When a 75-foot Norway Spruce was delivered to Rockefeller Center to serve as the complex’s iconic Christmas tree this year, it showed up looking a little worse for wear. It was bedraggled and a bit scraggly. It was shedding its thin needles all over the place. It was described as a really tall Charlie Brown tree.
Lots of clever comments were made in the news and on social media about it being a perfect metaphor for the year 2020.
The symbolism of the tree was transformed when a tiny saw-whet owl was discovered inside its branches as the tree was being set up. The little raptor had probably made the two-day, 170-mile journey from Oneonta, New York to Manhattan stuck to the tree’s base. But, other than being a little dehydrated and hungry, the owl was fine. Workers freed it from the tree and turned it over to a wildlife rehabilitation group upstate. After a check by a vet to make sure it was healthy, the owl (now named Rockefeller) was released back into the wild.
It was a holiday miracle.
I’d like to think that’s the real metaphor for 2020. It certainly rings true for those of us in the non-profit sector. Faced with greater demand and fewer resources, charitable organizations still were able to make a difference. They adapted and, sometimes, found miracles in their work.
At Quality Connections, our work had to scale down dramatically because of the pandemic, but we were still able to help 243 individuals with disabilities learn, grow and find greater independence in 2020.
So far this year, we’ve been able to:
Train 78 workers through Quality Connection programs.
Place 16 workers in jobs in the community.
Support 20 workers in their places of work.
Employ 39 workers with disabilities at QC Office.
Support 16 residents in our residential programs.
Have 49 adults with disabilities attend QC Learning, our Montessori-based education program.
That last item was one of our miracles this year. After months of having to suspend our classes, we were able to move the program to the Frontiere this summer and provide a few months of in-person instruction. The space allowed us to conduct the classes outside in a socially-distanced manner and our adult students loved exploring the property near the Rogers Lake County Natural Area. Other local non-profits shifted so they could still make a difference during challenging times. Flagstaff Family Food Center, like most for-profit restaurants, took its in-person meals and turned them into a massive take-out operation. Cancer Support Community of Northern Arizona moved all of its programs online to avoid exposing an already vulnerable population to COVID-19. Organizations banded together to provide emergency childcare for essential workers.
None of these services could have been provided without the generosity of individuals who, despite the economic challenges of 2020, made it a point to donate to these causes.
Fortunately, at both the federal and state levels, the tax code is making it easier to find the money to give to charitable organizations.
One of these tax benefits is new and a direct result of the pandemic. When the CARES Act was passed in April, most of the news coverage was – understandably – focused on the financial benefits to individuals and businesses. There were lots of stories about the $1,200 stimulus checks, the expanded unemployment benefits, and the forgivable loans to small businesses so they wouldn’t furlough workers.
Another provision of the CARES Act, however, allows for deductions of up to $300 on your federal taxes for charitable giving. Previously, donations could only be used if taxpayers itemized their deductions. With the changes under the CARES Act, you can reduce your adjusted gross income by up to $300 even if you use the standard deduction on your taxes.
A slightly different form of tax relief for donations is available on your Arizona state income tax. The Charitable Tax Credit isn’t a deduction, but a dollar-for-dollar credit reducing your tax burden. So, if you give $100 to qualifying organizations, you get a $100 credit. (The maximum for individuals is $400 and $800 for couples filing jointly.)
Also, this state tax credit is separate from the Public School Activity Tax Credit and the Private School Tuition Tax Credit, so you can claim them all during the same tax year.
After the year we’ve all had, these deductions and credits are silver linings that are good news both for taxpayers and non-profits.
As we close out 2020, all of us at Quality Connections would like to thank you for the support you’ve shown all our local non-profits and wish you the happiest of holidays. Here’s to 2021 and the hope that it holds better times for all of us. FBN
By Armando Bernasconi