January 2012 U.S. Poverty Action

January 3, 2012

Create a Plan with Your Group to Help End Poverty in America

Take Action: On an Individual and Group Level, Consider New Leadership Roles and Set Bold Goals for 2012

This month, RESULTS groups will focus primarily on meeting to create a 2012 group plan and set goals for their work for the year. This is such a critical process that it is the focus of our January Action Sheet and will be the primary topic of our national conference call (Saturday, January 14, at 12:30 pm ET: (888) 409-6709).

  1. Read through the 2012 campaigns summary online or the abridged version below and download the 2012 Individual Planning Form, 2012 Group Planning Guide, and 2012 Group Plan Summary.
  2. On your own, fill out the 2012 Individual Planning Form, which will make sure your group capitalizes on your skills while you take on new and exciting challenges. Consider what leadership positions you want to take on within RESULTS. If you cannot make your group planning meeting, we suggest you fill this form out and send it to your group leader.
  3. As a group, use the 2012 Group Plan Summary to help complete your plan. Consider ways your will work together to strengthen your RESULTS group. This includes setting up group meeting dates and times (we strongly urge you to meet two times per month!), how you can maximize your presence at the 2012 International Conference (July 21-24), and how you’ll recruit and mentor new activists.
  4. Create an outreach and fundraising plan to recruit new activists and donors, and educate your community in 2012. Set a schedule and goals for fundraiser(s), outreach events, and your coalition work locally.
  5. Formulate a plan to work with your senators and representative(s). This includes deciding who will be the primary point of contact for your group, identifying where they are on the Champion Scale and specific actions you can take to move them forward, including a plan to meet face-to-face with them back home.
  6. Set goals for your work with the media, including social media. Your group may consider different members taking the lead with certain media outlets and how to increase your presence by forming a Facebook page.
  7. Circulate your completed group plan to all those in your group and send it in to Meredith Dodson at RESULTS. Be sure to review this plan at least quarterly.

Group Planning Is Key to Our Success

RESULTS is one of the few, if not the only, organization that urges its volunteers to make a plan for the year. Most organizations simply provide the agenda and urge volunteers to participate. While there is nothing wrong with that, RESULTS prides itself on having an active and creative grassroots base that brings many talents to the table. And we want to make sure we are using that wisdom, knowledge and energy in the most effective ways. The group planning process is integral in doing that. By having our groups evaluate their expertise and set goals both at the individual and group levels each year, we are keeping this work fresh and alive. That is essential in any advocacy work. Advocacy is hard, repetitive and frustrating at times, which is part of any attempt at change, whether individual or systemic. But that’s not the whole story. And it is not our story.

Advocacy is also alive, inspiring, and powerful. And in our experience, that is because of you — the volunteers. Our successes — expanding access to health care via health reform, supporting families through expanded tax credits, protecting the future for at-risk children with Head Start — are because of you and your passion for justice. And so, while we don’t know what the end of 2012 will look like, we can imagine what it should look like. Group planning helps us do that.

What would you like to accomplish this year with your members of Congress? With the media? In your communities? Now is your opportunity to put that vision down on paper and talk about how to achieve it. Because we value this process, RESULTS wants to help you make it successful. As mentioned, our January 2012 national conference call focuses on group planning. We also have resources to help on the Group Resources and Administration page of the RESULTS website, including the all of the documents listed above as well as a guide for conducting your group planning meeting. Finally, as always, RESULTS staff is ready and willing to help you during the group planning process. Please contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) or Jos Linn ([email protected]) with any questions or if you would like one of them to appear via phone or Skype for part of your group planning meeting.

Overview of 2012 U.S Poverty Campaigns to Help with Group Planning

Primary Campaign: Economic Opportunity for All — Using Tax Policy to Break the Cycle of Poverty

Goals: Protect Critical Tax Credits for Low-Income Working Families and Build Support for Asset-Building Policies, notably the Saver’s Bonus

We at RESULTS strongly believe in a fair tax code and in giving low-income families opportunities to move up the economic ladder. We support features of the tax code that assist working families, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. In 2010, the EITC lifted 5.4 million above the poverty line. The Child Tax Credit (CTC) is a partially refundable tax credit for families with children. Both of these credits provide significant income support to families who work in low-wage jobs.

