U.S. Poverty Weekly Update August 6, 2013

August 6, 2013

If there's a government program that's all things to all people, it's the one that provides nutrition assistance colloquially known as "food stamps."

– August 4 Chambersburg Public Opinion editorial prompted by RESULTS South Central PA volunteer Bruce Kessler

New and Urgent in This Week's Update (Two-Ten-Twenty Actions)

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates

Got Two Minutes? Join the RESULTS National Conference Call THIS Saturday at 12:30 pm ET

As Congress heads home for the August recess, they leave Washington with a lot of unfinished business. Before leaving, a working group in the House announced it would introduce a SNAP bill in September with $40 billion in cuts to the program. In addition, a looming budget fight puts funding for Head Start and child care assistance at risk. Now is the perfect time to show your representative the importance of these services to your community while they are home for August recess. On this month’s conference call, we’ll talk about how to make the most of the August recess by meeting with members of Congress and attending local town hall meetings. We’ll also provide some highlights of the recent RESULTS International Conference, which many are declaring as our best to date. We hope you will join us.

TAKE ACTION: Take two minutes and remind your local RESULTS group about the RESULTS monthly national conference call this Saturday, August 10at 12:30 pm ET. Coordinate with your group where you will meet for the call. To join the call, dial (888) 409-6709 and once connected to the operator, ask for the RESULTS National Conference Call. Plan to call in no later than 12:27 pm ET to give time to the operator to connect you with the call.

We will have the August 2013 Conference Call Overview slides available later this week. You will find them on the RESULTS Home Page in the “Take Action” box in the top right-hand corner.

Got Ten Minutes? Confirm Meetings and Town Halls for this Month (August Action)

When Congress returns in September, they are going to have many big decisions to make. We anticipate a budget showdown, immigration debates, and big decisions about SNAP and the deficit. Your senators and representative are going to be very busy throughout the fall, so getting your message to them now is the best way to ensure that they hear your opinions. Meeting with your member of Congress in your district is also an important aspect of relationship-building with them and their staff.

Our action this month is to make the most of the August recess. Last month, we worked on getting face-to-face meetings scheduled for the recess. If you have not confirmed a meeting, now is the time to do so. Call the scheduler for your representatives and senators to follow up on your previous request. If you cannot get a face-to-face meeting, ask the scheduler if your member of Congress will be holding any town halls or public appearances this month. These are great opportunities to ask a question and publicly ask lawmakers to support a RESULTS issue. Remember to use the EPIC format in drafting questions and check out the town hall meetings page for additional tips (the August Action also has sample questions for town halls and meetings).

TAKE ACTION: Take ten minutes to call the schedulers for your members of Congress to confirm a meeting or town hall this month. You can find scheduler names and contact information on our Elected Officials page. If you have not requested a meeting yet, it is not too late. Use our RESULTS 2013 U.S. Poverty Lobby Meeting Request letter to request a meeting by e-mail or fax and see the July Action for additional information to help you.

When you get a meeting set up or confirm that you’ll be attending a town hall, please contact Jos Linn ([email protected]) or Ann Beltran ([email protected]) for help in preparing for the meeting.

Got Twenty Minutes? Prepare for Your August Lobby Meeting (August Action)

Once you have your meeting set up in your district office, you’ll want to prepare so that you can have an effective meeting. Thoroughly preparing for your meeting will help you gain confidence in speaking about RESULTS issues. In July, hundreds of RESULTS volunteers met with representatives and senators and their staff at the RESULTS International Conference in Washington, DC. August recess meetings give people who came to the conference the opportunity to follow up on their requests and those who could not attend the conference the chance to make those requests now. And our timing could not be more important.

Right before Congress left on recess, House leaders announced a plan to double the cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) that were originally proposed in the House Farm Bill. A Republican working group announced that they were drafting bill with $40 billion in SNAP cuts. We won’t know the exact details until a bill is introduced in September, but these cuts would be extreme and detrimental to millions of American families. If that weren’t frustrating enough, remember that SNAP benefits are already scheduled to be cut in November, when the boost from 2009’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act ends (see more below).

