Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

121 posts categorized "Tax Credits"

Building the 2016 Federal Budget: Round 1

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Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.


By Bread Staff

Before Congress left for its spring break, the House and Senate debated and passed their budget resolutions. The House resolution passed 228-199. The Senate resolution passed 52-46. When members of Congress return to Washington, the two chambers will iron out the differences and pass a budget for fiscal year 2016.

Every year, Bread for the World follows the federal budget process to ensure Congress adequately funds programs that provide hope and opportunity to people struggling with hunger and poverty.

This year, Bread is escalating its work on the budget. Unlike the past few years, one party now controls both the House and the Senate. This makes it significantly easier for Congress to cut anti-hunger programs.

Details of the Budget Proposals

Both the House and Senate sought to balance the budget within the next 10 years. They did so without raising taxes, touching Social Security, making any big changes to Medicare within the next decade, or cutting the defense budget. They actually increased funding for defense in some cases. So where did the trillions of dollars in cuts come from? Sixty-nine percent of the cuts in both budgets would be placed on the backs of low-income people.

In some cases, the budgets were clear about their vision for how to accomplish those savings. The House budget cut $140 billion from SNAP (formerly called food stamps). The Senate budget proposed cutting Medicaid by $400 billion. Both budgets also allowed the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit to expire. Those improvements have kept 16 million people from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Both budgets continued the additional cuts of sequestration, the automatic cuts Congress agreed to in 2011. These cuts are lasting and severe.

The House Budget proposal cut yearly non-defense appropriated spending by another approximately $759 billion on top of these sequestration cuts. By 2025, total funding for these programs (which includes foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, and many other programs) would be at least 33 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

The Senate budget proposal cuts yearly non-defense spending by another $236 billion on top sequestration. By 2025, total funding for these programs would be at least 24 percent below what they were in 2010, adjusted for inflation.

This puts even greater strain and heightens competition for every dollar, threatening funding for international foreign assistance, WIC, Head Start, low-income housing assistance, emergency food aid, and many other programs. 

Review of the Sequestration Agreements

Back in 2011, when Congress passed the law that established the sequestration cuts, it made an agreement. It was that automatic sequestration cuts would treat defense and non-defense spending equally.

During the committee mark-ups and floor debates, division emerged. Defense hawks protested the lower spending levels from sequestration. Ultimately, both chambers boosted defense spending by $96 billion in a special account that is not subject to the sequestration cuts or spending limit (known as Overseas Contingency Operations). However, a growing number of members of Congress are speaking out against the sequestration cuts, urging Congress to look to other areas in the budget, including revenues and other spending programs.

During the budget debates in late March, Bread stepped up its advocacy efforts, and our members responded. In particular, we urged the Senate to oppose several amendments. In the end, those amendments were either defeated or pulled before they could even get a vote.

Even though the House budget made horrendous cuts to programs that help people move out of poverty and put food on the table, there was a silver lining. Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.) got an entire section on food-aid reform included. This section: 1) asserted that cargo preference, monetization, and using only food commodities (practices in providing food aid that Bread believes are inefficient or harmful) “fails to use taxpayer dollars efficiently and effectively,” and 2) endorsed the Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015. This act would make many of the reforms that Bread has been seeking since last year’s Offering of Letters: Food-Aid Reform.

Round 2 and Beyond

When Congress returns after its two-week recess, it will conference the two budget resolutions. Bread will be watching closely to see what Congress agrees upon and the exact funding levels they give to specific programs.

We expect the spring and summer to be busy months as congressional committees mark up various budget bills. This could all come down to some important budget negotiations this fall between Congress and the White House.

Learn more: Budget Basics & Resources

Thank You for Your Advocacy

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Bread for the World staff.

By David Beckmann

Thank you for your advocacy last week! Congress was busy voting on budget proposals, and you heard from us a lot. Because of your efforts, hundreds of calls and thousands of emails went to Congress.

At the end of the week, the House and Senate both passed their budget resolutions. Their budgets included some drastic proposals to cut anti-hunger programs. But we know your voices — your calls and emails — made a difference.

The Senate considered a number of very bad amendments. Some drastically cut foreign assistance funding. Others cut or negatively impacted SNAP (formerly food stamps), the earned income tax credit, and child nutrition programs. Thanks to your advocacy, these amendments failed or were withdrawn, which means they didn’t get a vote.

Your voice helped ensure these troubling proposals were defeated. One amendment to cut international affairs funding by 50 percent only got 4 votes of support. The last time this proposal was up for a vote, at least 20 senators voted in favor of it.

