Thursday, July 3, 2008

Want to stimulate the economy? Donate.

Want to stimulate the economy? Donate.

Over the past few months, the U.S. Treasury has begun sending economic stimulus payments to more than 130 million households. These families will each receive checks ranging from $600 to $1,800.

“This money is going to help Americans offset the high prices we're seeing at the gas pump and at the grocery store, and it will also give our economy a boost to help us pull out of this economic slowdown,” said President George W. Bush about the Economic Stimulus Act of 2008 that he signed into law earlier this year.

The total amount of the economic stimulus package is estimated at $152 billion, or about one percent of the nation’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Reports from across the country indicate that many families are either holding onto the funds or using them to pay down part of the nation’s approximately $60 billion in credit card debt. Although the intent of the law was to generate immediate consumer action, Americans are showing some unforeseen “retail restraint” that is confounding some of the architects of the stimulus package.

This should come as no surprise with gas surpassing $4 per gallon and the USDA’s recent forecast that food prices will continue to increase by 4.5 to 5.5 percent in 2008. Considering this, families that choose to save these funds or use them to pay down debt should be applauded for their wise stewardship.

However, if we truly want to use these funds to turn the economy around, allow me to offer a challenge for families interested in being truly effective stewards: donate your economic stimulus payment to a charitable organization that provides emergency assistance to our poorest neighbors.

Across the country, food banks are seeing an average increase in demand of more than 30% compared to this same time last year. Their partners on the front lines are the food pantries and soup kitchens that are facing longer lines than ever before, including many people who have never before had to rely on charity.

Organizations that meet emergency needs do far more than simply help the neediest members of our community: they multiply the impact of dollars donated to them, frequently on an exponential level. For example, the North Texas Food Bank enables organizations like Central Dallas Ministries and the SoupMobile to purchase nearly $10 of food for every dollar that they receive.

The low-income families helped by these organizations spend almost 100% of their money on basic needs. Every dollar that a food pantry can save them on grocery costs is a dollar will be used to purchase medicine, pay rent, buy clothes, secure transportation and more.

Want to generate a real economic stimulus for Dallas? Donate a portion of your economic stimulus payment to a local charity that provides emergency food relief to our community. You can provide a $6,000 to $18,000 boost to our local economy without spending a penny of your taxable income – and still receive a tax deduction!

You can determine how much you should expect to receive through the economic stimulus payment calculator at http://www.irs.gov/app/espc/.

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