August 2016 U.S. Poverty Action

July 28, 2016

Shape the Election Debate with Candidate Questions about Poverty

Meeting face-to-face is the most effective action you can take to influence your members of Congress. If you have already submitted a request for a meeting during the summer recess, contact the scheduler to follow up on your request. However, members of Congress and candidates are also doing public events to woo voters. Help shape make ending poverty an issue in this election by attending these events to asking a question about poverty in the U.S.

How to Make the Most of Town Halls and Candidate Appearances

  1. Find an event to attend. Look at member of Congress and candidate websites, your local newspaper, the local news, and the internet for upcoming events in your area.
  2. Research members of Congress and candidates. Learn about members of Congress at and candidates at:, and Google candidate names + our issues.
  3. Go in a group. Increase the chance of getting your questions asked by having others attend the event with you, each with a question to ask.
  4. Get to the event early and spread out. Getting there early and sit near the front, where you are more visible. If you’re in a group, spread out around the room to increase the chances of getting called on. If they only take written questions, have everyone in your group write down a similar question.
  5. Raise your hand FIRST, FAST, and HIGH when it’s time for questions.
  6. Ask your question to inform, not speechify. Ask a direct but concise question that informs the audience. If your question is not answered, politely repeat it asking for an appropriate response.
  7. Maximize your impact after the meeting:
    • Work the rope line: Find the exit where your member of Congress or candidate will leave to introduce yourselves and follow up, or ask an unasked question.
    • Work the staff: Find their staff and introduce yourself and your issue. Give them your contact information and any additional material you brought with you.
    • Work the media: Find the media to share about information about your issues.
  8. Written follow-up: Send a follow up email or letter to the member of Congress or candidate and the staff person. Remind them that you were at the event and recap your issue and request. If you were not able to ask your question at the event, contact the appropriate staff person to provide information and your request.

The key to a successful town hall experience is asking a powerful question. Below are examples of questions you could ask candidates at town halls this month. We encourage you to personalize questions with stories and local data; the questions below can get you started. Also, if you plan to attend a town hall or candidate event, please contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) or Jos Linn ([email protected]) to get coaching on how best to prepare.

Town Hall Question: Expand the EITC

I want to talk about an important change to tax policy that has bipartisan support. Did you know that over 7 million Americans are currently being taxed into poverty? These are young low-income workers and others not raising children in their home, including non-custodial parents caring for their children, veterans and members of the military, and young workers just starting out in the workforce who owe more in taxes than what they get from the Earned Income Tax Credit (known as the EITC). Both House Speaker Paul Ryan and President Obama have put forward proposals to expanding the EITC for these workers, and there are even more robust proposals in Congress would benefit __ in our state (16 million nationally), basically ensuring no American would be taxed into poverty. Do you support expanding the EITC for these workers and, if elected, will you work to make it law next year?

Town Hall Question: Protect SNAP

I don’t believe anyone should have to struggle for food in this great country of ours. That’s why I strongly support the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or SNAP (formerly food stamps). In 2014, SNAP lifted nearly 5 million people out of poverty, most of them children. Despite this success, leaders in Congress want to cut SNAP or convert it to a state-run program, which would severely undermine its effectiveness and lead to an increase in hunger and poverty. We should be strengthening and expanding SNAP, not creating more hungry families. If elected, will you work to strengthen SNAP and oppose efforts to cut or restructure the program?

Town Hall Question: Fix the Racial Wealth Gap

Like many Americans, I am very concerned with the racial unrest we’ve seen in the U.S. lately. But the problem goes deeper than we might think. Right now, for every dollar of white wealth in the U.S., African American households have 6 cents, and Latino households have 7 cents. This is the result of decades of economic discrimination based on race, which for many years was perpetuated by government policy. By correcting this, we can ensure that everyone is financially stable and secure. We can start by using tax time as moment for taxpayers to save by providing incentives for those savings to accumulate quickly through matched funds. If elected, will you work to enact innovative solutions to help Americans build savings and reduce the racial wealth gap?

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