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Austin Nonprofits Worry About Proposed Fiscal Cliff Changes
It’s the season for giving, but some Austin-area nonprofits are worried that proposed changes, thanks to the fiscal cliff in Washington, could mean fewer donations, and in some cases, more demand for their services.
Despite Austin’s economic well-being, local nonprofits are still busy. The United Way took 400,000 calls last year, the Salvation Army served more than 332,000 meals, and the Capital Area Food Bank is currently feeding 50,000 people per week.
The Salvation Army says their need continues to climb higher.
“The homeless trend continues to build," said Randy Allen, the Salvation Army’s Communication Director. "Our beds are full 365 days a year."
"Sadly the need is greater than it's ever been before," said Joanna Linden, Capital Area Food Bank’s Chief Development Officer.
But now some nonprofit officials worry the federal government’s action, or inaction, could slow the flow of money.
"Everything that happens in Washington comes back here locally," said Linden.
One proposed solution to solving the budget woes facing Washington: lowering the cap for some on tax deductions for giving to charity.
"That will have an effect on the food bank,” said Linden. “We won't know what those effects are until they actually happen."
But Linden says the proposed 9.3 percent cut from the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program would have a much more immediate impact, with those women and children affected turning to a food bank already struggling to feed 50,000 people a week.
"It causes the strain to be even greater, and it just means we're able to serve less people in a matter of time," said Linden.
Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), the newly elected U.S. Senate Minority Whip, weighed in on the fiscal cliff issue Tuesday night at the Feast of Sharing Thanksgiving dinner.
"This is serious business,” said Sen. Cornyn. “I hope we can come together and get this thing laid to rest."
Randy Allen of the Salvation Army said he’s confident that no matter what happens in Washington, when the red kettle bell rings, the public will still answer the call.
“Our donors are extremely faithful,” said Allen.
The Salvation Army says they’ll get help from nearly two dozen agencies with serving Thanksgiving dinners to the Austin area this year, including Meals on Wheels. That agency expects to serve 500 meals on Thursday and is also seeing record high demand.
When asked about the fiscal cliff, a spokesperson acknowledged that any time there’s a major change with charitable tax donations, “it will shake things up”. They said the best they can do now is encourage people to give before the end of this year. They also told us a number of nonprofits have reached out to the Obama administration to express their opposition to the proposed cap reduction.
By Adam Bennett