A Last-Minute Add to Stimulus Bill Could Restrict State Tax Cuts

WASHINGTON — A last-minute change in the $1.9 trillion economic relief package that President Biden signed into law this week includes a provision that could temporarily prevent states that receive government aid from turning around and cutting taxes.

The restriction, which was added by Senate Democrats, is intended to ensure that states use federal funds to keep their local economies humming and avoid drastic budget cuts and not simply use the money to subsidize tax cuts. But the provision is causing alarm among some local officials, primarily Republicans, who see the move as federal overreach and fear conditions attached to the money will impede upon their ability to manage their budgets as they see fit.

Officials are scrambling to understand what strings are attached to the $220 billion that is expected to be parceled out among states, territories and tribes and are already pressing the Treasury Department for guidance about the restrictions they will face if they take federal money.

Under the new law, $25 billion will be divided equally among states, while $169 billion will be allocated based on a state’s unemployment rate. States can use the money for pandemic-related costs, offsetting lost revenues to provide essential government services, and for water, sewer and broadband infrastructure projects.

based on a formula that considers its unemployment rate rather than its population. Conservative-leaning states, many of which had less onerous coronavirus restrictions and did not shut down as much business activity, claim they are essentially being penalized for prioritizing their economies during the pandemic.

But early analyses of the bill show that both conservative-leaning and liberal-leaning states will receive big chunks of cash. California, Florida, New York and Texas will each get more than $10 billion in aid, according to a Tax Foundation tally.

Still, the tax language has angered Republicans — none of whom voted for the rescue package — and on Thursday, Senator Mike Braun, Republican of Indiana, introduced legislation to reverse it.

many cities are facing budget crunches, state finances have turned out to be relatively healthy.

A New York Times analysis this month found that, on balance, state revenues were generally flat or down slightly last year compared with 2019 as expanded unemployment benefits allowed consumer spending and tax revenues to keep flowing.

“Idaho would potentially subsidize poorly managed states simply because we are using our record budget surplus to pursue historic tax relief for our citizens,” Gov. Brad Little of Idaho said this week. “We achieved our record budget surplus after years of responsible, conservative governing and quick action during the pandemic, and our surplus should be returned to Idahoans as I proposed.”

Gov. Jim Justice, a Republican of West Virginia, criticized Mr. Manchin in an interview this week with CNN.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?

Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.

Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.

Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.

Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.

Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.

“He’s hurting his own people in the state of West Virginia,” Mr. Justice said. “I do not condone it.”

The provision is also raising questions about what actually constitutes a tax cut and whether the law could prevent states from other types of tax relief. The language of the legislation appears to offer states little wiggle room.

Jared Walczak, the vice president for state projects at the Tax Foundation’s Center for State Tax Policy, said that the fine print in the law raised many complicated questions for states that, in some cases, would be awarded money for things that they either do not need or that they already had plans to pay for out of their budgets. It is not clear, for example, if a state could use aid money for an expense related to the coronavirus that it was already planning to pay for and then offer tax credits with the additional surplus.

“If the federal government intends to forbid any sort of revenue negative tax policy, no matter what its size, because a state received some funding, that would be a radical federal entanglement in state fiscal policy that may go beyond what was intended,” Mr. Walczak said.

Such questions will largely hinge on how Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen interprets the legislation and what guidance the Treasury Department gives to states.

A department official noted that the law says that states and territories that receive the aid cannot use the funds to offset a reduction in net tax revenue as a result of tax cuts because the money is intended to be used to support the public health response and avoid layoffs and cuts to public services. More guidance on the matter is coming, the official said.

The lack of clarity also raises the risk that states use the money for projects or programs that do not actually qualify under the law and then are forced to repay the federal government. States are required to submit regular reports to the Treasury Department accounting for how the funds are being spent and to show any other changes that they have made to their tax codes. The department will also be setting up a system of monitoring how the funds are being used.

Emily Swenson Brock, the director of the Federal Liaison Center at the Government Finance Officers Association, said that the eligible uses of the federal aid appeared to be relatively limited for the states and that some might actually find it challenging to deploy the money in a useful way.

