Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

111 posts categorized "Tax Credits"

Tell Congress to Pass the Deal

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[UPDATE, 11 p.m. The fiscal cliff bill has passed the House by a vote of 257 to 167 and is expected to be signed by the president soon. Thanks to all those who prayed and advocated for programs that help hungry people. While this is not a perfect deal, and does not fully address our long term fiscal outlook, it is an important first step. We believe that the revenues raised will help reduce the deficit and support initiatives that lift people out of poverty.]

By Eric Mitchell

Your calls over the past few weeks have been working. Senate leadership and the administration produced a deal that reduces the economic risk of the fiscal cliff and largely protects hungry and poor people.

The Senate overwhelmingly passed the deal 89-8, but its fate in the House is uncertain.

Specifically, the bill accomplishes the following:
  • Extends the current Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit benefit levels for five years, including the 2009 improvements. This is something Bread for the World has been pushing for over the past three years and represents an enormous victory.
  • Extends emergency unemployment benefits for one year, preventing 2 million people from losing unemployment benefits just one week after Christmas.
Both provisions expire if Congress does not act now, and it's up to the House of Representatives. We need you to call your representative at 1-800-826-3688. Tell your member to pass the deal!

The deal postpones for two months the "sequester" (across-the-board cuts) that was mandated by the Budget Control Act last year. The sequester would cut some anti-poverty programs. Cuts to some international development programs would literally cost lives. But some of the biggest anti-poverty programs—including SNAP ( formerly food stamps), child nutrition programs, tax credits for poor working families, and Medicaid—are exempted from sequestration. Bread for the World will be working in the coming months on a more thoughtful approach to spending cuts and protecting poverty-focused international development assistance and WIC.

While this deal isn’t perfect, it will reduce the risk of recession and higher unemployment. It also includes important benefits to hungry and poor people.

Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) to urge your members of Congress to pass the deal. 

In these critical times, we also ask that you pray for the president and Congress. Pray that God will give them wisdom, a spirit of concord, and a shared sense of responsibility for hungry and poor people here and abroad.

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

[While all eyes are focused on the fiscal cliff, we are pleased to inform you that the House has passed the Foreign Aid Transparency and Accountability Act of 2012. This bill helps to ensure that our foreign assistance efforts are more efficient and more effective in reaching our brothers and sisters abroad. The Senate also seems likely to pass it this week. We have been pushing for foreign assistance reform legislation for the past three years.]

Pray for the Fiscal Cliff Negotiators

By Eric Mitchell

Christmas is the time when we reflect on God's love and the birth of Jesus Christ. It is a time of hope and promise. As we celebrate this Christmas season with our friends and families, let us not forget that the Good News was first delivered to poor and humble people.

But this holiday season has a different tone for our congressional leaders, who are primarily focusing on the wealthy as they negotiate a deficit reduction package with the president that will prevent going over the fiscal cliff. What's at stake is our nation's ability to feed the hungry, care for the poor and less fortunate, heal the sick, and tend to the elderly. Now, more than ever, is the time for us to pray for our leaders and ask that they fight for hungry and poor people.

Our faith teaches us that we have a responsibility to the most poor and vulnerable people. We look at every budget proposal from the bottom up — how it treats those Jesus called "the least of these" (Matthew 25:45). Of all days, this is a time when Christians must bring that spirit to our political leaders struggling to agree.

A diverse group of Christian leaders have agreed on policy recommendations that will best accomplish this. You can amplify their message by sending a special holiday message to the members of Congress at the negotiating table, and ask them to create a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people.

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

Plan B Would Hurt Low-Income Working Families

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Plan B would hurt families like Heather Rude-Turner's. Rude-Turner credits the Earned Income Tax Credit with helping her get back on her feet and allowing her family stay out of poverty. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

[UPDATE, 8:30 p.m. The House did not take up the "Plan B" measure this evening as planned. The House adjourned and will return after Christmas.]

