Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

123 posts categorized "Tax Credits"

Congress Urged to Pass Legislation to Help Working Families

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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.

Bread Challenges the Newly Elected Congress

Grassroots lobby day
Bread for the World members in front of the Capitol Building, Washington, D.C. (Bread for the World)


By David Beckmann

On Tuesday, while the Senate shifted to Republican control, 18,000 children around the world died unnecessarily. Nearly half those deaths were caused by hunger. And in the United States, 16 million children still live in families that struggle to put food on the table.

Bread for the World’s members work for justice for hungry people in the United States and around the world regardless of how power shifts between our nation’s political parties. We pray that all our nation’s leaders will work to end hunger.  

The number of people in extreme poverty in the world has been cut in half since 1990, and there has been progress in all kinds of countries, from Bangladesh to Brazil to Great Britain. If Congress and the president make opportunity for everybody a priority, we can end hunger in the United States and support continued progress toward ending hunger worldwide.

Bread for the World’s top priority for the 114th Congress will be the scheduled reauthorization of the nation’s child nutrition programs. Republicans and Democrats should work together to strengthen school and summer nutrition programs.  But House Republicans have been pushing for deep cuts in SNAP (formerly known as food stamps). Churches and food banks across the country have been unable to make up for the groceries that Congress took away from hungry families last year.

Bread for the World also notes with optimism bipartisan interest in other issues important to people in poverty:

  • When Congress returns later this month, the leaders of both houses seem inclined to steer away from another budget crisis and finalize appropriations for the current fiscal year.

  • The parties should be able to work together on continued progress against world poverty–the fight against Ebola and bills to reform food aid, strengthen agriculture and nutrition in poor countries, and promote trade with Africa.

  • Leaders in both parties are calling for reforms to correct injustices in the criminal justice system that have crowded U.S. prisons and deepened the poverty of many communities.

  • Tax credits for low-wage workers reduce poverty while encouraging work.

God has made it possible in our time to virtually end hunger in our country and around the world, so Bread for the World is pushing with urgency to make hunger, poverty, and opportunity for everybody a priority for our political leaders. We will push for change over the next two years and in the next round of elections for president and Congress.

Rev. David Beckmann is the president of Bread for the World.

A Gift of Song for Bread for World Sunday

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Opening plenary session of Bread for the World's 2011 Gathering, on Saturday, June 11, 2011, at American University. (Rick Reinhard)

Across the nation, from pulpit to pew, Christians will renew their commitment to ending hunger as part of the annual Bread for the World Sunday celebrations taking place this weekend, October 19. 

During a special church service, congregations commit themselves to the fight against hunger and poverty through education, prayer, and worship. Many churches will use song to inspire congregants. 

Longtime Bread supporters and co-pastors of Limestone Presbyterian Church in Wilmington, Del., Bruce and Carolyn Winfrey Gillette offer a new hymn they wanted us to share with you. Carolyn has written many original hymns used by Bread for the World members in past worship services.

Carolyn composed, “Is it Lawful to Pay Taxes?” based on the lectionary reading for October 19. In an email to Bread for the World, Bruce wrote, “We hope it will remind people of our shared responsibility to pay taxes, to work for our taxes being used well for the common good and also our ultimate loyalty always is to God.”

Bread for the World is blessed by our talented membership represented by people like Carolyn and Bruce and grateful for their gift of song.

“Is It Lawful to Pay Taxes?”
BEACH SPRING 8.7.8.7 D ("God Whose Giving Knows No Ending")

“Is it lawful to pay taxes when they prop up Caesar’s rule?”
So some people asked of Jesus, wanting him to seem a fool.
Saying “no” would be sedition; saying “yes” would be a sin.
Jesus changed the conversation, calling them to look within.

“Find a tax coin in your treasure; see the image that it bears.
Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. (Give to rulers what is theirs.)”
Yet he pressed on with his message; “Give to God what is God’s own.”
We who bear our Maker’s image worship God and God alone.