“It’s complicated here for the states,” Ms. Brock said, adding that her organization had asked the Treasury Department for an explanation. “Congress is reaching in and telling these states how they can and can’t use that money.”

Before they receive federal funds, states will have to submit a certification promising to use the money according to the law. They could also decline funding or, if they are set on tax cuts, they could offset them with other sources of revenue that do not include the federal funds.

For many states, the federal money is welcome even if they do not necessarily need it for public health purposes.

Melissa Hortman, the speaker of the Minnesota House of Representatives, said that she was hopeful that the federal government gives states the flexibility to use the money to make up for lost revenue from the virus. She suggested that the state should look to make new investments in education and transportation. Minnesota is expected to have a budget surplus for the next two years and will receive more than $2 billion in aid.

“It’s not too much money,” said Ms. Hortman, a Democrat. “Our country has just lived through a once-in-a-hundred-year pandemic.”

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A Love Letter to My Accountant

When it was my turn, it was well past 9 p.m. He looked over my papers, all my accounting of trying to make a life out of words. “Hmm,” he said, “hmm.” He told me I would owe a tax bill in the low thousands. I almost blacked out. “But,” he said gently, “that just means you’re successful. You’ve made this much from writing.”

My accountant taught me that even in a life of pursuing art, where uncertainty is built in, some care can be taken to make plans, to plan for success, not just wish to succeed, and in planning offer myself some ballast against nothing at all going according to plan. It’s a difficult lesson to learn — the lives of great artists are riddled with instability. But he also reminds me, every April 15, not to block my blessings, not to decide I already know how my artistic career will end, that life can surprise you with good things as well as bad.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?

Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.

Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.

Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.

Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.

Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.

At the end of our first meeting, he said to me, gravely, “You are good at this. You are going to make money as an artist. You need to be ready for it,” and he told me what funds to put money in, which retirement plans to invest in, for the following year. I went back to him a year later, when I was getting married, and he gave me advice for my taxes then. He told me, poignantly, “Don’t get married on Christmas or New Year’s. It will ruin those days for you.”

By then, I had talked to him long enough to know that he had been married and divorced, and that he had seven adult daughters of his own, all trained as accountants — they helped him out during tax season. Sometimes I would call his office after negotiating a contract or finding out about a grant, and I would only get the machine. This was because, he’d explained to me, he took off six months out of the year to travel around West Africa to collect the art that I saw in his office.

The last time I saw him in person was the 2019 tax season. I was five months pregnant, my then-husband had just lost his job, and we were suddenly both living off a research stipend for a fellowship I had. He sat with us and assured us it would be OK. I was stressed about money, stressed about my baby’s future, stressed about how I was going to pay for my looming hospital bills. Talking to him was one of the few times during that turbulent pregnancy when I felt like I was being taken care of by another person, instead of taking care of everyone else — a gift for which I will always be grateful.

Last pandemic’s tax season was pushed back again and again by the catastrophe. I did my taxes in June on the back porch of the house I was living in during quarantine, paying a masked sitter $20 an hour for the privilege of talking to my accountant on the phone without a baby in the background. I realized my relationship with him is the most positive one I’ve ever had with a man over money. As I updated him on my pandemic year — marriage over, job offers gone, quarantining in another state — he only murmured sagely into the phone. He’d seen it all. “But I did what you told me to last year and paid my estimated tax,” I said.

“You listened to me?” he replied, with a fatherly warmth. “Of course,” I said. “None of my clients ever do,” he laughed. And then he said he’d set me up for 2021, because I’d followed his directions. It was one of my proudest moments in the hazy, heady year.

Kaitlyn Greenidge is the author of the forthcoming novel “Libertie” and the features director at Harper’s Bazaar.

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Some Changes That May Affect Next Year’s Tax Return

That means someone who was philanthropically minded could donate enough this year to “wipe out their entire tax bill,” said Cari Weston, director for tax practice and ethics at the American Association of Certified Public Accountants.

