least another $1.2 trillion in cuts by Thanksgiving. The Super Committee has carte blanche to find these savings, through program cuts or restructuring, raising revenue, or a combination of both. If they fail, across the board budget cuts will begin in 2013. Fortunately, many low-income programs like Medicaid, CHIP, EITC, SNAP, school lunches and others are exempt from these automatic cuts. However, these programs enjoy no such exemption from the Super Committee’s work.

CBPP how public programs keep millions out of poverty

Despite claims from some lawmakers, low-income programs are doing what they are designed to do — keep people out of poverty. The graph at right from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities shows that without government assistance, millions more Americans would be low-income and fall below the poverty line. In both good and bad economic times, these programs pick up the slack when the “market” does not work. For example, the most recent U.S. Census data showed that in 2010, the percentage of people with private health coverage decreased yet the percentage of uninsured in the U.S. did not rise. This was due in part to programs like Medicaid and CHIP picking up the slack. And, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) lifted 5.4 million and SNAP (formerly the Food Stamp program) 3.9 million people above the poverty line in 2010 under the Census’ alternative computation. But for these supports, poverty in America would be much worse.

This is why it is imperative the new Super Committee draft a plan that protects low-income Americans. It does our society no good to balance the budget on the backs of the poor and vulnerable. Poverty does not go away simply because we cut anti-poverty programs. Instead, when we invest in programs that help families to get decent jobs and lift themselves out of poverty, we not only reduce poverty, we build our economy and lower budget deficits. This is why RESULTS and our allies are urging the Super Committee to abide by these principles in drafting their plan:

  1. Protect low-income American and do not increase poverty.
  2. Include significant new revenue.
  3. Revive our economy and create jobs.

Engage Your Communities in Telling Congress to Protect the Poor in Budget Talks

As engaged and active RESULTS volunteers, many of you have connected with other people in your community to create your own local “action network.” These are people who are not regular RESULTS volunteers but have been willing to take specific targeted actions from time to time on our issues. They can include family and friends, book clubs, faith communities, work colleagues, and others you may have engaged at some point in the past.

It can also include people who are directly impacted by our issues. For example, last spring, many RESULTS groups reached out to local Head Start and Early Head Start programs to do site visits so we could better understand the critical role that Head Start and Early Head Start play in our communities. We then used this information about the importance of investments in early childhood development programs in letters, calls and meetings with policymakers. These allies, who are likely impacted by programs beyond Head Start and child care programs (e.g. Medicaid, SNAP, EITC), are ideal advocates for your action network. So as to deepen your connection with these communities and engage them in advocacy on these issues, reach out to them again. We have created a Guide to Reaching Out to Head Start and Child Care Programs to help you do this. It contains not only the steps for contacting them but options on how to engage them in the advocacy process.

Reach out to your local networks and urge them to contact their representatives and senators through calls, letters and e-mails. Tell them to urge their members of Congress to protect low-income Americans in deficit reduction talks to draft a plan that is fair (substantial new revenue) and creates jobs. Use the talking points above to help with messaging.

Connecting with Your Local Head Start Center for the First Time

There may be some groups out there who were not able to connect with a Head Start center this past spring. If your RESULTS group has not connected with a local Head Start center or you want to reach out to a child care center receiving federal assistance, start with this action.

  1. Find contact information for your local Head Start programs or local child care centers serving low-income families. The federal government’s Early Childhood Learning Center will help you locate a nearby Head Start program.
  2. Call them and introduce yourself as a RESULTS volunteer in the community.
  3. Tell them that RESULTS groups across the country are lobbying Congress to increase funding for Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care programs for low income families, and protect other important services that serve low-income Americans. RESULTS recognizes the important role these programs play in our community.
  4. Let them know how their expertise can help Congress better understand the importance of these programs.
  5. Schedule a time for your RESULTS group to do a site visit.
  6. During the meeting, find out more about the impact of Head Start and Early Head Start on families locally. Here are some questions you can ask during your conversation:
    • How many children and families do you currently serve?
    • Do you have a wait list? How many children are on your wait list?
    • What are the benefits to having Head Start or child care programs in the community?
    • What are some of the barriers that you have in serving the families and children and what are some of the barriers and struggles that you hear from your parents about participating in your programs?
    • How can we work more closely together in the future to support your work? (You might offer to train clients in advocacy skills, share the latest legislative information from Washington, etc.)
  7. Follow up to thank them for their time and let them know how your RESULTS group is using the information in our advocacy work.

We will discuss the latest on deficit negotiations with Debbie Weinstein from the Coalition on Human Needs on our October 2011 RESULTS National Conference Call, Saturday, October 15 (note: different from normal date), at 12:30 pm ET. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.