Lord of all, in every nation, may your word be understood—
That we have an obligation to support the common good.
May our taxes, all together, fund our working hand in hand
So that life will be made better for all people in this land.

Still, we also hear your teaching: “Give to God what God is due.”
May no ruler—overreaching—try to take the place of you.
May we listen to your message, may we honor what is yours;
May we, living in your image, seek your kingdom that endures.

Biblical References: Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17 and Luke 20:20-26. Tune: The Sacred Harp, 1844; attributed to Benjamin Franklin White (MIDI) Text: Copyright © 2014 by Carolyn Winfrey Gillette. All rights reserved. Email: bcgillette@comcast.net New Hymns: http://www.carolynshymns.com

Congress Passes Funding Extension Before Leaving to Campaign

Elections Cover 2014 SmallBy Robin Stephenson

With little fanfare, Congress passed a continuing resolution this week to extend funding for the government through mid-December. Lawmakers now head home to campaign for midterm elections, leaving a pile of unfinished business in Washington, D.C. 

Congress will not return to the capital until November 12. Bread for the World urges advocates to use the flurry of campaign activity as an opportunity to make hunger an elections issue.

“The more advocates lift up hunger as an election issue, the more Congress will act on legislation that can end hunger by 2030,” says Amelia Kegan, deputy director of Bread for the World’s government relations department.

The funding extension passed before Congress left on recess was modified to include additional funding to arm Syrian rebels, but did not include dollars to address the poverty that is driving children to flee Latin America—primarily Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras—into the United States. Lawmakers did include instructions allowing certain federal agencies to spend at higher rates to address the surge of child refugees at the border.

Congress also returns home as the World Food Program (WFP) warns of unprecedented global food emergencies and dwindling resources. WFP will cut food rations to four million Syrian refugees by 40 percent in October because of shortages. Central African Republic, South Sudan, Syria, and Iraq have all been designated as level-three (the highest) humanitarian crises by WFP, straining the food aid system. 

As the world’s largest donor of food aid, the United States can free up even more food resources by increasing efficiencies without raising taxes. A bill in the Senate, The Food for Peace Reform Act (S. 2421), addresses reform, and we are urging senators to cosponsor the bill.

On the heels of the news that 45.3 million Americans live below the poverty line, Congress must address a jobs agenda that includes work that pays a living wage.  Tax credits that help end hunger are also expiring before the end of the year.

One bright spot is that the passage of the continuing resolution yesterday to fund the government allows us to avoid a partisan showdown like we experienced last fall that shut the federal government down for more than two weeks. However, Congress left a lot of work undone.

“These are big issues they are leaving on the table, “says Kegan. “When lawmakers return, they need to address all these issues in budget decisions by December 11.” 

Kegan stresses that advocacy efforts right now will reverberate long past December. She says the elections work will play a big role in ending hunger during the 2015 session if candidates hear from voters. “ The elections,” she says, “will set the tone for next year when Congress begins work on the 2016 budget.”

The national trends both globally and domestically have been very positive. World hunger declined in 2014, and a report from UNICEF released yesterday says that child deaths have been cut in half since 1990.  As the U.S. economy rebounds, more people are returning to the labor market, and poverty rates here at home have decreased slightly, by 0.5 percent, for the first time since 2006.

Now is not the time to let up on hunger. Engage the candidates and help make hunger history.

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and a senior regional organizer

 

House Votes to Push Millions Into Deeper Poverty

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The annual KIDS COUNT Data Book by the Anne E. Casey Foundation shows that child poverty in the United States is on the rise. (Rick Reinhard)

In a disturbing trend that prioritizes the wealthy over the most vulnerable Americans, the House today passed H.R. 4935 by a vote of 237 to 171.  Bread has dubbed it the “reverse Robin Hood” bill, which takes from the poor to give to the rich. The bill could push 12 million people—including 6 million kids--into poverty or deeper poverty while giving a tax break to households making $150,000 to $205,000.  

