The real impact of Covid 19 on charitable donations won’t be known for a couple more months, but Candid.org, a company that monitors global generosity, finds more than $10 billion has been given so far, two-thirds of that coming from Americans. But the skyrocketing number of unemployment claims has many concerned that as need increases -- donations could drop. Fortunately, Congress anticipated that and changed the tax code for this year only.
When Saudi Arabia and Russia engaged in an oil price war, Houston suffered the double-whammy of a deep slice into the energy sector during the age of the novel coronavirus. “There is no doubt that there is incredible stress in the Greater Houston economy right now,” points out new United Way of Greater Houston President and CEO Amanda McMillian. But if you were here in 2017 when Harvey dumped 50 inches of rain on the area, you know, the natives are generous. “What we’re seeing right now is the generous spirit of Houston coming through as it always seems to when we have particularly challenging times,” she says, noting that the organization’s partnership with the Greater Houston Community Foundation, called the Greater Houston Covid 19 Recovery Fund, has garnered more than $14 million in donations so far. They’ve already redeployed $2.3 million of that back into the community to assist those requiring basic essentials. Their Houston-area 2-1-1 service is measuring the need. “Governor Abbott designated us the official hotline for Covid 19 related inquiries earlier this year, and overall for the year-to-date we’ve seen a 20% increase in calls over the prior year.” McMillians says the top three needs the United Way of Greater Houston is seeing are for urgent assistance with food, utilities, and rent/mortgage assistance.
Much as with Harvey when the dry people helped the wet people, now is the time for the people with to help the people without, and a change in the tax code should make that more appealing.
The CARES Act, the two-trillion dollar stimulus package Congress signed into law at the end of March, includes a change to 2020 taxes viz a viz charitable donations that should be especially appealing to those Houstonians with deep pockets. They removed the limit on charitable donations and have made it possible to spread the money across multiple years, though it applies only to the donations made during the 2020 calendar year. Dig deep to help and you’ll be richly rewarded. Be sure your accountant is aware of H.R. 748 Sections 2204 and 2205. The change in the code will also allow those who don’t itemize deductions to claim up to $300 of giving. “That increased need that we are seeing right now is exactly why we all need to step up to fill the gap,” urges McMillian. “I think now more than ever the United Way of Greater Houston needs to be there to deliver for our community.”
Step up, y’all.
If a tax change is something that rings your bell and you want to know more about how you could benefit from being especially generous during these most challenging of times, check out this article in Forbes magazine.