The House and Senate have passed their budget proposals, but our work continues. These budgets set the tone for anti-hunger policy for the rest of this year and beyond. But your faithful advocacy throughout the year will be critical in making sure these proposals do not become law.

We’re asking you to make one more call this week. See how your senators and representative voted on the budget resolution. If they voted against it, call (800-826-3688) and thank them for their vote. If they voted in favor, call and express your disappointment in their vote for a budget that would increase hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Thank you for continuing to raise your voice to end hunger.

David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

Urgent: Say No to Vote-A-Rama Amendments That Target Poor People

http://bread.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341d945753ef017d42340f38970c-piBy Bread Staff

As budget debate and voting continue in the Senate today, Bread for the World is deeply concerned about several proposed amendments that would cut critical programs that serve vulnerable populations.

Yesterday, the House passed a budget resolution, which would balance the budget on the poorest in our nation. We need your voice to tell the Senate they must not do the same. 

Budgets are moral documents. A faithful budget values ending hunger and protecting the most vulnerable - not cutting programs that would make it harder to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

Please call 800-826-3688 and tell your senator that this budget is unacceptable.  

  1. OPPOSE any amendments that cut foreign assistance or the 150 account including Paul Amdt #940, which increases the defense budget by cutting the entire international affairs budget by 50% over two years or a $42 billion reduction. These proposed cuts can severely impact funding for humanitarian and poverty-focused development assistance, including critical life-saving programs like maternal child health treatment, agriculture development and nutrition interventions, and humanitarian relief to millions of refugees. Amendment #940 failed in a recorded vote of 4 yays and 96 nays.
  2. OPPOSE any amendments that cut SNAP (formerly food stamps), change eligibility, or reduce benefits and oppose amendments that cut or make harmful changes to school nutrition programs. SNAP and school meals provide more than 21 million children with meals they need to learn and grow. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #375 and Rubio Amdt #547. Withdrawn.

  3. OPPOSE any amendments that cut Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), change eligibility, or establish barriers that make it more difficult for low-income working families to put food on the table. TANF is often the only source of support for families who receive it. Specifically, we urge senators to oppose Inhofe Amdt #372,which creates a financial burden on taxpayers and states while unfairly punishing children and familiesWithdrawn.

  4. OPPOSE any amendments that prevent individuals from claiming the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) or Child Tax Credit (CTC), including Grassley Amdt #469. The EITC and CTC prevent more people from falling into poverty than any other program in the United States (outside Social Security). These tax credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and have a long history of bipartisan support. Withdrawn.

It is urgent to contact Congress in order to stop the cuts. Call your senators now - even if you have already reached out to them. This message is so important it must be repeated until they hear us and act. Call 800-826-3688 during the next 24 hours. Urge them to oppose cuts to programs that are working to end hunger and poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

If you use Twitter, please tweet your senators here: Aid Saves Lives.

 

When 'Reconciliation' Becomes a Bad Word

OL2015-Blog

By Robin Stephenson

For Christians, the term reconciliation is a sacred calling to heal the broken world – a call for heaven on earth. However, in the hands of the 114th Congress, budget reconciliation could become a tool that widens the gap of inequality and pushes more people – especially children– into hunger.

Reconciliation, in the legislative sense of the word, is expected to be included in the 2016 budgets the House and Senate plan to release next week. Both chambers are likely to call for deep cuts in non-defense spending.

Budget reconciliation is a set of instructions sometimes added to the yearly budget resolution – the overall amount Congress decides the U.S. government will spend in one year. Once the budget is passed, each committee is given its share of the total to distribute between all of the programs in its jurisdiction. When budget reconciliation instructions are included, certain committees are instructed to meet spending and revenue criteria – even if it includes finding additional savings by changing policy.

Budget reconciliation makes it easy to slip controversial changes through Congress that are hard to reverse, which is all the more reason we must pay attention to the process. To learn more, read Budget Reconciliation 101.

Under reconciliation, committees could include deep cuts to program funding or pass harmful policy changes to anti-hunger programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), Medicaid, and the earned income tax credit (EITC) - programs, we believe, that have giant targets on them. In this scenario, children will pay a hefty price.

3963295139_3351abd412_bOur 2015 Offering of Letters aims to feed our children. The child poverty rate is already unacceptably disproportionate to our resources, but has improved since the height of the recession–nationally, we stand at 18 percent.  Without government interventions, the rate would be 33 percent, according to a recent analysis.

Deep cuts to a program like SNAP, in which half of the participants are children, would be a move in the wrong direction. The earned income tax credit and child tax credit moved 5 million children out of poverty in 2013 and must be protected to make further progress on reducing child hunger. Medicaid, another piece of the poverty-ending puzzle, provided healthcare to 32 million children in 2012.