By Amelia Kegan

Are you frantically making final preparations for Christmas? So is the House of Representatives. The House is trying to take some action—any action—so its members can say they have done something in response to the impending fiscal cliff. But when we’re dealing with issues this important and this big, we shouldn’t be content with a half-baked proposal—especially one that would hurt low-income working families.

This evening, the House will vote on H. Res. 66, also known as “Plan B.” This bill would extend many of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for the first $1 million of income. But Plan B fails to address the real problem: the long-term deficit problem and the approaching fiscal cliff. The bill raises only $300 billion over ten years. That is a far cry from the $2 trillion in deficit reduction needed to put the country on a fiscally sustainable path. The resulting spending cuts required would devastate our country’s ability to address hunger and help people, both in the United States and abroad, move out of poverty. Under Plan B, even multi-millionaires would receive a tax cut. Only income earned above and beyond the first $1 million would be taxed at the 2000 tax rate of 39.6 percent. The Tax Policy Center estimates that Plan B would allow millionaires an average tax cut of over $100,000, compared to current law.

But the most disappointing part of this bill is what it would do to poor working families. Plan B ends the 2009 improvements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit. These tax credits help more Americans escape poverty than any other anti-poverty program in the country. In 2011, the EITC and Child Tax Credit lifted 8.3 million people out of poverty. These credits reward work, promote economic mobility, and help struggling working parents put food on the table. A majority of EITC recipients only receive the credit for one or two years before moving to higher income levels. That is exactly what we want our anti-poverty programs to be doing. Why would we want to cut programs that are doing so much to help low-income working families move out of poverty and into the middle class?

But that is exactly what Plan B does. If enacted

  • Over 13 million families, including 25 million children, would see their EITC and Child Tax Credit benefits reduced or eliminated.
  • Nearly 3.75 million families, including almost 6 million children, would lose access to the Child Tax Credit entirely.

And this is just one of the bills the House will be voting on in response to the fiscal cliff. The other (H.R. 6684) includes drastic cuts to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), cuts the Child Tax Credit further, and eliminates the Social Services Block Grant, which helps fund Meals on Wheels, services for seniors and children who are victims of abuse or neglect, and child care for low-income families.

Plan B isn’t an answer. It would harm millions of low-income families. Congress should stick with Plan A. They’ve been debating deficit reduction for the past two years at the expense of many other necessary priorities.

Christmas is a time of hope, promise, and togetherness. This is a moment when members of Congress should seek common ground and work together to solve our nation’s fiscal challenges while remembering that we have a responsibility to our most poor and vulnerable brothers and sisters. It’s time for Congress to set aside politics. Rather than voting on a proposal merely to say they’ve voted on something, Congress should do the work to negotiate a comprehensive, balanced, bipartisan plan that addresses our long-term deficits and prioritizes a commitment to ending hunger in the U.S. and around the world.

Amelia Kegan is Bread for the World's senior policy analyst.

Time Is Running Out: Congress Needs to Hear From You

Alli_and_andre_1We are at a critical moment in the fiscal cliff negotiations. The decisions made now will determine our country’s ability—over the next decade and beyond—to fund programs that effectively address hunger and poverty.

We don't have much more time. It is imperative you call your members of Congress at 1-800-826-3688 today! Even if you've recently called your members of Congress, please call again. At this crucial moment, they cannot hear from you too often!

This fiscal cliff deal will have wide-reaching implications on so much of what we hold dear. The deal will determine our ability to provide assistance to babies here in the United States, such as eight-month-old Andre (pictured). It will also greatly impact our ability to provide assistance overseas. The future of these programs and the lives they touch are in jeopardy. If you don't raise them in the fiscal cliff discussions, who will?

This is more than a budget debate: it is a moral decision.

Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today. Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a deal that includes a circle of protection around programs vital to hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.

Any deal must do the following:

  • Explicitly protect low-income entitlement programs for hungry and poor people from harmful cuts and changes — programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit.
  • Include sufficient new tax revenue by raising rates and eliminating unnecessary tax loopholes — so that our country can reduce its deficit.
  • Prevent further cuts to discretionary programs, like poverty-focused development assistance and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Congress must reach a deal, but it must also adhere to our values. An imbalanced package will severely undermine our ability to address hunger and poverty for years to come. Call Congress today. We cannot let up now. Time is running out, and Congress needs to keep hearing from us.

