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The Anti-Poverty Network of NJ Visiting Your Legislators: Balancing the Scales of Justice.

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Presentation on theme: "The Anti-Poverty Network of NJ Visiting Your Legislators: Balancing the Scales of Justice."— Presentation transcript:

1 The Anti-Poverty Network of NJ Visiting Your Legislators: Balancing the Scales of Justice

2 Your Presenters Joyce Campbell, Catholic Charities, Diocese of Trenton Arnold Cohen, Housing and Community Development Network of NJ Diane Riley, Community Food Bank of NJ Ray Castro, NJ Policy Perspective

3 “There is a mystique surrounding advocacy – that you have to be an expert on your issue, or an expert in the way the process works. Not so. … Advocacy is like anything else: beginners are not expected to know as much as professionals, and the more you do it the easier it gets.” Nancy Amidei, in “So You Want to Make a Difference: Advocacy is the Key!”

4 Advocacy: An Historical Overview People have throughout history, recognizing power in numbers, gathered in groups to influence public policy In this country our involvement is firmly grounded in our nation’s founding principles. Our Constitution protects our rights to assemble and petition our government. Abraham Lincoln called us to be dedicated “to the great task” of ensuring that “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

5 You’re Already an Advocate The simple truth is: Advocacy is easy. That’s right, it’s easy. Anyone can do it. How easy is it? Well, the highly-paid professionals don’t want this to get out, but it is so easy that even a first grader can do it! Advocacy Lesson #1: Advocacy Happens Everywhere First Graders: Although first graders don’t use terms like “advocacy” or “lobby,” their conversations reveal they practice advocacy all the time, including: at home: “I got my mom to let me stay up late last night to watch that movie” in the classroom: “We got our teacher to give us an extra 10 minutes for lunch” Nonprofits: We already advocate (convince, educate, explain, persuade, support, etc.) before a variety of audiences, including: funders: we persuade them to invest in our ideas and programs volunteers: we motivate them to continue to give their time and energy If nonprofits are as smart as first graders, then we will remember that advocacy happens everywhere there are people, so don’t assume we have to live at the Legislature to be an advocate.

6 Good to Know…The NJ Scene There are 40 legislative districts in the state. The State Legislature consists of Forty Senators and Eighty Assemblymen/women. Each of us has a State Senator and Two Assembly representatives. Senators and Assembly representatives are assigned to committees and the committees do the bulk of the work of reviewing proposed legislation and regulatory changes. The Budget Committees of both houses have the most influence over the budget.

7 Good to Know…The NJ Scene The State of NJ budget year is July 1 of the current year to June 30 of the following year We are currently in Fiscal Year 2014 or FY14. The budget proposed by the Governor at the end of February is for FY 15, which will go from July 1, 2014 to June 30,2015. The state budget must be balanced, unlike the Federal Government where a deficit can be recognized The Governor generally proposes a state budget in late February The State Legislature holds hearings between and meets with stakeholders and constituents to hear their concerns and recommendations regarding the proposal

8 Good to Know…The NJ Scene For more information on the legislative process in New Jersey visit: You can also find your legislators there, follow bills through the legislature and view a schedule of hearings.

9 Many of us think that lobbying is a mysterious rite that takes years to master. It isn‘t You can learn how to lobby – whom to call, when, what to say – in minutes. While there are a few simple reporting rules your organization needs to follow, it isn’t complicated. Countless numbers of people have learned how.” --from “Ten Reasons to Lobby for Your Cause,” Center for Lobbying in the Public Interest

10 Face to Face Visits It’s Easier Than You Think It is very important to schedule an appointment and be prepared for the visit. Don’t show up unexpected. Sometimes it will take several calls and persistence to get an appointment scheduled. Some offices will accept a request by telephone, others want faxes or e-mails. Legislators tend to be very busy so try to be flexible with the dates and times you are available. And, don’t be surprised if a visit gets cancelled at the last minute. Most appointments last about 20 minutes, sometimes half an hour. So, you need to be prepared to be concise and specific, and you need to be on time. Dress appropriately for an appointment with a legislator. You don’t need to be too fancy, but don’t wear jeans or sweatpants. First Things First:

11 Making the Call I am _________________________ from (your organization, located in-----). If you are a constituent of the legislator you should add this here: I am also a constituent of Senator/Assemblyman____________ Our organization is/I am an active member of the Anti-Poverty Network of NJ, which is a network of faith based groups, social service agencies, advocacy organizations and people living in poverty. Our Network’s mission is to reduce poverty in NJ. I would like to arrange a visit with Senator/Assemblyman _________________so that I and a few of our members can share the Network’s concerns about those living in poverty in District _________. More specifically, we would like to housing, hunger and income supports for those individuals and families who struggle to make ends meet.

12 Face to Face Visits Be Prepared Good preparation involves: Knowing where the legislator stands on the issue Being ready to explain the issue as legislators can’t know all the bills and issues Being ready to explain how the bill or issue will affect you and others in the legislator’s district As you prepare with others think about who has what pieces of information that will be important Who has a personal story? Who can share how the issue impacts people or programs? Who has a relationship with the legislator already? Who may be knowledgeable about the specific bill and can advise the legislator about some of the details of the bill

13 Face to Face Visits Be Prepared Good preparation involves: It’s good to assign “roles” prior to the visit. One person can be the facilitator, who makes sure everyone has a chance to speak, one person can share their story, and another can provide data and statistics. Pick out a role that is comfortable for you. Decide together the key points you want to make Decide who will make “the ask”, i.e. asking for where the elected official stands on the issue Have your leave behind packet ready and be sure you include everyone’s name and contact information.