Medical deductions. The December law made permanent — again — a lower threshold for deducting medical expenses. Taxpayers can continue to deduct unreimbursed medical expenses that exceed 7.5 percent of their income, instead of 10 percent. To take the deduction, filers must itemize.

The floor had been 7.5 percent before the 2017 tax law raised it temporarily to 10 percent, Ms. Weston said. The latest change reverts to the earlier rule. Still, she said, the deduction is of limited help for most people.

For instance, if you have adjusted gross income of $100,000, you can now take a deduction for medical expenses that exceed $7,500 ($100,000 multiplied by 0.075). If you had expenses of $10,000 in 2021, your deduction would be $2,500 ($10,000 minus $7,500). Under the prior rule, your expenses wouldn’t have exceeded the $10,000 cutoff, so you wouldn’t have qualified for a deduction.

Deductions for business meals. This one is more helpful to businesses, but it could apply if you’re self-employed and take clients to lunch or dinner. Businesses can deduct 100 percent of business meals for 2021 and 2022 (but not for 2020), instead of the usual 50 percent. This is aimed at helping out beleaguered restaurants that have suffered from restrictions during the pandemic. The deduction applies to client meals as well as to employees on business travel and must be for food and drinks provided by a restaurant.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?

Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.

Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.

Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.

Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.

Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.

“It helps boost the restaurant economy,” Ms. Weston said.

Changes to tax breaks for educational expenses. The December law also did away with the on-again, off-again deduction for tuition and related expenses, but expanded the income limits for the lifetime learning credit, a credit that covers many of the same costs, starting in 2021. The credit is worth up to $2,000 per tax return.

“This is a net positive for families,” said Mark Kantrowitz, publisher of Savingforcollege.com.

Often, he said, families were confused and took the deduction when they might have been better off taking educational credits. Tax credits are generally considered better than deductions because credits directly reduce the amount of tax owed.

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For Gig Workers and Business Owners, Taxes Are Even Trickier Now

The revamped credit “is a better program — there’s more money, and it’s available to more employers,” said Shelly Abril, the head of tax compliance at Gusto, a payroll services provider. “But with that comes all this extra complexity.”

Devon Lind plans to seek retroactive 2020 credits for his workers at Blender, a collection of businesses in Spokane, Wash. Blender’s two core businesses — Photoboxx, which sells photo printing and display technology, and Smash, a mobile “rage room” where people can destroy plates — both depend on events, and sales plunged last year. The company had nine employees before the pandemic. It laid off five.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?

Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.

Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.

Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.

Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.

Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.

Because Blender took a Paycheck Protection Program loan, it was initially ineligible for the retention credit, but Mr. Lind now plans to seek it for two quarters last year. The credit “is really going to help us continue to retain employees as we’re gaining back business,” he said.

But extracting the most money allowed from the credit is complicated because of the way it interacts with P.P.P. proceeds — and the Internal Revenue Service hasn’t yet provided detailed guidance.

“There’s just tons of nuance in the credit,” said Andre Shevchuck, a partner at the accounting firm BPM. “We have instructed a lot of clients to first check in with their payroll provider to see how the rubber meets the road, and it may also make sense for businesses to talk to a C.P.A or a lawyer.”

Self-employed workers are normally not eligible for unemployment compensation, but the CARES Act extended benefits to them. Ms. Holcomb filed for unemployment when her contract job temporarily eliminated her hours.

Some who collected the money are in for a tax-time shock, though: The payments are taxed as income. States are supposed to offer recipients the option of having federal taxes withheld, but in their scramble to deal with a deluge of claims, some states didn’t do it — and many people, faced with urgent bills and a reduced income, declined the option. Researchers at the Century Foundation estimate that fewer than 40 percent of unemployment payments last year had taxes withheld.

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The Tax Headaches of Working Remotely

New Jersey, however, has said it will give its newly telecommuting residents a credit for those New York taxes for 2020, even though it is entitled to the revenue because the taxpayers are now working within its borders, Mr. Walczak said. So residents won’t, for now, have to worry about double taxation. But New Jersey estimates that it is forgoing more than $1 billion in revenue as a result — suggesting that the practice is unlikely to be sustainable in the long term, Mr. Walczak said.

