Funding for this program is DRAMATICALLY LOWER this year due to an update to the online 540 tax form provided by TurboTax, which complicated the process by which taxpayers can contribute toward the cost of goods for this effort. Please note that your donation to this program is tax deductible.
There are nearly 300,000 children identified as homeless in California public schools. Among many challenges, these students struggle to obtain the most basic necessities such as school supplies and dental hygiene supplies, which are critical for healthy development, educational success, and overall well-being.
Consider a 2nd grade student named Mary, who comes to school wearing shoes with holes and a backpack held together with duct tape. Mary does not have the pencils, paper, or art materials she needs to complete her classwork and homework, and so she falls behind her peers. Trained to look for signs of homelessness, Mary’s teacher contacts the school district’s homeless student liaison, who arranges to meet privately with Mary and her parents to offer support.
District homeless and foster liaisons provide crucial supportive services to students and families, but have limited resources to address the material needs of students like Mary. A former homeless student liaison, Annette Cleveland, Assistant Superintendent at Magnolia School District in Anaheim, shared her experience with us:
"Magnolia School District has approximately 27% of our total student population identified as homeless by their families. The social, emotional, physical and academic needs of homeless students are significant and the resources it takes to support the whole child and family are increasing. Grant funding alone is not enough to support the 300,000 students identified in California. This effort is critical to student success in CA."
To address this problem, the K to College Program of SupplyBank.Org provides school supply and dental kits to school districts and county offices of education to distribute to students in need, so liaisons can focus on delivering housing assistance, counselling and other key services and strengthening their relationships with students’ families. The main source of funding for this program is the School Supplies For Homeless Children Fund, one of 19 voluntary contribution funds (VCFs) listed on the California personal income tax return.
What is the School Supplies for Homeless Children Fund?
The School Supplies for Homeless Children Fund remains the only program in the state that addresses the unmet material needs of homeless children and youth identified in public schools as defined by the United States McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act. Based on a variety of sources, we know that homeless children and youth are performing worse in school and are at a higher risk of various negative outcomes due in part to a lack of access to basic materials like school and hygiene supplies. As the current nonprofit organization administering this program, we can report that to date, the fund has provided basic material needs assistance to more than 110,000 homeless kids throughout California. The fund has also leveraged a 138% match of in-kind resources from the private sector.
What is a Voluntary Check-off Fund (VCF)?
Voluntary Contribution Check-off Funds (VCFs) are listed on the California personal income tax return to allow taxpayers to donate a portion of their tax return to specific charitable causes. 2017 has seen a historic drop in VCF contributions across the board, with every VCF well behind their target.
With dramatically reduced funding, SupplyBank.Org will not be able to deliver programs supporting California’s nearly 300,000 homeless students at levels achieved in previous years.
Why is VCF Funding Down in 2017?
This year, TurboTax (used by nearly 50% of taxpayers in California) modified their CA state form 540 in such a way that the option to donate to a charitable fund (including the School Supplies for Homeless Children Fund) was not “part of the regular interview flow” of the tax form.
Intuit, maker of TurboTax, stated that "In prior years, all TurboTax CA state customers saw the option to donate as part of the regular interview flow. This year, CA taxpayers using TurboTax see an option to donate on a landing table and need to click through to get additional information or donate... donation levels have decreased as a result of these changes." While Intuit plans to update their software for the remainder of the 2016 tax season and reevalute their product experience for 2017, the damage is done for charitable funds already facing a substantial shortfall in donations this year.
SupplyBank.Org, formerly K to College, is a nonprofit public benefit corporation that operates the largest charitable basic needs supply program in California. Our organization was founded with the goal of applying the successful models of food banks and retail business to the issue of unmet material needs, which, second to hunger, is one of the most immediate and impactful consequences of being poor. In the past 6 years, we have donated more than $25,000,000 worth of materials including backpacks, school and dental supplies, diapers, refurbished laptop computers and other items to more than 500,000 low-income children throughout California. Similarly to how food banks operate with farmers and food producers, we centralize procurement and in-kind gifts in the welfare space to provide upwards of $3 in materials for every $1 donated. Our distribution partners include more than 350 county offices of education, school districts, First 5 agencies, family resource centers, Women, Infants & Children (WIC) centers, domestic violence shelters and other agencies throughout the state. For more information, visit www.supplybank.org.
- Delthenia Bell
- William Freeman
- Shelly Masur
- Steven Delong
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