Defending SNAP from the chopping block is becoming the new normal. Just last year, your faithful advocacy halted deep cuts to SNAP in the farm bill. Up to $40 billion in cuts were proposed during the two-year negotiations. Without SNAP, many families would go hungry. Food banks and pantries, already stretched thin, cannot make up the difference

Every time there is talk of fiscal belt-tightening, the most vulnerable in our society are targeted as notches. This is not the kind of reconciliation that God calls us to and not the kind of reconciliation people of faith should stand for from our leaders. We must speak up early and ensure these programs don't become a bull's-eye for lawmakers' cuts.

Christians across this nation must do the real work of God’s reconciliation--urging Congress to prioritize and protect critical anti-poverty initiatives in any budget reconciliation bill, especially programs like SNAP, Medicaid, and tax credits for families struggling to make ends meet. We have done it before, and we must do it again.

Find more resources to understand the budget process here.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior organizer at Bread for the World.

Growing Up Poor in Rural America

OL2015-Blog

By Robin Stephenson

Clark Fork, Idaho is an idyllic rural community nestled near the northern tip of the state. The town has a median income of just under $28,000 a year and a population of 530. In November, the school district said it could no longer afford to serve hot meals at Clark Fork Junior-Senior High School.

Chris Riggins, the town's mayor, is concerned about food-insecure students. "The hot lunch that they receive here at school, a lot of them, this is the only hot meal they get during the day," Riggins told a local news station. 

Roughly 35 percent of rural populations live in high poverty, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Rural areas are defined as having populations of fewer than 2,500 and not adjacent to a metro area. More than 25 percent of all rural children live in poverty – significantly higher than their urban counterparts.

16160848070_43f57f9ce4_kThe National School Lunch Program (NSLP) is a nutrition intervention tool that provides food to children who need it – food that gives them the fuel to learn. But a growing number of rural schools are struggling to make the program work for them.

The Bonner County Daily Bee reports that the numbers don't add up for Clark Fork. The school averages about 100 enrolled students a year and nearly half qualify for the federal government free and reduced-lunch program (available to students in a family of four that earn roughly $44,000 annually). About 20 students opt into the program on a regular basis. The federal government reimburses the school $2.58 for reduced lunch and $2.98 for free lunches. The $70 in revenue, however, is not enough to cover the $395 a day it takes to run the program.

Volume helps cut costs in schools with larger student populations.

Community eligibility, a provision in the 2010 child nutrition reauthorization bill, has the potential to help many struggling schools. If over 40 percent of students qualify for free lunch, all students get free lunch for schools that opt in. By eliminating application and fees, the streamlined process eases the burden on schools and increases the total reimbursement. Unfortunately, for a small school like Clark Fork, the numbers are not in their favor: Only 30 percent of the student body qualifies for free lunch.

The obvious solution to child poverty is stable, living-wage employment for parents. In the absence of adequate work, safety net programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the earned income tax credit, and child nutrition programs increasingly bridge the gap between income and cost of living. Nationally, the child poverty rate stands at 18 percent. Without government interventions the rate would be 33 percent, according to a recent analysis.

Kids deserve the chance to reach their potential no matter where they live. Anti-poverty programs like SNAP and school lunch, which keep hunger at bay, must be strengthened and protected for the sake of our children.

Urge Congress to strengthen our child nutrition programs, particularly the summer meals program. Tell Congress to also protect SNAP and other anti-poverty programs from harmful budget and funding cuts. Call (800/826-3688) or email your members of Congress today.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

EITC Awareness Day: The Value of Hard Work

6521600217_39fdfe9bf8_oBy Robin Stephenson

Imagine you work full time at a minimum-wage job. Now imagine you are married and have two kids. To supplement your meager income, your partner finds part-time employment - also at the minimum wage.  Your combined income for the year is roughly $22,000. You are officially considered poor.

For over 45 million Americans, this is not an exercise in imagination. It is their reality.

For these hard-working families, there are two provisions in the tax code that provide a lifeline: the earned-income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC).

Heather Rude-Turner shared her story with Bread members in 2010.  She was struggling to put enough food on the table for her two young children. By 2012, we saw how her hard work and the EITC had helped improve conditions for her family.

“Having that extra income, the EITC, gave me that extra cushion to take care of our basic needs and then save some money,” Rude-Turner said. 

Her life began to change the first year she claimed the nearly $3,000 in refundable tax credits she qualified for. She was able to cover her rent and buy the computer that helped her gain a college degree in child psychology.

