A little-noticed provision in President Obama’s new $447 billion jobs bill seeks to limit tax deduction for charitable giving at 28 cents for every dollar donated, causing big waves along the front lines of those serving in rescue missions and crisis shelters across the country.
The provision in the bill will not only limit the generosity of private donors who give to rescue missions, but it will also hamper the ability of rescue missions to raise private dollars that pay for badly needed services for the hungry, homeless, abused, and addicted, these mission groups fear.
“This is a time to increase incentives for all Americans to give; it’s not a time to experiment with disincentives,” John Ashmen, president of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions (AGRM), told The Christian Post Friday.
“There are some who argue, based on history, that those with a heart for the poor will still give, despite not having the significant tax break. But that’s not a proven fact.”
Many mission directors agree with Ashmen, saying most Americans are barely making ends meet since the economy took a dive. The well-known phrase, “one paycheck away from homeless,” is not so far-fetched for many families living in the U.S.
The U.S. Census Bureau reported the number of Americans living in poverty increased to 46.2 million in 2010 – or one in six people. What some experts call “deep poverty,” which is household income at less than half of the federal poverty threshold, has taken hold of many Americans who were actually donating to charities five years ago.
“Rescue missions and thousands of other nonprofits are on the front lines of the fight against rising poverty,” Ashmen stressed. “The president and Congress should be encouraging more giving to charities that help the poor, not discouraging private donors. “
Ashmen is focused on reversing this part of the president’s American Jobs Act and so are other mission directors in the U.S.
He also says pastors and priests should be encouraging their congregations to follow Jesus’ teachings and rush to the front lines of the war on poverty.
"We wholeheartedly support creating jobs that will help families escape poverty, but the president's proposal to take money from charities to pay for his jobs bill will reduce help for the poor and homeless,” Ashmen maintained.
“The vital programs and services of gospel rescue missions provide men and women with the skills they desperately need to become healthy, independent, and employable.”
The organization argues that these services are just as important to their long-term success as obtaining good-paying jobs. AGRM relies heavily on private donations, and any drop in charitable giving will be felt most by those on the path toward self-sufficiency and employment.
President Obama continues to tout his new jobs bill, campaign-style, across the country. His proposal is part of a balanced deficit-reduction plan that also includes closing corporate tax loopholes and asking the wealthiest Americans to pay more in taxes. Currently, individuals and families in the 35 percent tax bracket receive $0.35 off their taxes for every $1 in tax deductions and exclusions, including employer contributions to health.
“This proposal would change the limit to $0.28, making the deduction more in line with what middle class families receive today. No individual earning less than $200,000 and family earning less than $250,000 would be affected by this proposal,” according to White House officials.
As for Congress, though members could pick some items from that menu on which they agree, it is unclear if the bill will pass as is.
AGRM says they will continue to urge the White House and Congress to avoid any provisions in legislation that would erode the value of the deduction for charitable giving.
Founded in 1913, Colorado Springs-based AGRM is North America’s oldest and largest network of independent crisis shelters and rehabilitation centers, offering radical hospitality in the name of Jesus. Each year member rescue missions serve approximately 42 million meals, provide more than 15 million nights of lodging, bandage the emotional wounds of thousands of abuse victims, and graduate 18,000-plus individuals from addiction-recovery programs.
For more information or to locate an AGRM member organization, see www.agrm.org
To view the American Jobs Act proposed by Obama visit: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2011/09/08/address-president-joint-session-congress.