Strategic Action Network Actions for the Congressional Spring Recess

2017-04-07 | Alliance for Strong Families and Communities


The U.S. Congress will be on spring recess from April 10-21, which provides a great opportunity for the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities strategic action network to let your voices be heard on three key issues: the federal budget, Medicaid and access to health benefits, and strengthening the social service sector.  


Background on Key Issues 

  • The Federal Budget – We are currently amid the federal budget process. The administration’s budget proposal, at odds with your network’s vision of a healthy and equitable society, was sent to Congress in March. The administration’s proposed deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs threatens the impact of our sector as well as the well-being of many of those we support. The programs that would cease to exist or have deep reductions under the administration’s budget proposal are ones that provide people with significant supports and pathways to economic opportunity. However, the administration’s proposed budget is only one step in a complicated process. Congress is also embarking on its appropriations process and the administration’s budget was received with mixed reviews on Capitol Hill. Both the House of Representatives and Senate are in the midst of shaping their appropriations and authorization bills. Action must be completed by April 28, when the federal government is scheduled to run out of money. 
  • Medicaid and Access to Health Benefits – The Alliance believes that changes to the health system should represent gains and not losses in coverage and access to services. 

Renewed efforts to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, also known as Obamacare, are likely to impact the Medicaid program. There is still interest among Republican leaders to change how the federal government finances Medicaid by cost-shifting to states through the provision of flexibility. In addition, interest remains in rolling back the Medicaid coverage expansion. Outside of the Medicaid program, we are monitoring efforts that would make it harder for people to access health care services in the private market, including mental health and substance abuse treatment.  

  • Strengthening the Social Service Sector – Tax reform as currently being discussed and, as currently proposed, could unintentionally harm the nonprofit sector. The nonprofit social service sector acts as a partner to the government in providing essential programs and services. With anticipated cuts to federal spending that funds many social supports, reducing a major source of revenue to nonprofits would be a double hit and devastating for families and communities served by nonprofit organizations. In addition, the Alliance opposes any effort to politicize the charitable nonprofit and philanthropic community by repealing or weakening current federal tax law protections, often referred to as the Johnson Amendment, that prohibit 501(c)(3) organizations from endorsing, opposing, or contributing to political candidates. 


Outreach and Advocacy Actions for April 10-21 

To make it easy for you to raise your voice and influence as an important advocate, we have provided a list of outreach and advocacy activities, including sample tweets, a draft letter to the editor, and scripts for calling or meeting with the members of your congressional delegation. We urge you to take some time over the spring congressional recess to engage on behalf of a sector in one or more of the following ways: 

  1. Using Twitter for Advocacy Outreach – By including your members of Congress’ Twitter handles in your tweets, you are ensuring that the tweets will show up in their feeds. Here are some sample tweets related to the legislative agenda outlined above. Please make sure to insert your senators’ or representative’s Twitter handles if you so choose; placeholders have been provided in the sample tweets below. You can tweet the same message to each member of your congressional delegation separately.  
  • America’s health and human services professionals urge [@Your Member of Congress] to stand against reducing access to #Medicaid.  
  • Join [your org’s name] in saying no to a #FederalBudget proposal that would limit economic opportunity & mobility for families. [@Your Member of Congress] 
  • #Charitablegiving tax deduction is essential for #nonprofits providing vital health and human services. [your org’s url] [@Your Member of Congress] 
  • #nonprofits are effective because they focus on #CommunityNotCandidates. Maintain #JohnsonAmendment [@Your Member of Congress] 
  1. Calling Your Legislator – You can call your legislator’s office during regular office hours. Contact information is available through Call My Congress. Here is a sample script for a call: 

Sample Call Dialogue 

Caller: Hi there, I’m a constituent of [Senator/Congressman X]. Can I please speak with the staffer who handles tax reform or health care reform?  

Staffer: I’m happy to take down any comments you may have. Can I ask for your name and address to verify you’re in the Congressman’s district?  

Caller: Sure. [Give name/address]. I am [name, title, organization] from [city]. My organization provides [types of services] to [number of people] and employs [number of staff members] in our community. I am calling as a leader of the community and a concerned constituent. I wanted to pass along my concerns about the proposed cuts to federal spending that will adversely impact families and communities and reduce the ability of the social sector in providing supports to those who need them most. We are also concerned about potential healthcare proposals that would remove coverage for pre-existing conditions. I would like to know what position the congressman is taking on both of these issues. [If they stick with the “I’m just a staffer” line, ask them when a more senior staffer will get back to you with an answer to your question.]  