Photo: Alex "Alli" Morris, from Bend, Ore., depends on SNAP, WIC, and other safety net programs to care for André, who suffers from a serious medical condition that affects his hormonal system. (Brad Horn)

Act Now! Congress Needs to Hear Your Voice

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Suzanne Lefreniere of Portland, Maine talks about hunger and poverty issues with Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

Time is running out for Congress and the president to come to a deal before we reach the fiscal cliff in January.

Negotiations are underway and moving fast. This is the moment for you to act. Call your senators and representative today and tell them to push for a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people in the budget agreement.

Ask them to:

  1. Include explicit protections for effective programs that serve hungry and poor people — programs such as SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit;
  2. Balance responsible spending cuts with new tax revenue; and
  3. Prevent further disproportionate cuts to portions of the budget that fund poverty-focused development assistance, international food aid, and WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children).

For a side-by-side look at the budget proposals from President Barack Obama and Speaker John Boehner, and how those proposals would affect programs that help poor and hungry people, take a look at Bread's new fiscal cliff fact sheet.

Even if you’ve called before, your members of Congress can’t hear from you often enough on this important issue. Call the Capitol switchboard to be connected to your member of Congress: 202-224-3121, or use our toll-free number: 1-800-826-3688.

In the News: David Beckmann on Faith and the Fiscal Cliff

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Photo: David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World.

While the economic consequences associated with falling off of the so-called fiscal cliff are being debated, the morality of budget decisions has not been widely discussed, says Bread for the World president David Beckmann in an op-ed piece in The Hill:

At the core of the budget debate is a deeply moral issue. We must prioritize those in need, especially during the season of Advent. If Congress and the president can reach a deal that meets these criteria, they will have our full support.

Beckmann also recently spoke to MSNBC about faith and the fiscal cliff, and the lack of conversation about poor and hungry people in current negotiations, in a Dec. 11 piece.

“It’s really extraordinary that the two political parties don’t talk much about poor people,” Beckmann told MSNBC.  “The Republican Party generally doesn’t. They have other priorities, certainly other than protecting programs for poor people.”

And President Obama, Beckmann said, has done a good job protecting certain programs, “but he doesn’t like to use the word poverty, so he calls them, ‘people who want to be middle-class.”

But the Good Book, Beckmann noted, is clear: “God does talk about poor people… The New Testament says a nation will be judged by whether or not we take care of poor people and how we treat people in prison.”

Bread for the World views the federal budget as a moral document prioritizing our national values. The respective budget proposals from President Barack Obama and House Speaker John Boehner fail to include the principle that deficit reduction should not increase poverty.

For a side-by-side look at the proposals from President Obama and Speaker Boehner, and how those proposals would affect programs that help poor and hungry people, take a look at Bread's new fiscal cliff fact sheet. We also ask that you contact your members of Congress and tell them that any budget deal must include a circle of protection around programs that address hunger and poverty, in the United States and abroad.

President Obama Urges Congress to Extend Tax Cuts

Obama_2011_speechBy Sarah Godfrey

President Barack Obama delivered a statement at the White House yesterday, urging Congressional leaders to adopt his proposal to extend 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for all but the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.

The White House has said that if Congress doesn't act before the end of the year, every American family’s taxes will automatically go up—and that a typical middle-class family of four would see its taxes rise by $2,200. "That means less money to buy groceries or fill a prescription," Obama said during his remarks.

Congress is currently in the middle of budget negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff," a term that is used to describe a mix of automatic spending cuts and the expiration of a group of policies, including the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts—all of which are set to occur at the beginning of 2013. 

The focus of the president's statement was ensuring that any budget framework put forth protects middle-class families and small businesses, but extending the tax cuts would also ensure that the tax burden of low-income families does not increase. Tax credits such as the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) are among our country’s most effective anti-poverty tools.

