Take Action: Write a letter to the editor to protect low income tax credits.

April 16, 2010 at 7:08 am Leave a comment

This Thursday is April 15, so two reminders:

1)     Fill out your taxes, if you haven’t already done so. J

2)     We’d like to invite you to write a letter to the editor to your local paper asking to protect and strengthen key tax credits that help low income families make ends meet. Believe it or not, print media (a) still exists! And (b) is still a highly-effective way to spread the word about our campaign as well as get the attention of elected leaders. Every good communications staff in Congress pays close attention to letters to the editor in their home states and districts. You know the papers in your area best, so the best thing to do is to look up your editorial board’s policy about where to submit and the word count. It’s also best if possible to connect a letter to a story that’s been written recently. Since this is “tax week,” we anticipate there will be a good handful of stories you might be able to connect with. More tips about how to write letters to the editor below, and more info about all things tax credits at www.offeringofletters.org

Suggested talking points (the best letters have your original voice and thoughts – this is just to help you get started):

  • As tax day approaches, we’re acutely aware of how the tax code works to raise money.  We may be less aware that we also use the tax code to help people own homes, save for retirement, go to college, or even make charitable donations.  Often unnoticed in the formidable stack of deductions, exemptions, and credits is the largest federal anti-poverty program for working families, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). 
  • The EITC has received broad bipartisan support over the years. It was crafted under the Nixon administration and expanded under Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Gworge W. Bush, and Obama. Ronald Reagan called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job creation measure to come out of Congress.”
  • The EITC helps bridge the gap between low-wage earnings and the costs of meeting basic needs for over 22 million households in America.
  • Recent improvements to EITC are set to expire at the end of the year. If they are not renewed or made permanent, over [X – see below] families in [Your State] will lose all or part of their benefits. Congress has a chance to make these programs permanent and [name your key legislator(s) if applicable – see below] should do all [he/she/they] can to ensure this happens.
  • While this program may be small relative to other tax programs, its impact on poverty, especially child poverty, is huge. The EITC lifts almost 7 million Americans — including 3.3 million children — above the poverty line.  Nearly half of all families with children will claim EITC at some point.  For families struggling just to get by, it’s almost impossible to get ahead.  But, since the EITC brings working families more financial stability, most need access to the program for only a couple of years before their earnings increase.  This is a win for families as well as the national budget; as families leave the program and increase their earnings, they contribute more in taxes than they ever received in benefits. 
  • This year, Congress is considering major changes to tax policies. During the debate over which tax policies to change and which to renew, this small program with a big impact must not be lost.  Contact your member of Congress to ensure that we strengthen and protect the tax benefits that low-income working families sorely need, especially the EITC.
  • As people of faith, we are instructed to care for the “least of these” among us.  And, as we near tax day, I call upon your readers to think and pray about the role of taxes and how they can help poor and hungry people.
  • One of the best ways to reduce hunger and poverty in the United States is by protecting and strengthening key tax credits that benefit low-income working families. A parent can work full time and still live in poverty and struggle to make ends meet for her family. 
  • The story of Zacchaeus from the Bible reminds us that when the tax system meets Jesus, good things happen for poor people.  This year, Congress is considering major changes to our tax policy. During the debate over which tax policies to change and which to renew, the needs of low-income people must not be lost.  Let’s do our part to make sure poor and hungry people experience this good news.
  • Contact your member of Congress to ensure that we strengthen and protect the tax benefits that low-income working families sorely need.

 

EITC and CTC State Facts

 

1.  The EITC expansions made in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) assist ______ low-income households

2.  ARRA lowered the Child Tax Credit income threshold, assisting _________ children

Colorado                                                        Oregon

  1. 105,917                                                   1.  90,202
  2. 231,000                                                   2.  198,000

  

Idaho                                                            Washington

  1. 53,461                                                     1.  133,435
  2. 94,000                                                     2.  268,000

 