14 Prepare YOUR Story “Numbers numb, jargon jars and no one ever marched on Washington because of a pie chart…Tell stories.” Andy Goodman (Good Ideas for a Good Cause)

15 The Visit Begin your meeting with reference to the white paper and basic background about APN You will be provided talking points as well as suggestions for a leave behind packet All documents will be online Be polite, don’t interrupt, and don’t argue with each other or the legislator. If you don’t know the answer to a question, that’s fine. Let them know you will find out the answer and get back to them. After you make the ask, and before leaving, ask how you can be of any help to them. Perhaps there is more information the legislator would like.

16 Legislative Visit Forms District:_________APN Coordinator:_______________ Legislator:______________________Party:________________ Office Address :_________________________________ __________________________________ Phone: _________________ E-Mail:____________________ Leadership Position:_____________________________________ Committee(s): __________________________________________ Significant Information (past positions, support, votes, etc.): Appointment:__________________________ Attendees:____________________________________________ Who was visit with?__________________________ Response to Asks:____________________________________________________ Follow Up Needed: Follow up with a Thank You note, and any information that you promised to provide.

17 A Call to Invest in the People of NJ For a NJ family of 4 “getting by” and attaining a secure yet modest living standard requires an income of around $80,000. However, the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) is currently estimated at $23,050 (total yearly income) or a family of four. The 2012 American Community Survey (ACS) data shows that New Jersey’s middle class is worse off and poverty is deepening for already-poor families. There is a greater share of low-income households (annual incomes below $50,000) with more than one in three households falling into this category. Because of the state’s lagging economy, New Jersey was one of only five states to see any increase in the poverty rate for families from 2011 to 2012. (ACS)

18 A Call to Invest in the People of NJ Twenty five percent of all residents over age 65 are living in poverty, or on the edge of poverty just one step away from their own fiscal cliff. Without real solutions to address poverty in our communities more NJ residents will be aging into poverty. (NJ Elder Index) College educated young people discover that the availability of jobs is limited and entry-level incomes do not allow them to live independently after graduation. The time is now for Trenton to set policies that support poor communities to overcome barriers of poverty.

19 49 million Food Insecure 16 million Children – 1 in 5 of all children 1 million New Jersey 400,000 Children Food Insecure HUNGER: TODAY

20 50% rent Choices 36% medicine 49% utilities 33% transportation

21 Government Programs SNAP (Food Stamps) School Lunch and Breakfast WIC Low Participation

22 SCHOOL BREAKFAST ONLY 36 % Eligible Students Participate


24 SCHOOL BREAKFAST Budget Recommendation Restore a $3 million cut to the school breakfast program Incentive schools adopt more effective models of serving breakfast.

25 SNAP (Food Stamps) More than Doubled 6 years 10% of Population 60% Participation



28 EXPAND ELIGIBILITY 200% FPL Every 1.00 = 1.73 in Economic Growth

29 Government Support Food Distribution Federal Commodities:TEFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program) STATE FOOD PURCHASE PROGRAM SFPP


31 E veryone needs a safe and affordable home.

32 A safe, decent and affordable home will help address other critical issues such as education and health care

33 How can we increase the supply of these homes? A) Build and renovate for new housing opportunities. B) Rental assistance or increased incomes so people can afford existing homes.

34 Create more housing opportunities for low income people by passing two bills in the State Legislature.

35 Turn some of the tens of thousands foreclosed home in NJ into housing people can afford. Pass S.693/A475

36 Create a fund to help non-profits and government address foreclosures by charging $800 when foreclosure complaints are filed. Pass A1994.

37 Expand New Jersey's state rental assistance program (SRAP) to serve more than the current 4,000 families. Use the NJ Affordable Housing Trust to fund building and rehab of homes for people of lower incomes.

38 Other ways to increase the supply of homes people can afford: New Jersey's Fair Housing Law has help provide housing for 60,000 lower income families since its implementation. We need this to continue under an independent state agency.

39 Everyone in New Jersey Needs a Well-Paid and Secure Job

40 But How Can We Work to Make That Happen?

41 RAISE AND EXPAND THE MINIMUM WAGE We were successful in raising the minimum wage to $8.25 an hour but it did not include tipped workers who receive only a minimum wage of $2.13 an hour. Tipped workers should receive 70% of the minimum wage that salaried workers receive. Also, $8.25 an hour is still below the $10 an hour which is needed to raise the minimum wage to the level it was in the 1960’s, adjusting for inflation. Federal legislation is pending which would increase it nationally to that level as well as set the level for tipped workers at 70 percent of the minimum wage. Raising the minimum wage is good for the economy, as it spurs consumer spending.

42 RESTORE THE EITC TO 25% The Earned Income Tax Credit is an essential tool that eases the tax burden on low-income families and promotes work. Low-income families disproportionately spend more in taxes than other families, and therefore need relief. The EITC also stimulates the economy because, unlike the wealthy, low-income families must spend their income right away to maintain their independence. The governor says he supports an EITC increase but he will not agree to it unless there is a broader tax cut. Families have already lost $250 million in EITC since 2010 when the EITC was reduced. Childless adults also receive much less than they should in the EITC which would be remedied by the President’s proposal.

43 EXPAND EDUCATION & TRAINING New Jersey has the highest long term unemployment rate in the nation. It’s 2013 annual unemployment rate, 8.2%, is better than 2010 but still higher than the national average. Nearly a half-million residents are without a job and looking for work. The state should prioritize direct training and education for the unemployed, not corporate tax breaks, to spur job creation. WorkFirst NJ provides some education and training, but over half of all parents in families below the poverty level are not eligible for the program. The eligibility level should be increased so more parents can receive job training and work supports like child care. New Jersey should study training programs that have been shown to be cost-effective in other states and implement them here. We should also start with children by expanding preschool from 35 districts to the remaining 96 where most of the remaining poor students live.

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