By: Will White
Ever wonder what the best way is for one of the nation’s largest non-profit networks to affect change at the national level? Easy—get 90 United Way leaders from 31 states to convene in Washington D.C. to meet with over 100 members of congress in just under 3 hours!
On June 21st, United Way Bay Area staff and volunteers joined our colleagues from across the nation to advocate for our public policy priorities. Our UWBA delegation met with 13 members of congress from the Bay Area and our two California Senators to advocate for policies that benefit Bay Area working families.
Every year we participate in this annual event to educate our congressional leaders about the work we do in their communities and how the decisions they make in Washington affect the ability of working families to succeed. This critical link between public policy and the success of the families we serve is an essential component of disrupting the cycle of poverty. That’s why we advocate and that’s one of the ways we create lasting impact.
Here’s a quick rundown of the issues we put front and center this year:
The Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps is one the most effective anti-hunger programs in the country. Approved every 5 years through the Farm Bill, this program lifts millions of families out of poverty by supplementing their incomes to purchase needed food items.
While recent attempts to impose additional work requirements on recipients are being pursued by congressional leadership, the United Way Network stands opposed to any policies that prevent low-income families from accessing needed food assistance. The SNAP program is designed to provide help during times of economic crises and imposing additional requirements on recipients will only lead to more people being denied access and higher incidences of hunger.
We asked our leaders to protect the SNAP program in this year’s Farm Bill by opposing any additional and unnecessary work requirements in the program. SNAP should be able to help those in need, not prevent them from accessing food when they need it most.
With the passage of a sweeping tax reform bill last year, congress put the non-profit sector in a bind by limiting incentives for charitable giving. As one of the largest non-profit organizations in the country, the United Way network made sure to advocate for the restoration of charitable giving incentives to all tax filers by creating a universal charitable deduction.
Though the charitable deduction still exists in the tax code, the new tax bill doubles the size of the standard deduction and encourages most filers to take this larger deduction rather than itemize their taxes. Filers can only take advantage of the charitable deduction if they choose to itemize. While Americans will continue to give to charity, we know from experience that without access to charitable giving incentives, they will likely give less.
Current estimates expect giving to decrease by 5% annually throughout the sector. For California, this could amount to a loss of over $1.5 Billion each year to the state’s non-profits. This not only hurts our bottom line, but hurts the families we serve by limiting the amount of resources we can deploy in a given year.
As a network, United Way asked our leaders to fix this glitch in the tax code by co-sponsoring or supporting HR 5771, the Charitable Giving Tax Deduction Act. This bill would allow all Americans to deduct charitable gifts on their taxes, regardless of whether they itemize or not. This common sense proposal will ensure the restoration of charitable giving incentives to millions of Americans and ensure the non-profit sector continues to have the resources it needs to serve its mission.
Bringing the Fight Back Home
Taking our advocacy to Washington is a great way to make an impression with our congressional leaders and helps get conversation started. However, the work doesn’t stop now that we’re back in the Bay Area. Congress continues to deliberate on these issues and we need your help to keep the pressure up.
One way you can get involved is by sending a letter to your congress member, asking them to protect the SNAP program in this year’s Farm Bill. In just a few clicks you can be an advocate for needed food resources here in the Bay Area and across the country. Let’s show congress how the Bay Area stands up for working families by telling congress to protect the SNAP program.