For years, Bread for the World has advocated that tax credits for working families be made permanent. Simply put, they help end hunger. The EITC alone moves more children out of poverty than any other government program. For communities still recovering from the recession, the credits continue to be a critical economic boost.

In 2009, Congress improved the tax credits that gave hard-working mothers like Rude-Turner the opportunity to move her family out of poverty. Those improvements are set to expire in 2017, unless Congress takes action. The loss of the improvements would be devastating for the 16 million working families struggling to make ends meets, including 8 million kids, who would be pushed into or deeper into poverty.

In the State of the Union address and the Republican response, President Obama and Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), respectively, both spoke about reforming our tax code. Making the 2009 improvements permanent should be a top priority for Congress. Today, EITC Awareness Day, provides the perfect opportunity to remind our members of Congress that millions of hard-working families depend on the EITC and the CTC.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative and both of your senators today. Urge them to make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent.

It seems like such an obvious truth: If you work a full-time job, you should make enough to feed your family. The reality is that, unless we support tax credits for working families, saying we value hard work also becomes just an exercise of our collective imagination.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

 

Ending Poverty Could Nearly End Hunger, New Report Says

Marian
Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund, speaks about her organization's demand to end child poverty in the United States. Photo courtesy of the Children's Defense Fund. 

By Jennifer Gonzalez

Americans who experience hunger are not doing so because of a shortage of food in the United States. A visit to any supermarket or farmer’s market would confirm that. Rather, they are hungry because they live in a cycle of poverty that prevents them from earning enough money to provide adequately for their families.

Roughly 45 million Americans live at or below the poverty line. Twenty-one million of those are children who are living either in poverty or extreme poverty. These children are more likely to experience hunger.

On Wednesday, the Children’s Defense Fund released a report demanding an end to child poverty with an immediate 60 percent reduction. Ending Child Poverty Now calls for investing an additional 2 percent of the federal budget to expand existing programs and policies that would lead to increase employment, make work pay, and ensure children’s basic needs are met. As a result, 97 percent of children living in poverty would benefit, and 60 percent of them could escape poverty immediately.

Seventy-two percent of black children living in poverty, who have the highest poverty rates in the United States, would no longer be poor.

“America’s poor children did not ask to be born; did not choose their parent, country, state, neighborhood, race, color, or faith,” said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children’s Defense Fund, during a press briefing at its national headquarters in Washington, D.C.

“It’s way past time for a critical mass of Americans to confront the hypocrisy of America’s pretension to be a fair playing field while almost 15 million children languish in poverty,” she added.

The report outlined several policy improvements to reduce child poverty by 60 percent. Among them:

  • Increase the earned income tax credit for lower-income families with children.
  • Increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10.
  • Make child care subsidies available to all eligible families below 150 percent of poverty.
  • Make the child and dependent care tax credit refundable with a higher reimbursement rate.
  • Base SNAP (formerly food stamps) benefits on USDA’s Low-Cost Food Plan for families with children.
  • Make the child tax credit fully refundable.

Many of the policy changes that the Children’s Defense Fund advocates for in its report are similar to those Bread supports already. At Bread, we know all too well the impact poverty has on hunger. That’s why we work hard to ensure that the nation’s safety net is protected from budget cuts.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

And this year, the Offering of Letters focuses on the importance of nutrition among children. In 2013, 15.8 million children—more than one-fifth of all children in the United States—lived at risk of hunger. Bread plans to work diligently this year to ensure that Congress reauthorizes the child nutrition bill, which is set to expire this fall.

The link between poverty and hunger is well established. Let’s not continue to look the other way as millions of children in the United States continue to live in poverty and suffer from hunger.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

 

Obama: 'Restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity.'

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Tax credits for low-income working families pull more children out of poverty than any other government program. Eugene Mebane, Jr. for Bread for the World.


By Eric Mitchell

In Tuesday night's State of the Union address, President Obama said, “Tonight, together, let’s do more to restore the link between hard work and growing opportunity for every American.” There is one thing Congress can do right now to accomplish exactly that.

Congress and the president can make the current earned income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit (CTC) benefit levels permanent. Bread for the World has been pushing this policy since Congress passed the improvements to these tax credits in 2009, but they’re set to expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

At Bread for the World, we envision a world without hunger. We know it’s possible, and we know we can do it by 2030. But it’s going to take more than food banks and soup kitchens. We have to ensure that hard work leads to greater opportunity.

We have to get at the root causes of hunger. When these are addressed, working parents can put food on the table and provide for their children. The EITC and CTC do exactly that—reward work and supplement wages so working parents don’t have to raise their children in poverty.