Bread for the World has maintained that any bipartisan deal to avoid the fiscal cliff must include additional tax revenue, responsible cuts, and explicit protections for the EITC and the CTC, both of which were expanded to assist more Americans in the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts as well as in 2009. We are asking that Congress pass a budget deal that includes a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.

During Wednesday's statement, Obama asked that Americans concerned about the expiration of the tax credits take to Twitter and use the hashtag #My2K to tell their members of Congress what an effective $2000 tax hike would mean for them and their families. 

"When the American people speak loudly enough, lo and behold, Congress listens," President Obama said.

Sarah Godfrey is Bread for the World's associate online editor.

Act now: Call your members of Congress and tell them they must not balance the budget on the backs of hungry and poor people! Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a budget deal that explicitly protects programs that assist low-income families—including the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit—against cuts or harmful changes.

Call Congress Now! Fiscal Cliff Negotiations Threaten the Circle of Protection

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Photo by Flickr user nicolasnova

Budget negotiations to avoid the "fiscal cliff" are now underway. The president and Congress are working intensely toward a deal — so pressure to cut federal spending, particularly to programs for hungry and poor people, has never been higher.

For the next six weeks, every Washington interest group will be pounding the halls of Congress to weigh in on a multi-trillion dollar deal that will affect every federal program and every person in this country for decades to come. Unfortunately, the media and politicians are not talking about the tremendous impact that the deal will have on hungry and poor people. If we don’t speak up, vulnerable people could easily be forgotten.

Congress needs to hear your voice! We need your help to remind Congress to take the deficit seriously without balancing the budget on the backs of hungry and poor people. Proverbs calls us to speak for those without a voice. We must remind Congress that their budget decisions are moral choices that could have devastating consequences.

Call your U.S. senators and your U.S. representative today! Use our toll-free number (1-800-826-3688) and tell them to pass a budget deal that includes a circle of protection around programs for hungry and poor people in the United States and around the world.

Explain that any deal must

  • Explicitly protect low-income entitlement programs for hungry and poor people—like SNAP (formerly food stamps), the Earned Income Tax Credit, and the Child Tax Credit—against cuts or harmful changes.
  • Include additional tax revenue, balanced with responsible spending cuts, so that our country can reduce its deficits while continuing its commitment to reducing hunger and poverty in the United States and around the world.
  • Prevent further cuts to non-defense discretionary programs, including poverty-focused development assistance, international food aid, and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

Congress must reach a deal, but it is critical that Congress get it right. An imbalanced package will severely hamper our ability to address hunger and poverty for years to come. Call Congress today. If we wait, it will be too late.

Grace and Peace,

Bread for the World

Examining the Supplemental Poverty Measure Numbers

By Kyle Dechant

At Bread, we are thankful for the many ways in which our country comes together on Thanksgiving. Charitable giving, food drives, holiday meals at soup kitchens, and the like allow the vast majority of Americans to participate in this celebration of harvest and thanksgiving.

Tomorrow, many families will also put food on their tables with the help of federal programs, such as SNAP (Supplemental Poverty Nutrition Assistance, formerly known as food stamps). When the holiday season ends, and charitable giving decreases as we return to the busyness of our lives, those programs will continue to provide vital assistance to those in need.

And, according to the U.S. Census Bureau's Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), released earlier this month, these programs are more crucial than ever.

The SPM is an attempt by the Census Bureau to measure poverty in a way that accounts for the ways in which our lives have changed over the last several decades. The “official” poverty measure was developed in the early 1960s, and though this measure is adjusted annually for inflation, it has more or less remained the same since it was created.

