I attended an amazing event in Washington D.C. last week along with a large delegation of Rescue Mission directors from across the country. We went to lobby on behalf of our Association of Gospel Rescue Missions on several key issues.
Rescue missions have been serving the poor in America since the 1870’s. We are experts at providing effective care for men, women and children who are hungry, homeless, abused, or addicted. Today, there are rescue missions in 46 states and more than 177 congressional districts across the U.S.
There are several public policies being discussed right now that are important enough for us to pay our elected officials a visit to get their support in changing or fixing them. Below is a list of them.
1. Strengthen incentives for charitable giving- Rescue missions rely heavily on private support from generous donors who help fund services to the poor, homeless, hurting and abused. America’s weak economy and growing numbers of poor means that rescue missions are struggling to maintain services for larger numbers of individuals and families seeking help. We strongly urge Congress to reject proposals to limit or cut the deduction for charitable giving and make it available to all taxpayers. Congress must continue to use our nation’s tax laws to encourage individuals, regardless of income, to generously give to charities that help people in need. *92% of support for Mel Trotter comes from individuals, 6% from businesses, and 2% from churches, *from audited financial statement for period 7/1/09 through 6/30/10.
2. Fix the tax code to encourage more vehicle donations- Many rescue missions accept donated vehicles to resell as a source of greatly needed revenue. Changes Congress made in 2007 to the tax rules covering vehicle donations helped reduce the number of abuses, but a provision in the bill has unintentionally caused the number and value of vehicles donated to charities to drop significantly nationwide. We urge Congress to support legislation to increase the fair-market value limit that donors can claim from $500 to $2500, and require the Internal Revenue Service to issue new guidance for charities and donors about how to calculate fair-market value. Vehicle sales account for 11% of Mel Trotter’s annual revenue. We sustained a 60% drop in vehicle donations since 2007 when the new law went into effect.
3. Add broad conscience exemptions for all faith-based organizations to health care mandates- It is our religious identity that animates our work to serve millions of poor men, women, and children - it is inseparable from what we do and who we are. Congress passed landmark health care laws that lacked adequate conscience protections for faith-based organizations, and now the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has narrowed the exemptions (for religious employers) to the extent that most rescue missions and other religious groups will not be covered. It is wrong for the federal government to force faith organizations to purchase or provide health care coverage that violates our deeply held religious beliefs. We strongly urge Congress to correct this mistake.
Mel Trotter is a member of the Association of Gospel Rescue Missions, North America’s oldest and largest association of independent crisis shelters and rehabilitation centers. AGRM has 250 member missions. We are proud to be a local member of an association that is fighting for the right to serve the homeless in a manner that honors the Lord.