In a media statement today, Bread for the World president, Rev. David Beckmann said,  “It is unacceptable that we are one of the wealthiest countries in the world and have one of the highest child poverty rates among developed countries. Our policies should help lower-income working families climb out of poverty - not push them deeper into it.”

We do not expect the Senate to take up the Child Tax Credit Improvement Act of 2014.  Instead, the bill, which does not extend critical improvements to the child tax credit for millions of low-income working families, could be considered as part of a tax extenders bill after the November mid-term elections.  Tax credits, like the child tax credit (CTC) and the earned income tax credit (EITC), keep more people – including children – out of poverty each year than any other federal anti-hunger program.

Although H.R. 4935 passed, 173 members of Congress still opposed the bill, thanks to the calls Bread for the World’s anti-hunger advocates made to their representatives – including hundreds of calls this morning!  Bread is calling for any final bill on the child tax credit to include the 2009 improvements, which enable more low-income working families to receive a larger credit. Your advocacy helped build momentum and educate lawmakers that this is an issue the faith community cares about.

In 2009, Congress made the CTC available to low-income working families, enabling them to begin to receive part of the credit once earnings reached $3,000. Under the recent House-passed bill, a single mother with two children who works full-time at the minimum wage (earning about $14,500 a year) would completely lose her CTC of $1,725.

Bread for the World has long championed refundable tax credits as a way to reduce hunger in America and will continue to do so.  We encourage advocates to bring up the importance of tax credits with their legislators during the August recess and make hunger an election issue. We will also continue to keep advocates apprised as legislation moves forward this year and use every opportunity to restore the 2009 improvements.

Today’s vote was extremely disappointing, but we should use it to energize our conviction that the direction in Washington, D.C., must change. It is time to buck the trends and make ending hunger a priority.  Child poverty is far too high in the United States - in 2012, 23 percent of U.S. children lived in poor families. Congress unleashed its own version of Robin Hood on millions of children today, but we as the faith community will continue to fight for what’s right.

See here how your representative voted, and read Bread for the World’s press release “Bread for the World Disappointed with House Child Tax Credit Bill.”

Urgent: Don’t let the House take from children to give to the wealthy

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Children eat lunch. (USDA)

UPDATE, 12:42 p.m. EDT, July 25, 2014:  H.R. 4935 passed House by 237 to 171.

By Eric Mitchell

Six million.

That’s how many of our nation’s children could be sent into poverty - or pushed deeper into poverty – by a bill the U.S. House will vote on later today. Why? To give a tax break to households making $150,000 to $205,000.  

This is Robin Hood in reverse – taking from the poor to pay the rich. As people of faith called to stand with people experiencing hunger and poverty, now is the time to act.

The House is about to vote today! Call your representative at 800-826-3688 (Capitol switchboard). Tell your representative to vote no on H.R. 4935. Sending kids into poverty is going in the wrong direction.

The bill would make sweeping changes to the child tax credit, one of our nation’s most-effective tools to help working families escape poverty. The bill would end critical improvements made to the child tax credit for low-income working families. A single mother who works full-time at minimum wage (earning about $14,500 a year) would lose her credit completely. At the same time, the bill would expand the credit so households making $150,000 to $205,000 could get it.

How can we face the future as a nation if we cannot support all of our children as they grow? How can we leave hard-working families without support when a job doesn’t always pay enough to make ends meet? House Bill 4935 is simply the wrong direction for the country and the wrong direction for our children. 

Every call matters today, so please take two minutes and call your representative now. 

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

 

Urgent: Voting on Child Tax Credit Tomorrow Could Push More Than Six Million Children Into Deeper Poverty

6481919653_93c2491182_oIn a reverse Robin Hood move, the House could pass a bill that would take from the poor and give to the rich – unless advocates convince them not to.  Call your representative today and tell them to vote no on this bill that would harm our nation’s children.

Update: Vote postponed until Friday.

On Thursday, the House of Representatives will vote on H.R. 4935 - a bill that changes the Child Tax Credit, one of our country’s key anti-poverty programs. Disappointingly, this bill expands the credit for higher income families and cuts the credit for low-income working families.

