Tax Legislation As it Impacts Year-End Giving

The tax legislation currently pending in Congress will likely impact most taxpayers, and it also presents a unique opportunity for 2017 year-end giving.

 

A few tax implications to consider as we close out the year:

 

  • The proposed tax reform increases the standard deduction so that fewer individuals will itemize deductions in 2018. If you are unlikely to itemize your deductions under the proposed new law, consider gifting in 2017.
  • Many taxpayers will have a lower tax rate in 2018. To maximize the charitable deduction, consider making or accelerating your gifts in 2017.
  • The last business day of 2017 is next Friday, December 29.

 

Please remember: it is always best to consult with your financial and legal advisors to determine the best solutions for your individual or business circumstances.

Press Release: Operation Bed Roll Delivers Sleeping Mats to United Way Forsyth County December 22

Winston Salem, NC (December 18, 2017) – In the spirit of this season, Operation Bed Roll and Winston Salem Police will deliver over 100 crocheted plastic bag yarn (or plarn) sleeping mats in Winston-Salem at 9 am at the United Way of Forsyth County, 301 N. Main Street, Friday, December 22.

“Greensboro residents have shown the depths of their compassion through Operation Bed Roll, spending hundreds of hours to create sleeping mats for their neighbors,” said Tori Carle, Greensboro Field Operation’s recycling program manager. “Now we’re going to share that generosity with our neighbors in Winston-Salem” 

The bed rolls provide an insulated barrier for those who sleep on the ground or are outside for extended periods of time in the winter weather. They will be given to Winston-Salem Police and the United Way to distribute to individuals during their next Point in Time Count, which identifies individuals experiencing homelessness in the community. Forsyth County’s January 2017 Point in Time Count identified 453 people experiencing homelessness, including 25 who were unsheltered.

Operation Bed Roll is collaboration between Greensboro’s Field Operations, Library and Police departments to keep non-recyclable materials out of our landfills – and help some of the community’s neediest residents have a safe place to sleep this winter. Plastic bags and films are not accepted in Greensboro or Winston-Salem’s municipal recycling programs. Plastic bags can get tangled in machinery at the recycling plant. Plastics bags should be recycled at participating retail locations, like grocery stores.

Since its inception in 2016, more than 4,000 people have learned how to make plarn from plastic bags and turn them into crocheted bed rolls with Operation Bed Roll. An estimated 212,000 plastic bags have been kept out of landfills by this project.

 

The Fight Against Substance Abuse in Forsyth County

United Way of Forsyth County needs your support and your donations to continue the fight against substance abuse in our community. As stated by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services:

Substance abuse has a major impact on individuals, families, and communities. The effects of substance abuse are cumulative, significantly contributing to costly social, physical, mental, and public health problems.[1]

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, “the abuse of tobacco, alcohol, and illicit drugs…exacts more than $740 billion annually in costs related to crime, lost work productivity, and health care.”[2]

Today in Forsyth County, we know many individuals and their families are struggling with addiction. Did you know that in 2015, among high school students in Forsyth County, 1 in 4 said they were offered, sold, or given illegal drugs on school property during the last 12 months? And 1 in 8 high school students reported that they had had 5 or more drinks of alcohol within a couple hours on one or more days in the last 30 days? [3]

The opioid epidemic in the United States has understandably received a great deal of attention recently. Winston-Salem and Forsyth County are not excluded from this epidemic. Here in Forsyth County, the number of opiate related deaths increased from 13 in 2005 to 53 in 2015 – an increase of over 300%, as compared to a 73% increase in all of North Carolina over that same period.[4]

United Way’s Support of Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Programs

Substance abuse and its impacts are just as debilitating as any other disease.  At United Way of Forsyth County, we are committed to support programs that help our neighbors dealing with substance abuse and addiction to find the treatment and resources they need to live a healthy life. Here are just some of the programs we support focused on this issue:

Community Care Center – Integrating Primary Medical Care into a Substance Abuse/Mental Health Setting    

This is a pilot program to embed primary care provider at Insight Human Services for  low-income, uninsured clients who do not have a medical home and frequently use emergency room for non-emergency medical care.

