April 2016 U.S. Poverty Action
Generate Media about Anti-Poverty Policies that Work!
Earlier this year, House Speaker Paul Ryan created a Taskforce on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility and comes at a time when some policymakers and candidates have a renewed interest in addressing poverty in America. While the outcome and timing of the House Poverty Task Force’s recommendations is not clear, this month is an important time to shape the debate by speaking out about proven policies that will make a big difference in addressing poverty in America. Speaker Ryan and President Obama have both proposed to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a top priority for RESULTS, but unfortunately, Speaker Ryan and others have also proposed drastic changes to other anti-poverty programs, notably SNAP (formerly Food Stamps).
Use these talking points to pitch an editorial (use our new editorial memo as well) or draft an op-ed urging policymakers to make ending poverty a priority, highlighting the EITC and SNAP:
- Acknowledge the bipartisan interest in addressing poverty and creating opportunity in America, letting readers know about the House Task Force on Poverty, Opportunity, and Upward Mobility. If you can, share your own experience of poverty and why you care about this issue.
- Because of low wages and the ongoing impact of the Great Recession, millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet or put food on the table. In 2014, almost 1 in 5 children in the U.S. were at risk of going to bed hungry at night (19.2 percent of households, via USDA).
- Remind them that anti-poverty programs are making an impact; the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) support workers in low-wage jobs and lifted 9.8 million Americans out of poverty in 2014, and SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2014.
- Share your concern that 8 million low-wage workers without children workers are taxed into or deeper into poverty and addressing this should be a priority of the House Poverty Task Force. Mention that House Speaker Ryan and President Obama have proposed to expand the EITC for workers without children, and how many workers from your state would be impacted.
- Mention that this is encouraging, but the news is not all good. House leaders could again propose deep cuts and structural changes to SNAP and other anti-poverty programs, as they have in recent budget proposals.
- Educate readers about the importance of SNAP, our nation’s primary defense against hunger. Nearly 90 percent of SNAP participants are in households that contain a child under age 18, an elderly person 60 years or older, or a disabled individual.
- Specifically mention that SNAP is a powerful and effective response to hunger in times of emergencies or economic downturn, and restructuring it as is being proposed would undermine this effectiveness and could result in millions of people (including the number of SNAP participants in your state) being forced off the program.
- Call on the House Poverty Task Force to support expanding the EITC for childless workers, and oppose changes to SNAP that would harm vulnerable children and families, increase hunger, and reduce SNAP’s effectiveness.
Don't have the time to craft your own opinion piece? Tailor our online letter-to-the-editor to speak out and protect SNAP! Note: To find contact information for media outlets in your area visit our Media Guide at http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/media/. In addition, see our Activist Toolkit pieces on generating an op-ed, and be ready to work with your RESULTS group to reach out to local editorial writers. Be sure to send your published piece to your members of Congress!
We Need Strong Anti-Hunger Programs
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is the first line of defense against hunger in America. Currently, 45 million people — almost half of them children — receive SNAP benefits. SNAP lifted 4.7 million people out of poverty in 2014 (US Census) and significantly reduces hunger and poor health in children.
SNAP helps working families make ends meet and get on their feet. More than half of SNAP households with at least one working-age, non-disabled adult, and more than 60 percent of households with children work while participating in SNAP. SNAP is also structured as a work incentive: for every additional dollar a SNAP recipient earns, SNAP benefits decline by only 24 to 36 cents. Families that receive SNAP thus have a strong incentive to work more hours or search for better-paying jobs. Moreover, SNAP is critically important for local economies. USDA reports that SNAP is one of the most effective economic stimuli: every five dollars spent creates nine dollars in economic activity. Finally, SNAP is a very efficiently run program considering the scale of its administration, with 97 percent of benefits going to eligible households and very few mistaken payments.
Congress typically makes changes to SNAP as a part of the Farm Bill, and the current Farm Bill runs through 2018. Despite the importance of SNAP for millions of families and the completion of the Farm Bill just two years ago, we are very concerned that Congress may look again to make deep cuts or structural changes to SNAP. SNAP is an effective response to hunger in times of emergencies or economic downturn. During the Great Recession, SNAP responded exactly as it was designed by helping tens of millions of Americans weather that crisis. Unfortunately, policymakers have indicated they may attack the fundamental structure of SNAP and other anti-poverty programs – in essence, converting programs to capped state block grants under the guise of “merged funding streams”. It is critical that our core anti-hunger program continue to be able to react quickly and strongly to local needs. RESULTS opposes changes to SNAP that would harm vulnerable children and families, increase hunger, and reduce SNAP’s effectiveness.
Based on the feedback of RESULTS Experts on Poverty and others, RESULTS supports an agenda that will not only protect SNAP, but focus on strengthening anti-hunger programs. In particular, SNAP’s meal allotment of about $125 per month, or about 1.40 per meal, per person is inadequate to meet the nutritional needs of hungry Americans – and as a result, when times are tough many families are more likely to postpone needed healthcare, resulting in higher ER costs. In addition, over 500,000 Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents (ABAWDs) will lose SNAP benefits beginning this month. Rather than cut the program, RESULTS supports legislation, such as H.R. 3657 and H.R. 1025/S. 2420, that will strengthen this critical lifeline for millions.
Your media work – not only op-eds but also editorial outreach – will be critical in shaping the debate of the House Poverty Task Force and conversations about poverty during the election season. We urge you to work with your group to reach out to at least one newspaper editorial board this month; if you’d like training or support to do so, please contact Jos Linn ([email protected]). And be sure to join our National Webinar this Saturday, April 9, at 12:30 pm ET for more on this important media campaign, with special guest speaker Veronica Flores-Paniagua, editorial writer for the Houston Chronicle, at http://fuze.me/32255914 or (201) 479-4595, Meeting ID: 32255914#.