Automobiles » Lung and kidney groups losing donations.
The Salt Lake Tribune
Updated: 08/11/2009 09:28:13 PM MDT
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The federal “cash-for-clunkers” program may be wildly popular with auto buyers, but some Utah charities that rely on vehicle donations for funding say the initiative is cutting into the number of cars and trucks they’re receiving.
The National Kidney Foundation of Utah, which gets more automobile donations than any other charity in the state, estimates the number of vehicles donated to its Kidney Kars program is down 10 percent to 15 percent since the clunkers program began.
Things are much worse at the American Lung Association in Utah. Donations are down 50 percent to 60 percent as many owners of used vehicles opt to take advantage of rebates of up to $4,500 for trading in their gas guzzlers for new fuel-efficient cars instead of making a charitable contribution.
“We’re going to need a few more weeks to really gauge the impact, but already we’re feeling the effects,” said Luz Lewis-Perez, who oversees the Kidney Kars donation program in Utah.
Standing beside an auctioneer at Brashers Auto Auction in Salt Lake City on Tuesday, Lewis-Perez watched as 44 cars and trucks donated to the Kidney Foundation were sold. Although some went for a lot more and others a lot less, the average selling price was $680 — enough money for the Kidney Foundation to help several thousand Utahns receiving dialysis pay their bills while they wait for a transplant.
“Fortunately, the ‘cash-for-clunkers’ program is only temporary, while we’re in this
for the long haul," Lewis-Perez said.Craig Cutright of the American Lung Association in Utah said that only a few years ago, its vehicle donation program was the organization's largest funding source.
Then the federal government changed the rules on how much of a tax deduction those who donate could take. Donations dropped off sharply.
"Now we're having to deal with this 'cash-for-clunkers.' It seems as if the federal government just wants to come up with programs that will harm charities," Cutright said.
Daniel Boroschoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, takes another view. His watchdog group monitors charities, and he thinks that although some may suffer short term, overall the clunkers program may prove beneficial.
"Some charities may very well see fewer cars donated, but that isn't the only consideration. If this program helps stimulate the economy, then it should help those people that charities exist to serve."
Lewis-Perez said its is easy to understand why the clunkers program is so popular.
"The government is giving out money. But we'd like to remind people who have an automobile they want to get rid of and aren't using for the clunkers program that donating their car [to charity] is truly the best way to get rid of it."