Fellowship Home – Comprehensive Relapse Prevention Program       

Helps men who are dealing with major substance abuse disorders achieve multi-faceted goals in treatment, employment, personal relationships and managing finances.

Insight NC – Forsyth Integrated Health Network       

Provides low income persons with behavioral health intervention services who may also require the intervention of primary care to improve physical health.

YWCA – Hawley House/Supportive Services

Helps women who are dealing with major substance abuse disorders successfully remain free from addiction, improve overall health, manage finances, solidify employment and obtain reliable housing.

How You Can Help

United Way partners with groups from across Forsyth County, including local businesses, governments, hospitals, faith-based organizations, and residents, to maximize donor investments and give all our residents the fundamentals of a good life: education, financial stability and health.

The money we raise goes right back into this community to help people now – it’s why your donations are so important each and every year. In this year alone, United Way will invest about $2million in programs focused on mental health and substance abuse.

However, we know that is not enough to help everyone.  We are asking you to join the fight against substance abuse and give a gift of new beginnings and recovery.  Visit DonateUnited.org to make a year-end gift today.

Thank you. Through your support, these programs, and all of United Way’s work, are making our community better, along with the lives of those who live here.

 

[1] Source: US Department of Health and Human Services. https://www.healthypeople.gov/2020/topics-objectives/topic/substance-abuse

Accessed December 14, 2017.

[2] Source: National Institute on Drug Abuse. https://www.drugabuse.gov/related-topics/trends-statistics

Accessed December 14, 2017.

[3] Source: 2015 Winston Salem/Forsyth County High School Youth Risk Behavior Survey Results.  https://www.forsyth.cc/PublicHealth/assets/documents/2015_YRBS_Highlights.pdf. Accessed December 14, 2017.

[4] Source: NC Office of the Governor. https://governor.nc.gov/news/county-county-figures-opioid-crisis-north-carolina. Accessed December 14, 2017

The CHIP Program Is Beloved. Why Is Its Funding in Danger?

Alexander Gardner, 7, gets a check up at a clinic run by the Nemours Children’s Health System in Wilmington. His mother, Laquita Gardner, pays $25 a month for her sons’ CHIP coverage, with no deductible or co-payments. CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

WILMINGTON, Del. — Laquita Gardner, a sales manager at a furniture rental store here, was happy to get a raise recently except for one problem. It lifted her income just enough to disqualify her and her two young sons from Medicaid, the free health insurance program for the poor.

She was relieved to find another option was available for the boys: the Children’s Health Insurance Program, known as CHIP, that covers nearly nine million children whose parents earn too much for Medicaid, but not enough to afford other coverage.

But CHIP, a program that has had unusually strong bipartisan support since it was created in 1997, is now in limbo — an unexpected victim of the partisan rancor that has stymied legislative action in Washington this year. Its federal funds ran out on Sept. 30, and Congress has not agreed on a plan to renew the roughly $14 billion a year it spends on the program.

“I’m kind of shocked, because this is something for kids,” Ms. Gardner said Thursday as her 7-year-old, Alexander, braced for a flu shot at a bright, busy neighborhood clinic run by the Nemours Children’s Health System. Ms. Gardner pays $25 a month for her sons’ CHIP coverage, with no deductible or co-payments.

Congressional leaders may provide some temporary relief to a handful of states that expect to exhaust their CHIP funds before the end of this year. It would be tucked into a short-term spending bill intended to avert a government shutdown after Friday. Lawmakers from both parties hope to provide more money for CHIP in a separate, longer-term deal on federal spending. But Republicans will almost surely need Democratic votes to pass such legislation, and the antagonism between President Trump and Democrats in Congress is so great that no one can be sure of the outcome.

Laquita Gardner, 29, relies on CHIP for coverage for her two sons. “I’m kind of shocked, because this is something for kids,” she said of its potential defunding. CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

The uncertainty has been unsettling to parents, pediatricians and state officials around the country. States are weighing whether to freeze enrollment in CHIP, shut down their programs or find money from other sources. Last week Colorado sent letters to CHIP families, advising them to start researching private health insurance options because there was “no guarantee” that Congress would continue the program. Texas has drawn up a detailed “termination timeline” under which the state could begin mailing insurance cancellation notices on Dec. 22, three days before Christmas.

