Critical Improvements for Hungry People
December 2 was a historic day for Bread for the World—we had twin wins on our legislative agenda. The House of Representatives passed two bills back-to-back to help Americans at risk of hunger.
Early that afternoon, the House passed the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act—a five-year renewal of child nutrition programs. The bill had already been approved by the Senate; it was signed into law by President Obama on December 13.
Hunger-Free Kids Act Now Law
“It’s extremely rewarding to know that hungry kids in America will do so much better because of this win,” said Monica Mills, Bread for the World’s director of government relations.
Immediately after that, the House passed the Middle Class Tax Relief Act of 2010, which included tax credits for low-income workers. The bill protected the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC)—goals of Bread’s 2010 Offering of Letters.
The reauthorization of child nutrition programs—at $4.5 billion over 10 years—is the largest such increase for these programs. The renewal passed in 2004 included an increase of just $487 million over 10 years.
This victory was possible because Bread members have advocated faithfully for the past two years to keep children and their needs constantly before Congress. They offered real-world examples of children who will benefit from the new legislation. They include:
- The students that Laura, an elementary school teacher in Milwaukee, thinks of when she says, “I don’t know if most Americans realize that there are kids relying on school for every meal.”
- Elijah, 10, who walks a mile each way, seven days a week, through a barren part of his Alabama town to get dinner from a charity mission for himself, his disabled mother, and his two younger brothers.
Bread activists reminded members of Congress that kids like these live in every part of our country.
Aside from the large increase in funding, the new law contains many of the provisions that Bread advocated to improve access and participation:
- a grant program for schools to improve their breakfast programs;
- grants to help summer meal sites continue to provide free meals to eligible children;
- an expansion of after-school supper programs nationwide;
- a provision to enable schools in high-poverty areas to serve free meals to all students rather than requiring an application for each child;
- a pilot effort to provide more free school meals to children in need by automatically enrolling kids who receive Medicaid (all of whom meet income eligibility guidelines);
- increased reimbursement to schools for the meals they serve—contingent on improvements in the quality of the meals.
“This legislation is an early Christmas gift for hungry children,” said Bread President David Beckmann. “Thanks to all Bread members who advocated for the reauthorization of these programs.”
Tax Credits for Low-Income Working Families
After nearly a year of advocacy by Bread members and activists, Bread achieved the goals of its 2010 Offering of Letters. In December, Congress passed The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization, and Job Creation Act of 2010, which prevents low-income working families from seeing their current Earned Income Tax (EITC) and Child Tax Credits (CTC) reduced or eliminated.
The House passed the Senate’s version of the tax bill on December 16. The Senate bill was the result of a negotiated agreement between the White House and congressional leaders; its provisions extend all the 2001 and 2003 tax cuts for two years. Thus, the tax credits for low-income working families would be kept in place through the end of 2012.
“People of faith may not agree with all of the provisions of the bill, but these low-income tax credits are a huge victory for working families,” said Rev. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World. “The EITC and CTC, along with the payroll tax deduction, will prevent 2.4 million people, including 1.2 million children, from falling into poverty.”
Without passage of the extension, the EITC and CTC provisions would have expired on December 31, 2010. Currently, a full-time minimum-wage worker with two children lives well below the poverty line, with an annual income of less than $16,000. Without the CTC extension, this family would have received almost $1,500 less through the CTC—money that is clearly needed for food and other basic necessities.
Please visit www.bread.org for updated information. Thank you to all who helped advocate to make these key tax provisions an essential component of the tax package.