Key legislators

State House Budget – drafts Budget Resolution, which sets overall spending parameters, including policy recommendations (but not actual laws) Senate Budget – drafts Budget Resolution, which sets overall spending parameters, including policy recommendations (but not actual laws) House Ways and Means – Tax writing committee – will draft proposal to change tax laws, including whether to make expansions to EITC and CTC permanent Senate Finance – Tax writing committee – will draft proposal to change tax laws, including whether to make expansions to EITC and CTC permanent Leadership – sets overall goals for their respective parties.
AK          
AZ       Kyl Kyl, Minority Whip
CO          
HI          
ID   Crapo   Crapo  
MT       Baucus  
NM       Bingaman  
NV   Ensign Berkley, Heller Ensign Reid, Majority Leader
OR Schrader, Blumenauer Wyden, Merkley Blumenauer Wyden  
UT       Hatch  
WA Larsen Murray Reichert, McDermott Cantwell  
WY   Enzi   Enzi  

 

How to Write a Letter to the Editor (http://www.bread.org/get-involved/in-the-media/how-to-write-a-letter-to-the-edi.html)

Be sure to consult guidelines before writing a letter to any news outlet. Most news outlets will post guidelines on their Web site on the same page as the “opinion” or “contact us” section. At least once a week, newspapers will print guidelines on the editorial page for submitting a letter to the editor. If you are not able to find the guidelines in print or online, you can simply call the news outlet to request guidelines.

Tips for getting your letter to the editor published:

  • Keep it short. Letters should be concise, typically 150-200 words, or about three short paragraphs. For a news magazine or a radio news show, they should be even shorter, about 100 words.
  • Respond to a recent article, editorial or column. By connecting your opinion to a current thread of public discussion, you will greatly increase your chances of being published.
  • Write an original letter. Do not simply copy from a BFW alert. Your own voice is much more compelling than a canned message. Keep it real! Otherwise, an editor may receive the exact same letter from two different BFW media activists. Editors have an aversion to mass mailing campaigns, but they welcome opinions that reflect personal insight and expression. Also, do not send the exact same letter to different news outlets. Each letter you submit should be unique.
  • Express your opinion with conviction and passion, using strong but not strident language. Vitriolic opinions are easily dismissed.
  • Name your Representative and/or Senators so that your letter, if published, reaches your members of Congress quickly. Congressional staff monitor media “hits” for their offices on a daily basis. If your member of Congress is on a relevant committee related to your issue, be sure to include that.
  • Invite a friend to submit a letter to the editor on the same subject. The more input editors get on a given issue, the more likely they are to print at least one of the letters they receive.
  • If you email your letter, send your message as text only. Do not use attachments. Also, do not cc: your letter to Bread for the World or any other organization or individual. If you want someone else to see your letter, copy the letter into a separate e-mail.
  • Always include a daytime telephone number and your “snail mail” address in case the newspaper wants to verify that you are the author. If you submit a letter by regular mail or fax, don’t forget to sign it; many newspapers will not publish a letter without a signature (letters sent by e-mail obviously cannot be signed).

Bear in mind that it may take a week or more from the time a newspaper receives a letter before it gets published. Weekly papers and news magazines take even longer.

Small-circulation newspapers usually print most of the letters that they receive. It is more challenging to get a letter printed in major metropolitan newspapers, as they receive a much larger number of letters. The more feedback a news outlet receives on hunger, the more likely they are to print news stories and opinions related to hunger. So, even if your letter doesn’t get printed, remember that your voice still influences the editorial process and creates awareness about hunger!

In addition to submitting letters to your local daily newspaper, consider other newspapers in your area. Most major metropolitan areas have free weekly community newspapers that go to tens or hundreds of thousands of homes. Consider sending letters to religious publications, both national and regional; your message could reach thousands of church people who may never have heard of an Offering of Letters. You may submit letters to Hispanic and African-American newspapers, which are often interested in issues which affect Africa, Latin America and low-income people in the United States. Finally, you can send letters to national newspapers, magazines and radio programs.

With a little practice, writing good letters to the editor is neither time-consuming nor difficult. Your own letter will be more effective if it is not copied from a sample letter or media alert, because it comes directly from the heart. No other form of communication can match the impact of a thoughtful letter written by a concerned community citizen.

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Partners for a hunger free Oregon Open house – May 5th 7pm Congressional Update – 4/13

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