Are you meeting with your Representative this August?
Typically, Members of Congress spend nearly all of August back in their home districts, meeting with constituents and working with their district staff. This year will be unique: Senate Leader Mitch McConnell has cancelled much of the summer recess for his chamber, tasking the Senate with remaining in Washington to work on clearing a backlog of presidential nominees. Senators will still get the first week off but they'll be much harder to catch back in their home states with the abbreviated time frame.
House of Representatives Recess Dates: July 30 - August 31
While the Senate will be back in session after their quick break, House members will still have the full month off, through Labor Day. And it's an election year for all of them, so they'll be working overtime to be accessible to constituents like you. If you're willing to try to meet with your Representative in August about childhood cancer issues, here are a few tips:
- Contact your Representative's office (start here) and ask to speak with the scheduler. Briefly introduce yourself and your interest in childhood cancer (be sure to mention that you're a constituent!) and ask if you can set up a meeting with the Member during August recess. You might be asked to send a written request. In that case, we've got a sample letter for you here.
- If your Representative won't be able to meet with you, ask to meet instead with the senior health policy staffer in the office.
- Let the scheduler know if you'll be bringing along your child or another family member or friend. There's strength in numbers!
- Drop us a note at firstname.lastname@example.org to let us know you've got a meeting set up. We're happy to help you prep for the meeting if you have questions, and we'd love to hear how it goes afterward.
- Before your meeting, review our District Meeting Guide, which covers some best practices to help ensure that your meeting is as impactful and effective as possible.
The most important part about your meeting is sharing your story - briefly - and why you're speaking up for kids with cancer and childhood cancer survivors. Personal stories about childhood cancer are incredibly powerful and leave a lasting impression. The legislator or staffer is much more likely to remember you in the future if you've opened up in a personal way.
Share a couple of statistics : we recommend the CAC2 Fact Library. And then make one or two 'asks' based on a concrete action that you want the legislator to take to show support for our cause.
We've outlined a few current issues, below, that you might focus your meeting around:
Support Cancer Care Planning & Communications Act:
According to one recent study, only 45 percent of patients felt adequately informed about their cancer diagnosis and equipped to navigate their long-term care.
H.R.5160 will improve doctor-patient communications by enabling providers to bill Medicare for the time medical teams spend developing comprehensive care plans.
For children diagnosed with cancer at a young age who may not even remember their treatment, these long-term cancer care plans are especially critical. But these plans take time and resources to create. This legislation will finally reimburse doctors for this potentially life-saving work when patients are Medicare beneficiaries.
Fully Fund the STAR Act:
The Childhood Cancer STAR Act was signed into law in June, after years of community work and bipartisan support in the House and Senate. Please take the opportunity in your meeting to thank your Representative for passing STAR (it was approved unanimously).
After giving thanks, turn the conversation to appropriations. As we approach a new fiscal year (beginning Oct. 1), we are working hard to ensure that provisions of the STAR Act will have the necessary funding to be implemented. We are pleased that the Senate included funding for STAR at the Committee level and we hope the Senate levels will remain in the final funding vehicle. Make sure your Representative knows how important this funding is to our community and our children. Read more.
Join the Congressional Childhood Cancer Caucus
The Congressional Childhood Cancer Caucus is a bipartisan group of House Members working together to address childhood cancer. The Caucus hosts a Summit on Capitol Hill every September during Childhood Cancer Awareness Month and is an important starting point for our conversations with champions on Capitol Hill.
Please take a look at the Caucus membership list before your meeting. If your Member is not yet part of the Caucus, encourage them to consider joining by reaching out to one of the Caucus co-chairs: Representatives Michael McCaul, Jackie Speier, Mike Kelly and G.K. Butterfield.
Student Loan Deferment for Cancer Patients:
H.R. 2976, the Deferment for Active Cancer Treatment Act, would enable cancer patients actively undergoing treatment to qualify for student loan deferment. This is an important issue in the young adult space, led by a young adult cancer alliance called Critical Mass. Their action alert on this bill can be found here.
There are 65 cosponsors of this legislation in the House, so take a look at the list before your meeting. If your Member is already signed on, please say 'thanks!' If not, make the 'ask' for their support.
Read: Give Cancer Patients a Break on Student Loans, NYTimes Op-Ed
After your meeting...
Send the legislator a brief thank you note. Briefly restate your concern and requested action. If you met with staff, send them a thank you note as well and send a separate letter to the legislator informing them of the meeting you had with their staff, the issues you discussed and your views on them.
- Fill out our Meeting Report Form. This information will remain confidential within Children's Cause staff and serves to help us improve our advocacy and refine our own work with these offices.