RESULTS lobbies Congress to advocate for working poor

Wednesday, September 9, 2015 - 12:31

I arrived in Washington, D.C. in early June, joining the annual influx of college students in the nation’s capitol for summer internships. I had accepted a position as a U.S. Poverty Campaigns Intern at RESULTS, a nonpartisan grassroots advocacy organization. RESULTS is a movement of passionate, committed people who use their collective voice to influence political decisions to bring an end to poverty. RESULTS volunteers span generations and geography, from college students in Miami to retirees in Anchorage, and this summer I was welcomed into the movement.

Before I arrived in Washington, D.C., I subscribed to a professional definition of the word “lobbyist.” Images of wealthy businessmen persuading legislators came to mind. This is no longer the case. My experience at RESULTS was rewarding and empowering, and I was able to witness the power that constituents have as lobbyists.

A trip to Capitol Hill is not necessary, although I recommend a visit to Washington, D.C. –the monuments, museums, and taxidermy in Rep. Don Young’s office make for excellent photo opportunities.

Our members of Congress return to Alaska many times throughout the year when Congress is on recess, which presents opportunities for meetings. Writing letters, making phone calls, and sending emails are all options as well, which are actions that take relatively little time, but make a real impact.

Far from the Chugach Mountains and the midnight sun, I met with Sen. Lisa Murkowski, Sen. Dan Sullivan, and Rep. Don Young. The topic of discussion? Tax policy. Specifically, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Together, these credits support millions of low-income working families in the United States. In Alaska alone, 52,000 families, including 8,000 military and veteran families, rely on the EITC and CTC. Key provisions of these credits are set to expire in 2017, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. If this occurs, 16 million Americans, including 7.7 million children, will either fall into poverty or be pushed more deeply into it.

These credits also benefit the economy, putting $102 million back into Alaska’s economy in 2012. I met with our members of Congress to ask them to save these key provisions of the EITC and CTC to ensure that hardworking low-income Alaskans are prioritized and protected in upcoming congressional negotiations.

Volunteerism is woven deep into the fabric of American culture; from food pantries to schools citizens volunteer their time to contribute to their local communities. At the RESULTS International Conference in July, a gathering of volunteers and partners from 47 states and 23 countries, a simple graphic explained the power of citizen advocacy. The graphic illustrated that one hour at a food pantry may feed 50 people for one day, but one hour of advocating for investments in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or funding for child nutrition programs can feed millions of people for many years. That is the power of advocacy.

Rather than complaining to our neighbors and coworkers about the state of the nation we must channel our concerns and visions for the future of Alaska and the United States into positive civic engagement. As citizens of a representative democracy we have the opportunity to speak with our representatives whether through writing a letter, making a phone call, or meeting in person. Too few people take advantage of these opportunities, but in order to sustain a healthy democracy, citizen advocacy is vital.

RESULTS trains and supports its volunteers, empowering them to effectively advise policymakers and guide them towards decisions that improve access to health, education, and economic opportunity in the United States and globally. Whether in Chugiak or on Capitol Hill, contact Senator Murkowski, Senator Sullivan, and Representative Young; share your thoughts, tell your personal stories, and make your voice heard. Together, we will make a difference.

Susan Fleurant is a 2012 graduate of Chugiak High School, a senior at Colby College in Waterville, Maine, and a 2015-2016 RESULTS REAL Change Fellow. For more information o about how to get involved in anti-poverty advocacy with RESULTS, contact her at [email protected] or visit www.results.org.

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