Here in Delaware, health officials anticipate running out of money for CHIP at the end of January if Congress does not act.

“I’ve been around a while and I’ve never seen a program that is this popular, and that goes across the aisle,” said Stephen Groff, director of the state’s Division of Medicaid and Medical Assistance. “To be having this discussion, that we may be in a funding crisis, is beyond belief.”

Members of both parties in the House and the Senate agree that Congress should provide money for CHIP for five years, through 2022. But they disagree over how to pay for it.

In early November, the House passed a bill to extend the CHIP program. But most Democrats voted against it because the legislation would have cut funds for other public health programs and ended insurance coverage for several hundred thousand people who had failed to pay their share of premiums for insurance purchased under the Affordable Care Act.

Dr. Jonathan Miller, chief of the Division of General Pediatrics at the Nemours Children’s Health System, attends to a checkup with Aiden Geary, 10. CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

In the Senate, senior members of the Finance Committee say they have been making progress toward a bipartisan deal on CHIP, but they have been preoccupied for several weeks with their tax bill. The committee approved a five-year extension of funding for the program in early October, but did not specify a way to pay for the measure.

As Congress dithered, Minnesota received an emergency infusion of federal funds to continue CHIP for October and November, but is expected to be the first state to run out of federal money for the program. Emily Piper, the commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Services, said the state would use its own funds to fill the gap temporarily.

“I don’t think Washington is working the way anyone in the country expects it to work right now,” she said. “A dysfunctional Washington has real consequences for people.”

Oregon, which expects to exhaust its federal CHIP funds this month, will also use state funds to continue coverage, said Gov. Kate Brown, a Democrat. “As Congress rebuffs its responsibilities, it is up to us, Oregonians, to stand up for our children,” she said.

Colorado was the first state to send warning letters to families with CHIP coverage. “We felt it was important that folks covered by CHIP understand what’s happening,” said Marc Williams, a spokesman for the state Department of Health Care Policy and Financing.

In Texas, more than 450,000 children could lose CHIP coverage on Feb. 1 unless the state can obtain $90 million. Even if it comes through, supporters of the program worry about the effect of cancellation warnings.

The Nemours Children’s Health System treats 15,000 children with CHIP coverage each year. “It provides specialized care for children that’s more comprehensive than a lot of private coverage,” Dr. Miller said, “which is really designed with adults in mind.” CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

“It gets very, very complicated once the state sends those letters out and starts walking down that road,” said Laura Guerra-Cardus, deputy director of the Children’s Defense Fund-Texas. “It can really affect trust in the program. So many families still don’t realize this is coming, and the few I’ve informed, they go immediately into a state of alarm.”

Representative Greg Walden, Republican of Oregon and the chairman of the Energy and Commerce Committee, which is responsible for the program, said last week that “we need to get CHIP done” because “states are in a real mess right now.”

Democrats said Congress should have provided money for CHIP months ago, but that Republicans had placed a higher priority on dismantling the Affordable Care Act and cutting taxes.

“Because Congress failed to do its job — a bunch of elected officials who have insurance paid by taxpayers failed to do their job — children here in America are about to be kicked off of their health insurance,” said Senator Sherrod Brown, Democrat of Ohio.

Senator Orrin G. Hatch, Republican of Utah and the chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, insisted: “We’re going to get CHIP through. There is no question about that.”

Mr. Hatch led efforts to create the program in collaboration with Senator Edward M. Kennedy, Democrat of Massachusetts, in 1997. “Nobody believes in the CHIP program more than I,” Mr. Hatch said on the Senate floor last week. “I invented it.”

