January 2013 U.S. Poverty Action

January 4, 2013

Set Up Face-to-Face Meetings with Members of Congress

In-Person Lobby Meetings Make an Impact

RESULTS volunteers have important work to do to protect the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps)MedicaidChildren’s HealthHead Start,  and child care assistance in the months ahead. The most effective strategy to influence policymakers is face-to-face visits between local constituents and members of Congress – as a poll of more than 250 congressional staff by the Congressional Staff on What Advocacy Strategies Have the Most InfluenceCongressional Management Foundation (CMF) confirms. CMF asked what kinds of contact make the biggest impact on members of Congress, especially when they have not made up their mind on an issue. Respondents overwhelmingly said that in-person visits from constituents made the biggest difference; 97 percent for visits to DC offices and 94 percent for visits to district offices – more influential than paid lobbyists!

As your group meets this month to lay out your goals for the year, to put in requests for face-to-face meeting with your members of Congress — see our Activist Milestone: Meet Face-to-Face with Your Member of Congress and our new PowerPoint for additional guidance.

Contact the Scheduler to Set Up a Face-to-Face Lobby Meeting

1.    Request your meeting now to increase the likelihood of getting a meeting during an upcoming Congressional recess (February 18-22 and March 25-April 5).

2.    Find contact information for your member of Congress’ DC or district office through the RESULTS website or dial directly to the Capitol switchboard at (202) 224-3121 and ask for your representative’s or senator’s office.

3.    Once connected to the office, ask for the scheduler. Be ready to leave a succinct voicemail.

4.    Use the following conversation as a template for speaking with the scheduler.

Hi, my name is _________________, and I am a constituent of Rep./Sen. _________________ from _________________. I am also a volunteer with RESULTS, a grassroots group working to end hunger and poverty. RESULTS has a proven track record of working with legislators from all backgrounds to support smart and cost-effective policies to break the cycle of poverty. I know that Rep./Sen. _________________ values input from constituents on the issues that matter to us. With that in mind, our local RESULTS group would like to schedule meeting with Rep./Sen.______________ while he/she is still home for an upcoming recess. Would it be possible to set that up today? There will be at least ____ of us at the meeting and we would like to discuss tax policies that break the cycle of poverty, critical nutrition services, and investments in early childhood development programs. What times would he be available to meet?

5.    You may be asked for a written request – use our online template to create a request letter.

6.    If the member of Congress has no time to meet this month, ask to schedule a meeting the next time he/she is back home and if there are any upcoming town hall meetings.

7.     Be sure to note the name of the scheduler and thank that person for their assistance. If you don’t get a firm answer when you call, mention when you’ll be following up.

Start 2013 Off Right: What Are Your Advocacy Goals for the Year?

January is when RESULTS activists and groups engage in their annual planning process, and it’s been an important part of RESULTS’ successes. Group planning helps us celebrate the past year’s successes and learn from challenges we experienced and, using that knowledge and wisdom create a vision for how we want our new “RESULTS year” to look. Starting with setting our own individual goals, groups then set goals, allocate responsibilities, and formulate strategies for success. Our group plans also allow us to track our progress and adjust goals and tactics as circumstances arise throughout the year so that we can achieve our objectives in an effective and meaningful way.

Our website features planning resources to help you and others think about your own advocacy goals. Make sure you set aside time to envision what your group would like to achieve in your advocacy in 2013. Or, if you are an advocate on your own, grab a copy of the Individual Planning Form and be part of the process as well.   If you have questions, contact Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) or Jos Linn ([email protected]) on the RESULTS U.S. Poverty staff.

Recap of the “Fiscal Cliff” Deal and Threats Ahead

Our advocacy work to protect anti-poverty programs will be critical. On January 1, Congress passed a deal to address the “Fiscal Cliff”, setting up further work in 2013 to address the federal budget deficit. Early New Years Day, the Senate voted 89-8 in favor of The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012, which the House then passed 257-167. Counting interest savings, the package includes about $750 billion in new revenues over the next 10 years with minimal spending cuts.  Here are some specifics of the American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012:

  • Improvements in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit(CTC), and college American Opportunity Tax Credit that were enacted in 2009 are extended for 5 years. Given that this was a major focus for RESULTS volunteers, we are pleased that these key provisions are continued but disappointed distressing that they were not made permanent like the other income tax provisions.
  • Expiration of the payroll tax cut, costing a $50,000 earner about $83 a month.
  • An extension of the Farm Bill until September without deep cuts to SNAP (formerly food stamps). Unfortunately, there are some cuts to nutrition education programs in 2013 and SNAP is vulnerable to deep cuts in upcoming rounds of deficit reduction.
  • Unemployment Insurance for Americans facing long-term unemployment was extended for one year, sparing 2 million jobless people from going without benefits starting at the beginning of January, and 5 million people by the end of the year.
  • Two-month delay of sequestration, the automatic cuts to annually appropriated programs such as Head Start, child care assistance and strategic, compassionate, poverty-focused foreign assistance.

In February or March, we will likely see another battle over $1 trillion or so in deficit reduction. We hope this is balanced with at least half of deficit reduction coming from additional revenues, but fear that we could see further cuts to critical anti-poverty programs such as SNAP, Medicaid, and tax credits for low-income families. As our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs note, “the new revenues are simply inadequate to the task of long-term deficit reduction.  Because the debt ceiling was not raised, and is expected to get to crunch time by the end of February, the next round of replacing the sequestration (across-the-board) appropriations cuts will be decided in the midst of House proposals to tie increases in the debt ceiling to spending cuts.” Our lobby meetings in the coming weeks will be critical in this fight.

For 2013, RESULTS has a goal of meeting face-to-face with representatives and senators in the 25 states and 72 House districts where we currently have U.S. poverty-focused volunteers, while continuing to build our grassroots presence across the country. We know that face-to-face meetings between constituents and members of Congress are game-changers when it comes to effective advocacy. Do you have a new representative or senator? Never met face-to-face with your legislators? This is the year to make those meetings happen. Let us help!

We will discuss the looming threats in 2013 to programs that are critical for low-income Americans on our RESULTS January 2013 National Conference Call — Saturday, January 12, 2013 at 12:30 pm ET with guest speaker and anti-hunger champion Rep. Jim McGovern (D-3-MA). To participate, call (888) 409-6709 by 12:28 pm ET. 

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