Bread for the World has long championed the Child Tax Credit and even made it, along with the Earned Income Tax Credit, the focus of our 2010 Offering of Letters.  Tax credits help working families make ends meet so they can provide for their families. We have been urging Congress to make the credits permanent because studies have proven that these programs pull more people out of poverty than any other federal anti-hunger program.

Given the alarming rates of child poverty in the United States, altering programs that are helping kids makes no sense. Recent data from the KIDS COUNT Data Book reports that about 23 percent of children in 2012 lived in families below the poverty line – more than 16 million children. To our shame, the United States ranks below other wealthy countries in child poverty.

Currently the Child Tax Credit provides taxpayers up to $1,000 for each dependent child under age 17 and is available to families at most levels of income. If made law, H.R. 4935 would take away the credit from the single mother who works full-time at minimum wage (about $14,500 a year). Passage means that 12 million people, including 6 million children, would be pushed into poverty or deeper poverty. The bill also targets immigrant families, requiring parents who claim the credit to have Social Security numbers, regardless of the status of the children who would benefit.  An estimated 5.5 million children would be affected.

At the same time, families earning between $150,000 and $205,000 could now claim the credit — families who do not need offsets nearly as much to help raise their children.

Tax credits and a strong faith in God helped Heather Rude-Turner of Northern Virginia to move herself and her children from a homeless shelter to the security of a home. Tax credits gave her the boost she needed so her story of struggle had a good ending. Her children, Naomi and Isaac, have better opportunities and a brighter future because of tax credits.

How can we face the future as a nation if we cannot support all of our children as they develop? How can we leave hard working families without support when a job doesn’t always pay enough to make ends meet?  House Bill 4935 is simply the wrong direction for the country and the wrong direction for our children. 

Call 1-800-826-3688 and ask for your representative today – voting is expected tomorrow. Tell him/her to vote “no” on H.R. 4935.

Photo: Heather Rude-Turner, 31, kisses her daughter Naomi, 5, after attending church. (Laura Elizabeth-Pohl/Bread for the World)

Tax Day: Three Reasons April 15 is Actually Pretty Great

'IRS 1040 Forms Post Office April 14, 20112' photo (c) 2011, Steven Depolo - license: http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Today is April 15, also known as tax day in the United States. People around the country are scrambling to meet the midnight deadline for filing, many of them groaning as they prepare to make sizable payments to the Internal Revenue Service. Tax day in America has become a national day of grousing for the most part, but it doesn't have to be—NETWORK Lobby is promoting a #taxpayerpride campaign on social media, and asking people to take selfies with some of the great things taxes pay for and post them to social media.

"Many of our faith traditions call us to pool our financial resources for the common good,"Sr. Simone Campbell of NETWORK wrote in the launch of the #taxpayerpride campaign. "What makes our country great is our commitment to everyone having enough and no one getting left behind."

We agree! So, to that point, here are three functions of the federal government that are funded by our taxpayer dollars and that support the biblical vision of community and nation as lifting up those who are vulnerable.

1) Earned Income Tax Credit

The earned income tax credit, or EITC, is a refundable federal tax credit (people apply while completing their income tax returns) that supplements the wages of low-income workers. Although there has been some debate on Capitol Hill about expanding the program to include childless workers--an expansion Bread for the World supports—EITC has historically had bi-partisan support, a rare hand-up that most members of Congress can get behind.

The working poor often shoulder a greater share of the tax burden relative to their income, contrary to the conventional wisdom in some circles. A 2012 Citizens for Tax Justice study found that the poorest fifth of Americans, a group with an average cash income of $13,000 per year, saw 17.4 percent of their incomes go to taxes—including payroll tax, sales tax, and excise tax—in 2011.

The EITC helps offset this a bit by allowing low-income workers to keep more of what they earn.    In 2010, this credit lifted 5.4 million people out of poverty—including 3 million children.