President Obama called for better tax policy on Tuesday night—one that will benefit low-income working families. Now we need you to call on Congress to make that happen through making permanent the current EITC and CTC benefit levels.

Call (800/826-3688) or email your representative and both of your senators today. Urge them to make the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements permanent.

Be a part of the movement to end hunger. Help us start the 114th Congress with a clear message that ending hunger must be a top priority.

Eric Mitchell is the director of government relations at Bread for the World.

Congress Urged to Pass Legislation to Help Working Families

2011_State_of_the_Union_Obama
Pete Souza/The White House via Wikimedia Commons.

By Jennifer Gonzalez

In his State of the Union address Tuesday night, President Obama laid out an aggressive agenda aimed at reducing income inequality in the United States – a factor that can keep millions of Americans in a cycle of poverty.

Although the economy has gotten stronger, President Obama acknowledged that too many hard-working families still struggle. He called for increasing the child care tax credit, raising the federal minimum wage, enacting paid sick leave, creating a "second-earner" tax credit for families in which both spouses work, and boosting the earned income tax credit.

“We have risen from recession freer to write our own future than any other nation on Earth,” Obama said. “Will we accept an economy where only a few of us do spectacularly well? Or will we commit ourselves to an economy that generates rising incomes and chances for everyone who makes the effort?” 

Roughly 45 million people in the United States live at or below the poverty line. If enacted, many of the proposals put forth by the president would certainly help struggling Americans, especially boosting the maximum child care tax credit to $3,000 and expanding the earned income tax credit for childless workers.

The earned income tax credit along with the child tax credit are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools. Bread for the World is calling on Congress to ensure that these two measures stay intact. Both expire in 2017. Making the 2009 improvements to these credits permanent would prevent 16 million people—including 8 million children—from falling into or deeper into poverty.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) delivered the Republican rebuttal. And not unlike President Obama, she also sympathized with struggling Americans. “These days though, many families feel like they're working harder and harder, with less and less to show for it,” she said. “We see our neighbors agonize over stagnant wages and lost jobs.”

Obama reminded Americans that government programs have their place in history and can make an impact. “In fact, at every moment of economic change throughout our history, this country has taken bold action to adapt to new circumstances, and to make sure everyone gets a fair shot. We set up worker protections, Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to protect ourselves from the harshest adversity.  We gave our citizens schools and colleges, infrastructure, and the internet – tools they needed to go as far as their effort will take them.”

At Bread, we know the power of good policy, especially as it applies to children. That’s why this year our top priority with this new Congress is to ensure that the nation’s child nutrition programs are reauthorized. The current bill is set to expire this fall. Making sure children receive meals, especially during their early years of development, is crucial for their development and guards against malnutrition.

In 2015, Bread invites you to learn about hunger and to join us in our effort to end hunger by 2030.

Jennifer Gonzalez is the associate online editor at Bread for the World.

2014 Victories: Tax Credits for Working Families

6521600217_aa2e26c7db_bEditor’s note: Bread Blog is running a six-part series highlighting Bread for the World’s legislative wins in 2014. Today’s post, the last in the series, looks at tax credits for working families. 

By Bread Staff

Nobody likes to pay taxes, but there are two tax-related things that are actually good. The earned-income tax credit (EITC) and child tax credit (CTC) are two of the country’s most effective ways of fighting poverty , moving more than 10 million people out of poverty in 2012, including 5.3 million children.

Critical improvements to these credits are set to expire in 2017. Bread for the World members pushed Congress last year to make these improvements permanent before expanding tax benefits to wealthier individuals and businesses.

Just before Thanksgiving, Congressional leaders tried to push a deal to expand and make permanent certain temporary tax benefits for businesses. Bread for the World members let their members of Congress know that if they were going to expand tax breaks for businesses, they must include the EITC and CTC improvements, which prevent more than 16.4 million people, including 7.7 million children, from falling into or deeper into poverty.

After receiving strong pushback, including a White House veto threat, this harmful tax deal failed, but Congress is sure to return to this issue in 2015. 

“Our legislative wins aren’t always grabbing headlines, but they’re significant and affect millions of lives,” said Amelia Kegan, deputy director of government relations at Bread for the World. “This list of legislative accomplishments reminds us that sustained, faithful advocacy really works and really does bring change. We’ve got our work cut out for us in 2015, but let these successes of 2014 motivate, inspire, and energize us for the path ahead.”

We’ll need your help to make sure that these two measures stay intact in order to help struggling families. Make sure to continue to read Bread Blog during the year to find out how you can help.

Photo: Heather Rude-Turner, a Northern Virginia mom, depends on the earned income tax credit to help support her family. Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World.

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