In addition, Head Start, Early Head Start, and child care funding for FY 2014 is still up in the air and will be embroiled in the looming budget fight this fall. While the Senate is calling for new investments in early learning, House leaders are insistent that sequestration cuts remain in effect, which will force even more Head Start and child care centers to close classrooms, lay off staff, and scale back services.

We all know that persistence is a key component in moving lawmakers to act. Be the proverbial “squeaky wheels” this month by pushing your members of Congress in person to protect and strengthen services that help Americans living in poverty.

TAKE ACTION: Take twenty minutes to prepare for your August lobby meeting. Use the August Action for tips on meetings and town halls, including sample questions to ask. Make sure you print out our Lobby Meeting Request sheets for SNAP, tax credits, and early childhood to leave behind at your meetings.

Since there is a lot at stake, we have prepared multiple resources to help you conduct your meeting effectively and efficiently.

As always, contact Jos Linn ([email protected]) or Ann Beltran ([email protected]) for help in preparing for any meetings or town halls you plan to attend.

Please Fill Out the Online Lobby Meeting Report Form

Lobby Meeting Report Form: www.tinyurl.com/2013lobbyreportform

For those of you who attended the International Conference, make sure that you fill out the Lobby Reporting Form if you have not done so already. In addition, you should use this form for any meetings you have during the August recess. Recording your lobby visits and following up are important parts of the advocacy process and helps the RESULTS staff better support you in your follow-up. For example, one major comment we heard from many DC offices during the International Conference is that SNAP is riddled with fraud. Here are some resources you can use to refute those claims.

Please feel free to reach out to RESULTS staff members Jos Linn ([email protected]) and Ann Beltran ([email protected]) for any help you need.

New House SNAP Proposal a Giant Leap in the Wrong Direction

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is the first line of defense against hunger in the United States. It provides low income individuals and families with food assistance when their income and assets are too low to afford adequate food. SNAP fluctuates with the economy, meaning that when the economy is doing poorly, SNAP spending increases to cushion the blow and keep people out of poverty. Coming out of a terrible recession, many Americans are still feeling the effects of the poor job market, thus the need for SNAP is still high.

SNAP is reauthorized through the Farm Bill. The current Farm Bill was set to expire last year but was extended for a year when Congress could not pass a  new one. It will expire on September 30. This June, the Senate passed a new Farm Bill which included $4.1 billion in cuts to SNAP. The House Farm Bill quadrupled down on these cuts with a plan to cut SNAP by $21 billion. Fortunately, because of your advocacy the House bill failed in June. Instead of learning their lesson – Americans don’t support SNAP cuts – House leadership, in an unprecedented move, introduced and passed a Farm Bill without a nutrition title (no SNAP) in July. This bill was opposed by all House Democrats, farmers, and advocates across the country. To make matters worse, leaders in the House are now planning to introduce a nutrition bill in September with $40 billion in SNAP cuts, including strict work requirements. House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12), has already issues a statement against these cuts and 181 democrats have signed onto a letter in support of SNAP.

It’s important to remember that SNAP benefits are already scheduled to be cut this year. As part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, SNAP benefits were temporarily increased. Why? Because millions of people were at risk of falling into poverty. In addition, for each dollar increase in SNAP benefits, $1.79 of economic activity is generated, making it an ideal jump start to a bad economy. Even though the effects of the recession are still hurting low and middle income Americans that “boost” in benefits will end on October 31 (it was scheduled to phase out over time but Congress moved the date up to save money). This means that a family of three will lose an average of $29 per month beginning in November. They will have less than $1.40 per person per meal. SNAP has been under a lot of scrutiny lately, yet there has been little talk about these looming cuts. This is one of that many reasons your advocacy for SNAP is so important right now.

