Almost overnight the coronavirus dealt a devastating blow to workers, families and businesses in Charlotte County. Our community is hurting, and without immediate action from Congress, even more people will lose the supports that are keeping them from economic collapse.

Locally, our nonprofit organizations have been on the frontlines of the pandemic, providing desperately needed support to our residents.

Harry Chapin Food Bank of Southwest Florida has provided an unprecedented amount of food to individuals and families, many of whom have gone months without a paycheck. Boys & Girls Clubs of Charlotte County have provided free summer camp to families who are still employed but often at reduced hours and therefore lower pay. Guardian ad Litem Foundation has provided for a record number of basic need requests to support children in foster care. The SKY Family YMCA redesigned their childcare program to incorporate computer stations and tutors during the school year for students participating in distance learning while their parents worked. The Homeless Coalition modified their emergency shelter and meal services in response to the coronavirus while continuing to meet the needs of those who are homeless in our community.

These nonprofits and so many others have risen to the challenge that is COVID-19 and faced it with boldness and innovation. Their dedication to the people of Charlotte County has never been more apparent.

But funding for our local nonprofits to continue to meet basic human needs is now at risk. Just when these organizations are adapting to serve Charlotte County residents in new ways, they are being faced with their own financial shortfalls.

Demand for nonprofit services in Charlotte County has skyrocketed because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, charitable donations across the U.S. dropped by 6% in the first quarter of 2020 due to job loss and economic uncertainty.

Congress has passed legislation to help families stay in their homes, keep food on the table and make ends meet. But now it is time for Congress to act quickly and in a bipartisan manner to pass another bill to address the long-lasting impact of this pandemic. In this upcoming bill, United Way of Charlotte County implores Congress to expand charitable giving incentives to all American taxpayers.

The temporary $300 charitable deduction included in the CARES Act is a step in the right direction. By co-sponsoring the bipartisan Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act, the charitable tax deduction will be expanded and Congress will relieve the strain on charities that are facing massive increase in demand for basic services and huge drops in giving, as well as relieve donors of the tax burden on their charitable donation.

By expanding this incentive to encourage our residents to give more generously to support the work of charitable nonprofits, the Universal Giving Pandemic Response Act would strengthen nonprofits’ capacity to provide much needed essential services in Charlotte County and across the State of Florida.

We know our families and communities can’t wait. Contact your national representatives to let your voice be heard on this pressing issue: U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, 202-224-3041; U.S. Sen. Rick Scott, 202-224-5274; and U.S. Rep. Greg Steube, 202-225-5792.

For more information, please call the United Way of Charlotte County at 941-627-3539. Mission: Mobilizing the power of our community to break the cycle of poverty.

Angie Matthiessen is the executive director of United Way of Charlotte County.

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