Our Policy Team Breaks Down Federal Priorities for 2020

With the upcoming election in 2020, the nation's attention will be fixed on presidential candidates and their agendas. However, we must not lose sight of other important policy issues that could impact the lives of low- and moderate-income families, especially households of color. To that end, we are highlighting key policy opportunities and challenges that advocates for working families should keep top of mind in the new year.

Making the Tax Code Work for All—Not Just the Wealthy

The economic gap between low- and moderate-income families—particularly those of color—and wealthy families is far too wide and ever-expanding. Unfortunately, the nearly two trillion dollar 2017 tax law has made an already uneven economic playing field worse because most of the benefits of the law go to wealthy, mostly White, families. This will only broaden the racial wealth divide to alarming proportions. To address this, we must continue our work to turn our upside-down tax code right side up to benefit working families, especially households of color.

Specifically, building on the actions you took in 2019 that led to the passage of the VITA Permanence Act last summer and a 40% increase in VITA funding (from $18M in FY19 to $25M in FY20), this year we’ll need to continue to push for an expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC)—tax credits that help millions of low- and moderate-income working families build financial security and rise out of poverty. At the same time, we’ll need to call on Congress to further help tax filers use the tax time moment to save for emergencies by enacting legislation such as the Refund to Rainy Day Savings Act (S. 1018/H.R. 2112), which will make it easier for working families to save a portion of their tax refund for a rainy day in the future.

And finally, we will need to continue to keep the focus on bold legislation such as the American Opportunity Accounts Act (S. 2231/H.R. 3922), led by Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) and Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA-7), which would help level the wealth-building playing field and ensure that all children—especially those who come from low- and moderate-income families—have a fair shot to reach financial security and prosperity.

Ensuring Working Families Have Access to Affordable Housing and a Pathway to Homeownership

Building on our work to turn the tax code right-side up, this year presents another opportunity to push for a set of more equitable and inclusive tax credits and matched savings programs that help expand housing affordability throughout the country for working families. Over the next twelve months, we’ll be looking for leaders in Congress to take housing affordability seriously by championing policies outlined in Coming Home: Providing a Pathway to Housing for All.

Released late last year, this proposal presents four solutions to reduce housing-cost burdens at different stages in life—from renting, to saving for a downpayment to purchase a house, to alleviating the financial burdens created right after a home purchase, to helping defray some of the ongoing costs associated with homeownership. Adopting these policies would increase financial security for working families and help put them on the path towards homeownership.

Preventing Underinvestment in Low-Income Communities

While we will continue working to ensure that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) fully meets its purpose of protecting consumers, our attention this year will also be focused on the recent decision by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) to modernize the Community Reinvestment Act. If enacted, the proposal will have a significant impact on how financial institutions serve low-income communities and communities of color throughout the country. It would allow financial institutions to make community investment decisions that are in their best interest, not in the interest of low- and moderate-income communities. Despite this, the next few months will provide an opportunity for advocates to move the proposed rule in a direction that is community-focused—and that lives up to the original intent for the law—through an expected 60-day public comment period.

Boosting Financial Security for Low-Income Households

Decreasing economic inequality and closing the racial wealth divide means creating saving pathways for low-income households to build wealth. Promise Accounts, a new and innovative matched savings program, would double down on what made previous matched savings programs successful, while also making some key improvements.

While giving low- and moderate-income households opportunities to save, we will continue to fight for keeping the safety net programs that help these families pay for day-to-day necessities. Programs such as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) must be strengthened, and we will continue to work on removing asset limits (otherwise known as savings penalties) from public benefits programs.

Join Us to Help Protect Working Families

In 2019, we had some big wins through your advocacy efforts, and this year, with your help, we can keep this incredible momentum going. Please take a moment to invite a friend to sign up for our Advocacy Center and take action as policy opportunities arise in 2020. Join us in our mission to promote prosperity for all!

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