The SPM takes into account the following considerations that the Official Poverty Measure does not include:

  • Government policies that alter the resources available to families—payroll taxes which reduce net income but also income-supports which ameliorate the impacts of poverty, such as tax credits and SNAP benefits (food stamps).
  •  Expenses that are necessary in holding a job, such as transportation and childcare
  •  Medical costs
  • Variations in household units and support, such as child support payments, co-habitation, and multiple family households
  •  Geographic differences in the cost-of-living across the country

 Here’s how the numbers from the SPM stack up against the official poverty measure:

 According to the SPM, 16.1 percent of the U.S. population (49.7 million people) lived in poverty in 2011; data from the official poverty measure were 15.1 percent of the population (46.6 million people). In other words, 3.1 million more people lived in poverty, according to the SPM than the older official poverty measure.SPN_chart_bread_Nov_2012

  • Fewer children lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM, as compared to official poverty data: 18.1 percent of children (13.4 million total) under 18, as measured by the SPM; 22.3 percent (16.5 million total children) by the official measure.
  • Slightly more adults (ages 18-64) lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM: 15.5 percent (30.0 million total) by the SPM; 13.7 percent (26.5 million total) by the official measure.
  • More older Americans lived in poverty in 2011, according to the SPM: 15.1 percent of adults 65 and above (6.2 million total) by the SPM; 8.7 percent (3.6 million total) for the official measure.

The SPM also helps measure the efficacy of anti-poverty programs. Among the findings:

  • Without refundable tax credits, such as the earned income tax credit, child poverty would rise from 18.1 percent to 24.4 percent
  • Without SNAP, the overall poverty rate would increase from 16.1 percent to 17.6 percent.

During the holidays, our country does an admirable job of remembering those in need, but direct assistance alone can't lift families out of poverty. As the SPM data shows, anti-poverty programs help the millions of families and children who are at risk of hunger—not only during the holiday season, but year-round.

Kyle Dechant is a fellow in Bread for the World's government relations department.

How Bread's Work Supports Those Affected By Natural Disasters

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One of the many New York trees uprooted during Hurrican Sandy on Nov. 4, 2012. (USDA photo by Dave Kosling)

By Christine Melendez Ashley and Faustine Wabwire

Bread for the World’s efforts to create a circle of protection and push Congress to reduce our deficits in a responsible manner are critical to ensuring vulnerable people affected by natural disasters at home and abroad have the support they need. These programs continue to be at risk as Congress works to craft a farm bill and a deficit reduction package.

In the past year, Bread has worked to protect and strengthen domestic nutrition programs, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) and child nutrition programs. These programs have provided quick and substantial help to New York, New Jersey, and other affected states in the wake of Hurricane Sandy. For example:

  • The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rushed emergency food to affected areas for distribution through food banks and emergency food channels.
  • USDA has authorized 13 affected states to issue replacement SNAP benefits for food purchased and lost in the month of October. They also authorized an extra two weeks of benefits for everyone on SNAP in and around New York City—a benefit totaling $65 million.
  •  Some of the worst affected states have also been authorized to allow SNAP recipients to purchase hot, ready-to-eat foods. This is not allowed under normal SNAP rules.
  • USDA approved free school lunches for all children in New York public school districts for the month of November.

Bread has also been a strong advocate for effective foreign assistance programs and international food aid. In the last several years, Bread has pushed for robust funding of these programs. Hurricane relief efforts abroad are being carried out through foreign assistance programs at USAID. For example:

  • USAID has provided 50 metric tons of food aid to Haiti to help address food insecurity concerns.
  •  USAID has distributed plastic sheeting to help approximately 10,000 people, family hygiene kits have helped nearly 12,500 people, and an estimated 6,400 blankets.
  •  USAID has also provided items such as wheelbarrows and tools helpful for clean-up to displacement camps most affected by Hurricane Sandy.

In the last two years, Congress has introduced proposals to decimate these programs. Despite these threats, Bread has pushed back and prevented these proposals from becoming law, thus enabling these programs to respond quickly and effectively to dramatic need. As Congress works to avoid the “fiscal cliff” and negotiate a budget deal, we must continue to push for a circle of protection around programs that effectively serve the most vulnerable in the United States and around the world.

Christine Melendez Ashley is a policy analyst in Bread for the World's government relations department.

Faustine Wabwire is Bread for the World Institute's foreign assistance policy analyst.

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