TAKE ACTION: In your meetings and town hall questions this month, tell your representatives and senators to protect and strengthen SNAP and oppose harmful changes to the program. The August Action has sample questions about SNAP and other issues to help you. In addition, send a message telling your representatives to oppose the cuts to SNAP being proposed in the House using our online e-mail alert and cap it off by sending a letter to the editor about SNAP using our online LTE alert.

Financial Security Credit Bill Finally Introduced!

It’s good to know that the news from DC is not all bad. To start off the month right, Rep. Jose Serrano (D-NY-15) introduced the Financial Security Credit Act of 2013, H.R. 2917. This is a bill that RESULTS and our asset-building partners have been waiting years for. To review, the Financial Security Credit (FSC, formerly the Saver’s Bonus) allows low-income tax payers to allocate part or all of their tax refund into a savings account on their tax form. To encourage participation, the government would provide a match to these deposits up to $500 per year. This innovative bill helps families become forward thinking. Kathryn Edin, a Professor at the Harvard Kennedy School, along with many distinguished colleagues, just came out with a study that looks into what Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) recipients spend their refund on. The study found that 69% of EITC recipients intended to use part of their refund for asset accumulation, but only 47% were able to do so in reality. The Financial Security Credit would work with the EITC and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) to help families use that refund for future investments and savings.

Asset building is an important part of our safety net because it helps families and individuals build their own safety net so that they do not have to rely on public assistance when something goes wrong. The leading cause for bankruptcy is an unforeseen medical expense. Having savings and assets can soften to blow any unforeseen expenses, from a large medical expense, to something as simple as a flat tire. You can use the Cooperation for Enterprise Development’s Asset and Opportunity Scorecard to see what percentage of your state is “asset poor”.

TAKE ACTION: In your lobby meetings and town halls this month, urge your representatives to co-sponsor H.R. 2917. It already has 22 co-sponsors and the more we get, the better chance this idea will gain traction. If you spoke about the Financial Security Credit during a recent lobby meeting or correspondence, follow up with the tax aide letting them know that a bill has been introduced. For senators, urge them to talk to Senate Finance Committee members about the FSC (using H.R. 2917 as a reference) and include it in any tax reform proposal. You can also send an e-mail urging members of Congress to support low-income asset building and the FSC using our online e-mail alert.

Quick News

Sequestration Still a Harsh Reality for Many. According to a new Gallup Poll, 54 percent of Americans don’t know enough about sequestration to have a strong opinion. As RESULTS volunteers, you know that sequestration is hurting, especially the youngest and most vulnerable Americans: those in Head Start and child care programs. As students lose their spots, teachers lose their jobs, and parents lose their daycare, the cuts continue. The National Women’s Law Center has released an activist toolkit that you can use to fight against the sequestration cuts. You can also check out the White House estimation for how sequestration will is affecting your state’s Head Start and child care programs here. Tell Congress to end sequestration and invest in early learning using our online e-mail action.

Raising the Minimum Wage Makes Sense. The fight for living wages continues across the country. The Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, introduced by Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) and Rep. George Miller (D-CA-11) earlier this year (S.460 / H.R. 1010), would raise the minimum wage from $7.25 per hour to $10.10 per hour and index it to inflation. President Obama has joined the debate, arguing that a full-time working American should not have to live in poverty. Indeed, the minimum wage of $1.60 an hour in 1968 would be $10.56 today when adjusted for inflation. According to an analysis by the nonpartisan Economic Policy Institute, 88 percent of these minimum wage workers are adults over the age of 20, 85 percent work more than 20 hours per week, and 43 percent have at least some college education. More than 15 million children in the U.S. have a parent who would benefit from raising the minimum wage. Finally, the most rigorous economic research over the past 20 years shows that raising the minimum wage boosts worker pay without causing job losses – even in regions where the economy is weak or unemployment is high. In your meetings this month, urge your senators and representatives co-sponsor S.460 / H.R. 1010 if they have not already.

