Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

108 posts categorized "Tax Credits"

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.

Bread Members in Nebraska Message Sen. Mike Johanns

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Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.) listens as Bread for the World activist Jana Prescott speaks during Bread for the World Lobby Day in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, June 12, 2012. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Zach Schmidt

On Halloween, dozens of men and women in the Cornhusker State wore powerful costumes. While indistinguishable from ordinary citizens on the outside, on the inside their hearts beat for hungry and poor people. They were wearing costumes that don’t come off—their advocate costumes.

This group of advocates seeks justice to pour down like a waterfall. They join their voices in calling for protection for their most vulnerable neighbors—those in their communities, their country, and their world. On Oct. 31 they joined their voices in calling the congressional office of Sen. Mike Johanns (R-Neb.).

Through the work of a handful of leaders, more Bread for the World phone calls were made to Sen. Johanns on Oct. 31 than on any other previous call-in day! We set a sizeable goal of 50 calls, but exceeded expectations! A total of 67 phone calls were placed asking Sen. Johanns to protect domestic and international food security programs, including SNAP and WIC in the United States, and development assistance and food aid abroad.

Sen. Johanns is a member of the “Gang of Eight,” a bipartisan group of senators working on a framework to address the federal budget deficit and avert the “fiscal cliff.” The term fiscal cliff is being used to describe the combination of $1.2 trillion in across-the-board cuts and the expiration of the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts, beginning in January.

Everything is on the table for this group of senators, and they’re working hard to come to agreement. They want to be able to unveil a proposal very soon, which is why we took action when we did. We made dozens of phone calls to the senator’s Washington office telling him that Congress cannot balance the budget on the backs of poor and hungry people.

The feedback that organizers heard from callers was that the senator’s staffers were friendly and receptive to listening to them and noting their concerns. For this, we'd like to thank the senator and his staff. And most of all, we'd like to thank those who made phone calls to protect hungry and poor people—especially those who not only made calls themselves, but got others to do so, too!

Zach Schmidt is a Bread for the World regional organizer in the Central Hub, which includes Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska.

Washington Was Down but Hunger Advocates in Illinois Were Not

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Bread for the World regional organizer Zachary Schmidt (far left) meeting with Chicago pastors and community leaders to organize a call-in day targeting Sen. Dick Durbin. (Photo courtesy of David Swanson).

By Zach Schmidt

Congressional offices in Washington, D.C., shut down on Tuesday, Oct. 30, due to Hurricane Sandy, but that didn't stop hunger advocates in Illinois from pulling off a successful call-in day targeting Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.).

With our thoughts and prayers with those who lost loved ones to the ravages of Sandy, Illinoisans worked doubly hard to preserve the circle of protection that helps so many, both at home and abroad. Many activists placed not one, but two calls that day, making the effort to reach Sen. Durbin's district office in Chicago—which was open and operating last week—after learning that his D.C. office was closed.

Those who follow Bread for the World's issues may wonder why we focused energy on Sen. Durbin, one of the strongest champions for hungry and poor people in Congress. The answer is simple: to encourage him to “keep it up” in these turbulent times. When it comes to finding a way forward for our nation, everything is on the table, from spending cuts (including cuts to vital safety net programs) to tax increases. On Capitol Hill, there is great pressure to come to a budget agreement—any agreement—especially for Sen. Durbin, who is in a position of leadership. But we in Illinois say, “not on the backs of our most vulnerable neighbors.”

We Illinoisans say, “Senator Durbin, thank you for protecting poor and hungry people. As a leader in the Senate and with the 'Gang of Eight,' the bipartisan group of senators working on a framework that will address our nation’s deficit. Continue to push your colleagues to protect programs such as SNAP, WIC, and tax credits in the U.S., and poverty-focused assistance abroad. We support you as you do this.”

The successful call-in day started as a distant idea that steadily built momentum and force through the joint effort of Bread members and faith and community leaders. Bread's regional organizing team got to know community leaders and pastors on Chicago’s South Side and in the city’s western suburbs. These leaders know that the church is called to serve the broken both by meeting their needs and by advocating for them. They shared stories of people in need, and those stories motivated us and moved us forward together.

Continue reading "Washington Was Down but Hunger Advocates in Illinois Were Not" »

7.8% Unemployment – Why We Care at Bread

 

(Source: The Washington Post)

By Kyle Dechant

Last Friday, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the national unemployment rate fell below 8 percent for the first time in more than 43 months. To the relief of many policy makers, September’s seasonally adjusted rate came in at 7.8 percent.

 Why We Care at Bread

 

(Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Census Bureau)

Poverty in its most basic form is a measurement of income. As such, it’s not surprising to find that as unemployment falls in the United States the rate of poverty also decreases. The graph above charts U.S. unemployment and poverty over the past 31 years and shows how, generally speaking, unemployment and poverty tend to rise and fall together.

An unemployment rate of 7.8 percent is high by any historic measure. However, given that unemployment has been above 8 percent for almost four years and that the unemployment rate has historically been an accurate barometer of longer-term trends in poverty, this drop seems to indicate that poverty may decrease by more in the near future.

Continue reading "7.8% Unemployment – Why We Care at Bread" »

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