Staffer: Well, I really appreciate you calling and sharing your thoughts! I of course can’t speak for the congressman because I’m just a staff assistant, but I can tell you that I’ll pass your concerns on to him.  

Caller: Thank you. Please let him know that on behalf of our network of thousands of nonpartisan health and human service professionals, we wanted him to know that these changes would jeopardize the health and well-being of people in our community which will impact our local economy. Throughout history, our sector has worked in partnership with government to improve and transform communities by providing vital supports for strong families. Many of the proposed budget, tax reform and health care changes will significantly limit our ability to provide those supports at a time when families have access to fewer resources. We urge you to join us in calling for changes that will result in gains, not losses for America’s families. I would love to hear back from the congressman/woman or a senior staff member so I can share your feedback with the [X number] of health and human service professionals I represent in this area. 

  1. Meet with your Legislator – Often during extended recess periods, Members of Congress will make time for formal and informal conversations with their constituents. By attending and raising a question during a coffee hour, town hall, or in-person meeting, you can continue voice your thoughts on current legislative actions or proposals.  

Listening Sessions: Coffee Hours & Town Halls – Members of Congress regularly hold local town halls or public listening sessions throughout their districts or state during recess. Call their offices or check their websites to find out if they are hosting town halls. Prepare one or two questions ahead of time to ask. Your questions should be sharp and fact-based, ideally including information on the member of Congress’ record, votes they’ve taken, or statements they’ve made. Thematically, questions should focus on a limited number of issues to maximize impact. Example questions:  

  • “The administration’s budget proposes significant cuts to spending that will disproportionately impact lower-income and older Americans. Many of the programs that are being cut, such as the Community Development Block Grant Program, are ones that provide significant pathways for people to achieve economic opportunity and to access life-sustaining services. What is your position on the proposed cuts? 
  • “I and many district families in [name of your community] rely on Medicaid to access health services. What is your position on providing states greater flexibility to operate their Medicaid program? The federal government is a key partner for holding states accountable to ensuring healthcare access. What do you think the role of the government, either state or federal, should be in the health care system? 
  • “Throughout history nonprofit social service organizations have made a significant difference in improving and transforming communities. They work as partners with federal government to provide supports when families are challenged. The president’s tax reform proposals will negatively impact our ability to assist families by vastly reducing the number of people who take advantage of the charitable tax deduction—from 30 percent to 5 percent. This, coupled with deep spending cuts, will remove vital supports at a time when families need them most. What is your position on these proposed changes?”  

In-Person Meetings – Make an appointment in advance by writing the request and emailing, faxing, or mailing it. You can find your Mmembers of Congress and their office phone numbers. Expect that your meeting will probably only be about 15 minutes. Be prepared to explain how proposed changes to the federal budget, tax reform, and the Affordable Care Act repeal and replace will affect you and the people you serve. Begin your meeting by explaining who you are, who the Alliance is, the topic you came to talk about, and what you want them to do (e.g., we want you to vote for or against). If they share any insight or position, please let us know by emailing the Alliance. Any insight from a constituent is invaluable as we continue to craft our strategy. 

  1. Drafting a Letter to the Editor – Sending a letter to the editor of your local newspaper that could run while your members of Congress are in their districts over spring recess is another great way to get attention. Let us know if you need assistance in helping identify a program in your community that would be directly impacted by the proposed budget cuts. Below is a sample letter: 

Dear Editor: 

I am writing on behalf of [your organization’s name] in response to the administration’s budget proposal. As a member of The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities, a strategic action network of thousands of nonpartisan health and human service professionals, I am concerned with many of the changes that are being proposed. 

The administration’s budget proposal calls for deep cuts to non-discretionary spending, cuts which would undermine the ability of the nonprofit sector to provide vital supports that strengthen families and communities. The administration’s proposed deep cuts to non-defense discretionary programs threatens the impact of our sector as well as the well-being of many of those we support. The programs that would cease to exist, such as the Community Development Block Grant that supports housing and job creation, or have deep reductions, including the Supplemental Nutrition Access Program that provides access to food, would have direct impact on people and community. 

We urge you to join in the call to Congress to preserve the resources and protections that enable the nonprofit, social service sector to work effectively in partnership with government to keep families and communities strong. 

[Your name, title, & organization] 


Reconnect with the Alliance 

On behalf of the Alliance, thank you for taking on this important work to strengthen our sector and our ability to work on behalf of strong families and communities. Email us to let us know which activities you undertook to ensure our voices are heard.