Photo

Olivia Carrow said three of her children were newly uninsured and she had heard they might qualify for CHIP. They had insurance through Ms. Carrow’s job as a nurse but lost it after she cut back her hours this fall. Her two-year-old, William, qualifies for Medicaid because of a serious condition that causes his trachea to collapse.CreditMark Makela for The New York Times

Doctors at the Nemours/Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children, here in Wilmington, were continuing to see CHIP patients last week at the flagship of a system that treats 15,000 children with CHIP coverage each year. Dr. Jonathan Miller, chief of the system’s Division of General Pediatrics, said many receive therapy for developmental delays and treatment for chronic conditions like asthma and obesity.

“It provides specialized care for children that’s more comprehensive than a lot of private coverage,” he said, “which is really designed with adults in mind.”

Research has also found CHIP increasingly helps people whose employer-provided insurance is too expensive for their entire family. Ariel Haughton, a mother of two in Pittsburgh, said it would cost more than $100 more a month to put her two children on the plan her husband gets through his job as an apprentice plumber, which also requires them to pay a high deductible before the coverage kicks in. Without CHIP, Ms. Haughton said, she might have delayed visiting the pediatrician this summer when her daughter had a fever and rash that turned out to be Lyme disease.

“It makes it so much easier for me to actually take good care of my children,” said Ms. Haughton. “We’ve had a rocky last few years, but at least I can take them to the doctor without having to be like, ‘Their fever isn’t 105 so I guess I’d better skip it.’”

Olivia Carrow, who had brought her 2-year-old to the children’s hospital here to test for an infection, said her other three children were newly uninsured and she had heard they might qualify for CHIP. The 2-year-old, William, qualifies for Medicaid because of a serious condition that causes his trachea to collapse.

The rest of the family had insurance through Ms. Carrow’s job as a nurse, but lost it after she cut back her hours this fall. She and her husband started a chicken farm this year and delayed exploring other coverage options, she said, partly because of the protracted fight in Congress over proposals to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“Not knowing how things are going to go — I feel that way about health coverage in general,” Ms. Carrow said. “It doesn’t surprise me, but it gets very sad.”

A story of addiction, a family reunion, and new found hope. Meet Denita Mitchell.

Dear Forsyth County,

As a child, I never felt like I belonged. I was teased because of large scaring on my leg and all I wanted was to just fit.

My self-esteem and self-respect were really low and I began trying drugs and alcohol to try to fit in with everyone.

I never thought they would lead to nearly destroying my life.

As an adult, I turned against my family, my daughter, and most of all myself. My whole life became centered around

drugs, alcohol, and masking feelings. I was not able to keep myself employed. I went in and out of institutions and my

life had become me just existing in society. I was hopeless and depressed.

One day I finally admitted it and my family took me in for an interview at Hawley House, a program of the YWCA of

Winston-Salem funded by United Way of Forsyth County, and through Hawley House, I began to have hope again. The

start of my journey was learning about the disease of addiction, enrolling in substance abuse counseling and life

skills training, taking a self-inventory, and re-engaging with my spirituality.

Today, I work at the Hawley House knowing that if I can recover in any area of my life with support, others can too. It is a privilege to work with and give back to the women at Hawley House — a place that helped change my life. I have also obtained my Nursing Assistance 1 Certification in Medication Administration and I was recently ordained as a Deacon of my church. I was able to support my lovely daughter, who has graduated from East Carolina with a BA in Nursing.

I am truly grateful for United Way’s funding and support of this program. I share my story with you to encourage you to be generous once again with a year end gift and match or exceed your donation to the United Way of Forsyth County so that others like me can build a brighter future filled with promise.

Gratefully,

Denita

Are volunteers more likely to practice preventive healthcare, go on fewer doctor visits and spend fewer nights in the hospital?

Although numerous studies have shown that volunteering is linked with better mental health, physical health and health behaviors, new research from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health went one step further and asked: are volunteers more likely to practice preventive healthcare, go on fewer doctor visits and spend fewer nights in the hospital?

The “Volunteering is prospectively associated with health care use among older adults report found that volunteers are more likely to engage in preventive health care than non-volunteers. For example, volunteers were 30% more likely to receive flu shots and 47% more likely to receive cholesterol tests. While volunteering was not associated with frequency of doctor visits, the research did find that volunteers spent 38% fewer nights in the hospital. With a U.S. population that is rapidly aging, these findings may open the door to new ways to advance preventive health care, lower health care costs and improve the health of older adults.

