Another Great Year for Bread

Joseph Molieri/Pan para el Mundo

At the beginning of every year, we traditionally look back at the previous year to see what we’ve accomplished. In 2015, the advocacy of Bread and its members resulted in some huge legislative victories for people who live in hunger and poverty. Bread is continuing its winning streak since 2014 and before. Here are the five biggest legislative wins of 2015 with two other successes that Bread is celebrating:

1. Key provisions of the earned income and child tax credits became permanent.

Congress passed a tax deal that made permanent the 2009 improvements to the earned income tax credit (EITC) and the child tax credit (CTC). This is a victory for low-income workers and will prevent 16 million people – including 8 million children – from falling into or deeper into poverty. Bread has been working on making these improvements permanent for the past six years, and they have been a focus of two Offering of Letters campaigns.

2. Successfully maintained a circle of protection around programs assisting people in poverty in the U.S. and around the world.

  • For the fifth year in a row, Bread and its partners beat back proposals to dramatically cut funding for programs that help people struggling with hunger and poverty. In 2015, both the House and Senate passed budget plans that, if enacted, would have cut low-income programs by more than $3 trillion over ten years. And year after year, the U.S. House has passed budgets that cut spending by $5 trillion, finding over two-thirds of the savings by cutting programs that serve people in need. In 2015, not only did we stop these proposals from becoming law, but Congress also passed a budget that alleviates scheduled cuts and increases funding for anti-hunger and anti-poverty programs.
  • Congress passed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which prevents most of the sequestration cuts for 2016 and 2017 from taking place. The budget deal replaces the sequestration cuts with a balanced package, which Bread had advocated for. It gives defense and non-defense programs equal relief, and it doesn’t find savings by cutting other anti-hunger programs. This is an issue Bread has been working on intensely since 2011. Now, rather than facing continued budget brinksmanship and further cuts to programs assisting people who can least afford it, Congress can turn toward a more proactive agenda.
  • Right before adjourning for the year, Congress passed a 2016 omnibus spending bill, which divides up all the funding among the various federal programs. In the end, we won a major victory with that bill on both funding allocations and on preventing bad policy riders from getting attached, such as an increase in cargo preference and treatment of Syrian refugees.

3. Funding for poverty-focused development assistance abroad keeps going up.

  • Funding for international poverty-focused development assistance went up $1.1 billion for an overall total of $30.4 billion. This increase is due largely to the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Syria, Yemen, and South Sudan. The U.S. government will also have more funds for nutrition assistance. As a result, it will be able to help partners to identify the causes of undernutrition and help countries to build their capacity for long-term nutrition programs. All of this contributes to economic growth, security, and political and social stability in developing countries.
  • Included in the omnibus appropriations bill was $750 million allocated to address the root causes of hunger, poverty, and violence in Central America, which drive so many migrants to the U.S. without documentation. Bread advocated hard on this issue in 2014, especially because of the surge in unaccompanied children crossing the border.
  • Funding for global nutrition programs went up by $10 million. With this increase, these programs will be able to reach thousands more children who suffer needlessly from poor nutrition. The nutrition of children and mothers is the focus of Bread’s 2016 Offering of Letters.

Progress on food-aid reform, including beating back an increase in shipping requirements.

  • $10 million was appropriated as part of the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program to purchase food locally where it is needed, reducing shipping costs and time.
  • The Food for Peace Reform Act of 2015 was introduced. This legislation would build on reforms to food aid in the fiscal year 2014 omnibus appropriations bill and 2014 farm bill.
  • We halted the passage of a provision in a final omnibus spending bill that would have taken away $75 million of food-aid funds to increase the subsidies to the world’s biggest shipping companies. If passed, it would have reduced the reach of food-aid programs by 2 million people annually.

5. The African Growth and Opportunity Act was passed.

The African Growth and Opportunity Act was extended for 10 more years. Its reauthorization gives more incentives for businesses to invest and stimulates export-led economic growth in the nearly 40 countries in sub-Saharan Africa that participate in the program. It also expands U.S. technical assistance specifically aimed at businesses that engage women and smallholder farmers.

In rural Zambia, USAID programs in partnership with the Zambian government are helping equip villagers with the knowledge of proper nutrients. Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World.

Other Successes

Presidential candidates made video statements on hunger and poverty.

Bread for the World, as part of the Circle of Protection, secured short videos from ten of the presidential candidates in which they speak about hunger and poverty. While these issues have not been central tenets of any of their campaigns, the fact that nearly all of the candidates have made at least one statement about hunger and poverty is unprecedented and shows more direct attention paid to poverty by presidential hopefuls than the country has seen in several decades. Bread’s goal is that the next president will make hunger, poverty, and opportunity a priority, and that Congress and the president together will put the country on track to end hunger in the U.S. and worldwide by 2030.

The Sustainable Development Goals were adopted.

Bread celebrated this enormous milestone in 2015 — the adoption of a new set of goals that succeed the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals. The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) take effect in 2016. With the SDGs, the leaders of the world are committing themselves to freeing the world of hunger and poverty, reducing inequality, and improving health in all countries. In its 2014 Hunger Report, Bread for the World Institute called for ending hunger by 2030 to be its own, separate goal in the SDGs and for the new goals to apply to all countries (including the U.S.). Bread is pleased that both of these principles were implemented in the new set of goals.

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