As our top campaign priority in 2010, RESULTS volunteers successfully lobbied Congress to protect these tax credits for low-income working families. Specifically, RESULTS worked to extend expansions of the EITC and CTC enacted in 2009 but set to expire in 2010. These expansions allowed more low-income families to claim the CTC and increased the EITC for married couples and larger families. In part because of our grassroots advocacy efforts, Congress extended those expansions for another two years. In 2012, these EITC and CTC provisions are again set to expire at the end of the year, which will affect millions of low-income Americans.

In addition, RESULTS supports policies that help low-income families build assets and savings to become financially self-reliant. In addition to increasing financial security, assets support low-income families them to weather emergencies, make investments in property, achieve a higher education, and create small businesses. In addition, low-income families that are able to save money are more likely to have children who are upwardly mobile when they become adults. In other words, assets help break the cycle of poverty. To provide pathways out of poverty, government policies should help connect low-income Americans with the financial system and with flexible savings products.  There are still relatively few organizations engaged in efforts to enact asset building policies, and even less with any grassroots capacity. This gives RESULTS a unique opportunity to make a difference.

Last year, we launched a multi-year campaign to enact federal legislation that creates progressive asset-based programs with a focus on the Saver’s Bonus. The Saver’s Bonus would allow low-income taxpayers to create savings accounts, with a dollar-for-dollar match on a portion of their tax refund, right on the tax form. Of all the asset building policies, the Saver’s Bonus stands out because it uses the existing tax system and moment of opportunity to save (while filing taxes), and provides a safe and flexible product to attract families often nervous about their financial future.

RESULTS’ 2012 Economic Opportunity Campaign focuses on, in the short-term, protecting the EITC and CTC by ensuring that the 2009 expansions are made permanent. For the long-term, we will educate lawmakers about low-income asset development with the hope of enacting the Saver’s Bonus as a part of major tax reform in the next 3-5 years. 

Secondary Campaign: Early Childhood Development — Smart Investments in the Early Years

Goal: Protect and substantially increase funding for Head Start, Early Head Start and child care

RESULTS has been a long time advocate of quality early childhood development policies. Research shows that children who participate in a quality program during their preschool years are better prepared to learn, have higher self-esteem, and possess more developed social skills when they start kindergarten. RESULTS strongly supports increased investments in Head Start, a federally funded preschool program that provides comprehensive services to low-income children and their parents, and Early Head Start, a child development program for pregnant women and low-income families with infants and toddlers. We also advocate for investments for the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) which provides child care assistance to low-income families and provides critical funds to states to help them improve the quality of child care. Unfortunately, Head Start serves less than 50 percent of eligible preschoolers, Early Head Start serves less than 5 percent of all eligible families, and CCDBG serves only one out of seven eligible children.

In 2009 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA), Congress allocated an additional $2 billion in funding for Head Start/Early Head Start and an additional $2 billion for CCDBG. From this funding, 7,000 new Head Start and Early Head Start classrooms were opened and an additional 200,000 low-income children and their families received assistance for child care expenses. In 2011, our primary U.S. poverty campaign was to ensure that these ARRA expansions remained in place. We fought back efforts to significantly cut Head Start and child care (which would have resulted in 360,000 low-income children and their families losing services) and instead helped secure funding levels that protect existing Head Start and child care services in both the FY 2011 and FY 2012 budgets. Maintaining these Head Start and child care funding levels was a significant victory for RESULTS volunteers and early childhood advocates around the country.

While we will shift our primary focus for 2012 to our economic opportunity campaign (see above), RESULTS will still continue to work on our Early Childhood Campaign with approximately 30-40 percent of our total staff and volunteer time. Our 2012 campaign will focus on the annual appropriations (part of the “Labor HHS” bill), working to make sure that the funding gains made in the last few years are not lost.

We also will remain vigilant, much like 2011, for any attempts to cuts critical anti-poverty programs such as SNAP and Medicaid as part of deficit reduction. For more details about our 2012 U.S. Poverty Campaigns, please see our 2012 Campaign Summary.

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