A Sad but Fond Farewell to Our Summer Staff

The RESULTS U.S. Poverty Team is a bit sad this week as we say good bye to our amazing staff that have helped us out this month. Last week, RESULTS U.S. Poverty Intern Errolyn Gray completed her internship and headed back home to Mississippi. Errolyn was a wonderful addition to our staff keeping all of us up-to-date on our early childhood work and getting us ready for the International Conference. At the conference, she gave one of the most moving testimonials in recent memory.

Ann Beltran, one of our U.S. Poverty Consultants this summer, has also been integral in our success. Ann has been on the Hill every week keeping us informed on the latest development in our campaigns and helping us hone our message. She also helped prepare numerous volunteers for their lobby meetings at the International Conference. While she will no longer be a consultant with us after August 15, we are fortunate that Ann will continue to work with the U.S. Poverty team as a volunteer lobbyist, as she has done the last several years.

Finally, our other U.S. Poverty Consultant Katja Kleine will be leaving us after the conference call this weekend. Katja has been an invaluable asset this summer, serving as our U.S. Poverty go-to person in the RESULTS DC office while Meredith Dodson is on maternity leave. In addition to managing projects in DC, Katja’s fingerprints are on every resource our volunteers have used the last two months, including weekly updates, monthly actions, online resources, and International Conference materials (Errolyn and Ann also played important roles in creating and maintaining the materials). Katja will be returning to school for her senior year at Washington & Lee University in Lexington, VA.

Thank you Errolyn, Ann, and Katja for your time and commitment this summer and helping bring us one step closer to a world free of poverty. We wish you all the best in your next adventure and looking forward to hopefully working with you again in the future.

RESULTS Fundraising Update

Are you celebrating something wonderful in your life that you are thankful about? A birthday, an anniversary, or just happy the kids are going back to school? RESULTS has a few ways you can bring your passion for helping people in poverty with the joyful milestones of your life. First, consider honoring someone with a donation. We now have Celebration donation envelopes in our DC office to help you make a donation and let someone special know that you have honored them with a gift to help others out of poverty. Second, if a gift-giving celebration is coming up in your life, you can request that your loved ones make an online donation to RESULTS instead of material gifts for you. Check out Myrdin Thompson's celebration page as an example where she is inviting her friends to reach a goal of having 44 people donate any amount for her 44th birthday. Happy birthday, Myrdin! Contact Cindy Levin at [email protected] if you'd like celebration envelopes mailed to you or help setting up an online campaign. 

RESULTS Activity Calendar

(See a complete calendar on the RESULTS website)

Upcoming Congressional Recesses: House and Senate: August 5 – September 6. Request face-to-face meetings.

Saturday, August 10: RESULTS U.S. Poverty National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET. Listen to previous conference calls online.

Wednesday, August 14: RESULTS Introductory Call, 9:00 pm ET. Register for this or another Intro Call at www.tinyurl.com/RESULTSMeetandGreet/.

Saturday, August 17: RESULTS Vermont Outreach Meeting, 10:00am – Noon ET. Burlington Unitarian Universalist Society, Parlor Room, 152 Pearl Street, Burlington, VT. Contact Jenny Martin ([email protected]) for details.

Tuesday, August 20: RESULTS U.S. Poverty Free Agents Call, 9:00 pm ET. (218) 486-1611, passcode RESULTS (7378587, plus #).

Wednesday, September 18: RESULTS Kansas City Outreach Meeting, 7:00 pm CT. For more details, contact Jos Linn at (515) 288-3622, [email protected]. See more on Facebook.

RESULTS Contact Information

Main Office: (p) (202) 783-7100, (f) (202) 466-1397, 1730 Rhode Island Ave, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036. If mailing a donation to our DC office, please address the envelope to the attention of Cynthia Stancil. Please note that RESULTS Director of U.S. Poverty Campaigns Meredith Dodson is on maternity leave until Labor Day 2013.

RESULTS U.S. Poverty Legislative and Grassroots Support Staff:

The RESULTS U.S. Poverty Update is sent out every Tuesday via email to RESULTS volunteers and allies all over the country. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our U.S. poverty campaigns.

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