Dear Congressmen, Congresswomen and Senators,
I am writing to urge you to work with your fellow elected officials and come up with a budget agreement before the December 31st deadline. I may not be one of your constituents, but I am an American citizen, affected by your choices whether I voted for you or not. The tax increases that are due to come if an agreement is not reached will have a significant negative impact on the fine financial balance I am currently living.
In 2005, I graduated with honors from London School of Economics and Political Science where I received a Masters in Urbanization and Development. Instead of working overseas in refugee camps, I chose to return to the United States to work and live in Upstate New York. Since coming home, I have applied my education, skills and passion as an advocate for agriculture and the food systems they drive.
Today, I work for a food bank in northeastern New York where I build relationships with members of the food industry (food manufacturers, retailers, distributors and farmers) to bring quality food donations into an organization that covers 23 counties and 41% of the state. In addition, I serve on a national committee for Feeding America that works to build relationships with farm-centered groups such as Farm Bureau, FFA and various growers associations. Finally, I am a local leader in New York Farm Bureau where I sit not only on my county board, but on separate state-level committees.
I love what I do; I am excellent at what I do. I am able to engage general consumers, business leaders, farmers and elected officials, telling the stories that make the most impact and relaying complex problems in relatable terms.
Despite my elite education, my accomplishments and my passion I am struggling to make ends meet. Your failure to reach an agreement regarding the budget will make me slip even deeper into a financial crisis.
My salary is comensurate with non-profit work. I pay $400 per month for my student loans, $600 for rent and $200 for car payments. These expenses are modest compared to those living in urban areas, but when you add basic expenses such as gasoline, heating, internet and mobile phone service I have little left. I do not purchase expensive items, I rarely buy clothes or go out. My budget is so tight that I spend no more than $35 per week on groceries and will be reducing that amount to $20 in the next few weeks. I do this because regardless of my best efforts, I still only have $3,000 in savings at any given time (and sometimes only $1,500).
By all accounts, I have done everything I should have. I worked hard to receive an amazing education. I chose to work in a field that is important not only to the community in which I live, but the country as a whole. I chose to work in an area that is underserved rather than heading to Washington, D.C. or New York City. I live the dreams and the passions of what America used to stand for.
I urge you to come up with a budget agreement before the December 31st deadline. I cannot afford any tax increases and neither can millions of people across the country. Put aside party politics and think about the people you represent, a country full of individuals who work hard, have hopes and dreams and are falling farther and farther behind.
Sincerely and with a belief that you will do the right thing,
Jennifer M. Jennings