And why might volunteering and the use of preventive health care be linked? The answers are likely a mix of psychological, social, and physiological factors. Eric Kim, who led the study, suggests that volunteering “increases a sense of purpose in life, which has been seen to be a driving factor for a lot of positive health outcomes. Volunteering also increases social connections, which have been linked to better health for a wide range of reasons. For example, people can share and receive information about things like where to buy healthy foods at the best prices or remind one another of which health screenings to get. People can also provide and receive instrumental support, such as sharing resources like rides to medical appointments. Social networks also provide emotional and psychological support, and that leads to better health.”

The bottom line? Volunteering may be an ideal low-cost strategy to help improve health among older adults. Learn more about volunteering and health through these links:

 

United Way Worldwide Announces its Opposition to the Senate Tax Reform Bill (H.R. 1)

ALEXANDRIA, VA (December 1, 2017) – United Way Worldwide tonight announced its opposition to the Senate tax reform bill (H.R. 1) and is urging Senators to vote against its passage, saying the legislation provides little to no benefit to low-income families and will dramatically undermine the organization’s work.

“On behalf of those who will be impacted in nearly every community we serve, I am deeply troubled by many aspects of the tax reform bill the Senate is now considering,” said United Way Worldwide President and CEO Brian Gallagher. “Congress is gambling with the lives of millions of people who rely on charitable and government social services by increasing the federal deficit to fund tax cuts. If Congress loses the bet, our country’s $20 trillion debt will expand and the resulting cuts to federal spending will be on key programs that help disadvantaged Americans survive.”

Gallagher continued, “As bad as the deficit implications are in this bill, the threshold for United Way is the harm the bill will do to private charities. The elimination of the charitable deduction for 31 million middle and upper-middle income taxpayers causes such damage to our ability to help people, we have no choice but to oppose the bill.”

According to numerous nonpartisan analysts, 95 percent of Americans will be taxed on their donations to charities. As a result, giving to charities will decrease by $13 billion dollars per year. Faith-based, basic needs, social services, and disaster relief charities will bear the brunt of the decrease. Because of our reliance on the middleclass donors, cumulatively, United Ways across the U.S. will face losses between $256 to $455 million per year, significantly impacting their ability to help those who will now be in potentially greater need.

Further, there is unanimous agreement among academics and economists that charitable tax incentives enable people to give more. While any individual person has a variety of motives for giving, the century-old policy of exempting charitable donations from taxes significantly increases charitable giving. Claims that the final tax reform legislation will increase charitable giving are unsupported by any fact-based analysis.

“We have been working all year to inform policymakers about the ramifications of the tax proposal to our sector,” said United Way Worldwide U.S. President Mary Sellers. “The charitable sector proposed a straight-forward, cost-effective fix that would have actually increased future charitable giving. We were making our case on behalf of millions of low-income Americans who rely on our help, but who have no voice on Capitol Hill. But our efforts were largely dismissed and it looks like Congress disregarded evidence that was counter to the tax policy narrative.”

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. The organization assesses relevant federal legislation based on whether it will advance or harm its mission, and its ability to serve 61 million Americans who rely on United Way each and every day.

About United Way Worldwide 

United Way fights for the health, education and financial stability of every person in every community. Supported by 2.8 million volunteers, 9.8 million donors worldwide, and more than $4.7 billion raised every year, United Way is the world’s largest privately-funded nonprofit. We’re engaged in nearly 1,800 communities across more than 40 countries and territories worldwide to create sustainable solutions to the challenges facing our communities. United Way partners include global, national and local businesses, nonprofits, government, civic and faith-based organizations, along with educators, labor leaders, health providers, senior citizens, students and more. For more information about United Way, please visit www.UnitedWay.org. Read our annual report and follow us on Twitter: @UnitedWay and #LiveUnited.

Media Contact

Southerlyn Reisig
southerlyn.reisig@uww.unitedway.org
Tel. 703.836.7100 ext.321

Christine Sanchez
christine.sanchez@uww.unitedway.org
Tel. 703-836-7100 ext. 564