1.1 Sharon Rapport


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1.1 Sharon Rapport

  1. 1. Strategies for Engaging Congress: Congressional Meetings Sharon Rapport Associate Director, California Policy Corporation for Supportive Housing [email_address] (323) 243-7424 www.csh.org
  2. 2. Overview <ul><li>Setting the agenda </li></ul><ul><li>Who to meet </li></ul><ul><li>When to meet </li></ul><ul><li>Getting a meeting </li></ul><ul><li>Making your case </li></ul><ul><li>Following Up </li></ul>
  3. 3. Setting the Agenda <ul><li>Key Components of Systems and indicators of a changed system*— </li></ul><ul><li>Power </li></ul><ul><li>Money </li></ul><ul><li>Habits </li></ul><ul><li>Technology & Skills </li></ul><ul><li>Ideas & Values </li></ul><ul><li>… all linked to achieve a mission or goal </li></ul><ul><li>*Developed by Carol Wilkins </li></ul>
  4. 4. Setting the Agenda <ul><li>To effectuate change, it takes persistent pressure on most or all of the key elements over sustained period </li></ul><ul><li>Takes years </li></ul><ul><li>Some programs, like McKinney, have 24 years of experience to build upon—familiar to policymakers </li></ul><ul><li>Other programs are not familiar </li></ul><ul><li>Effective Systems Changes often begins with: </li></ul><ul><li>Persuasive short-term accomplishments </li></ul><ul><li>Effectively communicated to policymakers </li></ul>
  5. 5. Setting the Agenda <ul><li>Often, meetings can foster relationships that can create a champion for your cause— </li></ul><ul><li>The most effective champions aren’t always the most powerful or dynamic </li></ul><ul><li>Staff aides and advisers may be better than elected officials in championing a cause </li></ul><ul><li>Needs to be untiring, gifted “salesperson” </li></ul>
  6. 6. Setting the Agenda <ul><li>Issues: Problems to be solved </li></ul><ul><li>Homeless people with serious health problems are living and dying on the streets </li></ul><ul><li>Services funding is the hardest part of financing supportive housing </li></ul><ul><li>Fragmented and under-funded health care delivery system for homeless people </li></ul><ul><li>Ask: Should be concrete </li></ul><ul><li>Increase federal funding for HUD homeless assistance grants </li></ul><ul><li>Establish SAMHSA grant program for services in supportive housing </li></ul><ul><li>Make all poor people eligible for Medicaid as part of health care reform </li></ul>Identifying an “ask”—
  7. 7. Who to Meet <ul><li>Who has the power— </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriations: funding for established programs </li></ul><ul><li>Authorization: laws to establish new programs or change the basic rules for existing programs </li></ul>
  8. 8. Who to Meet <ul><li>Meetings with staff can be just as productive— </li></ul><ul><li>Members rely on staff to keep and stay informed: Since January, House has taken 494 and Senate has taken 105 roll call votes (roll call votes are minority of votes—many more standing votes) </li></ul><ul><li>Staff also very busy: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>House staff track 6-10 issues each </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Senate staff have deeper understanding of issue, but, depending on size of population of state, could have responsibility for overseeing multiple issues </li></ul></ul>
  9. 9. Who to Meet <ul><li>Focus on Members in majority party while building bipartisan support for the long haul </li></ul><ul><li>Target chair and Members in the committees (and subcommittees) with the power to act on your ask— </li></ul><ul><li>Appropriations subcommittees: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Transportation, Housing & Urban Development for housing (McKinney) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Labor, Health & Human Services for health </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Authorizing committees: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Financial Services in House and Banking, Housing & Urban Development in Senate oversee housing </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Energy & Commerce in House and Health, Education, Labor, & Pensions (HELP) in Senate oversee health </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Veterans Affairs in House and Senate oversee HUD-VASH </li></ul></ul>
  10. 10. Who to Meet <ul><li>Always meet with your representative/staff and your senators/staff— </li></ul><ul><li>www.house.gov : can enter your zip code to get representative’s name </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Identifying staff: Call member’s office and ask them who works on the area you are interested in influencing – </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><ul><li>Narrow issue based on ask: housing, health, appropriations, veterans, etc. </li></ul></ul></ul>
  11. 11. When to Meet <ul><li>Appropriations— </li></ul><ul><li>Congress debates from February-September </li></ul><ul><li>Approps. Committees debate appropriations through June, set deadlines for approps requests (usually March-May) </li></ul><ul><li>Authorizing legislation— </li></ul><ul><li>Anytime </li></ul><ul><li>Track progress of bills on Thomas website (Library of Congress): http://thomas.loc.gov/home/thomas.php </li></ul>
  12. 12. Getting a Meeting <ul><li>To set a meeting with the member— </li></ul><ul><li>Contact office & ask for scheduler </li></ul><ul><li>Fax or e-mail scheduler with request </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Background about your organization </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Reason for meeting (i.e., we would like to discuss McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance grants) </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Names of the people who will attend meeting </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Your availability </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Follow-up within a week </li></ul></ul><ul><li>To set a meeting with a staffer, send an e-mail request, follow-up with phone calls </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail format for House staff: [email_address] </li></ul><ul><li>E-mail format for Senate staff: First_Last@Member’sLastName.sen.gov </li></ul><ul><li>Be persistent : congressional staff are extremely busy and often listen to the squeaky wheel </li></ul>
  13. 13. Making the Case: You are the Expert! <ul><li>Preparation— </li></ul><ul><li>Don’t go overboard: meetings are usually 10-30 minutes </li></ul><ul><li>How Member voted in the past— BRIEFLY thank for support </li></ul><ul><li>Materials: talking points, info about your organization, stats </li></ul><ul><li>Focus on solutions, instead of problem: communicate key outcomes/solutions from research and/or experience </li></ul><ul><li>Keep it simple </li></ul><ul><li>Try to create conversation—don’t do all of the talking </li></ul><ul><li>Stories (personal/project) make an impact </li></ul><ul><li>REMEMBER YOUR ASK! —don’t run out of time </li></ul><ul><li>Discuss how ask will solve issues in the district </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Usually won’t get a commitment, but get explanation for a “no” </li></ul></ul>
  14. 14. Making the Case: You are the Expert! <ul><li>This is an important problem – it must be solved </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Core values </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Extraordinary costs </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Compelling pressure (media, courts) </li></ul></ul><ul><li>We know how to solve this problem </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Evidence of success and consensus of experts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>We can define the scope of the problem and measure progress </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Solutions are a good investment </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Cost savings: hospitals, jails, etc. </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Neighborhood impacts </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Better outcomes for people and families </li></ul></ul>
  15. 15. Follow-Up <ul><li>Invite staff and members to site visits and tours of projects to put a “face” on data and policy message </li></ul><ul><li>Follow-up with brief e-mail thank you to staff for meeting—answer questions or highlight strongest point </li></ul>