2) Food-Aid Reform

Even people who don't complain about paying taxes may express concern about our government's stewardship of tax dollars. One example of our tax dollars being used wisely is food-aid reform, the movement to update our government's outdated practices related to food aid, the assistance our nation provides to hungry people across the globe.

Food aid already helps feed people overseas at very little cost—less than .05 percent of the federal budget each year. And smart, simple changes to  food-aid programs (as outlined in Bread for the World's 2014 Offering of Letters) would allow food aid to benefit millions more people each year — at no additional cost to U.S. taxpayers. Better utilization of existing tax revenue in a way that helps more people is something tax payers can feel good about.

3) Safety Net Programs

When people are asked to cite some of the great things their tax dollars fund, they often mention national parks, public museums and libraries, or bridges and roads. While Americans are fortunate to live in a country where our government values and invests in things like cultural enrichment and infrastructure,we're even more privileged to live in a nation that has a social safety net in place to catch people before they fall into poverty.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), about 12 percent of the federal budget in 2013, or $398 billion, supported programs that provide aid  to individuals and families facing hardship (other than health insurance or Social Security benefits). Included in that figure are SNAP (food stamps), school meals, low-income housing assistance, and many other important programs.

A CBPP analysis shows that government safety net programs kept some 41 million people out of poverty in 2012.  Although not nearly enough of our tax dollars go toward helping people in need, the good news is that the money we do spend on social safety net is vital and does much good, something that should make taxpayers feel very proud.

EITC Can Be a Blessing on Tax Day

6869765923_307afdd67c_bBy Robin Stephenson

I’ve been thinking about my taxes lately. I’m that person who keeps important papers stuffed in my closet in a crumpled brown paper bag, which I conveniently ignore until the calendar flips to April. My dad will start calling me with reminders any day now, and I’ll make the deadline – I’ll probably file on April 15, if history holds. Taxes are important to my dad. Prior to the current recession, the deepest economic downturn post-World War II was in the early 1980s. Our family qualified for the earned income tax credit (EITC) during that time, and for a few tough years, it made all the difference.

In the early '80s, work was unpredictable and my parents worried a lot. Unemployment and instability are extremely stressful for a family. My memories of that time are reflected in the news today, which is filled with stories of families struggling to find their way through recession. Even though employment hasn’t reached pre-recession rates, Congress has failed to reinstate emergency unemployment, leaving more than 2 million unemployed Americans without a safety net. For those who had some form of work during 2013 and qualify, the EITC will provide some financial assistance.

The tax credit, instituted in 1975, is one of the principal anti-poverty programs in the U.S. budget. If a car breaks down, or there is an expense that month-to-month paychecks can’t cover, the EITC is there to help keep low-income working families from falling into debt. (Take this quiz to see how much you know about the EITC).

In 2010, when this refundable tax credit was about to expire, Bread for the World made it the focus of our Offering of Letters campaign for that year. During the Great Recession, the EITC proved to be a lifeline for many working families that still struggled in the tight economic climate. Bread for the World has advocated for the current benefit levels for this refundable tax credit to be made a permanent part of the tax code—the current benefit levels expire in 2017.

President Obama has called for an expansion in his 2015 budget proposal to include an expansion of the tax refund for childless workers. Currently, a single worker without dependents working full time at minimum wage ($15,080 annually) does not qualify for the credit. If the EITC were expanded to this group of workers, the Treasury Department estimates another half million people would be lifted out of poverty.

Bread for the World will continue push for EITC to be made permanent, and will advocate for the expansion. Since my senator, Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), is now chairman of the Senate Finance Committee with jurisdiction over the tax code and sits on the Budget Committee, I feel like I have a special role to play, and I want to be sure he hears my story. I’m glad EITC was there when my family needed it.

 

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Do you have a story how EITC has helped you or your family?  Behind every statistic is a story – and telling them can move hearts and minds to action.  If you have a story of how the ongoing budget battles have affected you, we invite you to share with us through our Faces and Facts site. 

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

Photo: flickr user 401 K (2012)

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