How Has the Pandemic Changed Your Taxes?

Nope. The so-called economic impact payments are not treated as income. In fact, they’re technically an advance on a tax credit, known as the Recovery Rebate Credit. The payments could indirectly affect what you pay in state income taxes in a handful of states, where federal tax is deductible against state taxable income, as our colleague Ann Carrns wrote. Read more.

Mostly.  Unemployment insurance is generally subject to federal as well as state income tax, though there are exceptions (Nine states don’t impose their own income taxes, and another six exempt unemployment payments from taxation, according to the Tax Foundation). But you won’t owe so-called payroll taxes, which pay for Social Security and Medicare. The new relief bill will make the first $10,200 of benefits tax-free if your income is less than $150,000. This applies to 2020 only. (If you’ve already filed your taxes, watch for I.R.S. guidance.) Unlike paychecks from an employer, taxes for unemployment aren’t automatically withheld. Recipients must opt in — and even when they do, federal taxes are withheld only at a flat rate of 10 percent of benefits. While the new tax break will provide a cushion, some people could still owe the I.R.S. or certain states money. Read more.

Probably not, unless you’re self-employed, an independent contractor or a gig worker. The tax law overhaul of late 2019 eliminated the home office deduction for employees from 2018 through 2025. “Employees who receive a paycheck or a W-2 exclusively from an employer are not eligible for the deduction, even if they are currently working from home,” the I.R.S. said. Read more.

Self-employed people can take paid caregiving leave if their child’s school is closed or their usual child care provider is unavailable because of the outbreak. This works similarly to the smaller sick leave credit — 67 percent of average daily earnings (for either 2020 or 2019), up to $200 a day. But the caregiving leave can be taken for 50 days. Read more.

Yes. This year, you can deduct up to $300 for charitable contributions, even if you use the standard deduction. Previously, only people who itemized could claim these deductions. Donations must be made in cash (for these purposes, this includes check, credit card or debit card), and can’t include securities, household items or other property. For 2021, the deduction limit will double to $600 for joint filers. Rules for itemizers became more generous as well. The limit on charitable donations has been suspended, so individuals can contribute up to 100 percent of their adjusted gross income, up from 60 percent. But these donations must be made to public charities in cash; the old rules apply to contributions made to donor-advised funds, for example. Both provisions are available through 2021. Read more.

The practice of states reaching outside their borders to tax telecommuters was an issue even before the coronavirus showed up, and it is getting more attention because of a spat between New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Massachusetts said last year that it would tax the income of out-of-state residents who had worked in the state but were telecommuting during the pandemic. This miffed neighboring New Hampshire, which has thousands of residents who commute to work in Boston and other cities in Massachusetts. In October, it filed a lawsuit asking the U.S. Supreme Court to hear its complaint. (More than a dozen other states — including New Jersey — have filed briefs urging the court to consider the case.)

The workers in New Hampshire aren’t being double taxed because New Hampshire is one of nine states that have no state income tax. But New Hampshire officials object to residents being taxed by another state for work done inside its borders. (Massachusetts said in a filing in response to the suit that the policy maintains the prepandemic “status quo.”)

As remote work could remain popular even after the pandemic, federal action may be needed to make state income tax rules for telecommuting more uniform, tax experts say. A group called the Mobile Workforce Coalition says it is building bipartisan support for reform.

“Telecommuting,” Mr. Sobel said, “is going to become the norm.”

So if you worked in a state other than your usual one in 2020, how should you approach tax season?

First, make a list of any states where you worked remotely, even if it was for a brief period of time, accountants suggest. If you didn’t keep close track, try to approximate the number of days worked in each state. State laws vary, but typically income is taxed once you reach a threshold, like the amount of money earned, the number of days you worked in the state or a combination of the two. About half the states start the clock at just one day, while others use 30 or 60 days.

These sorts of rules generally apply not just to employees but also to freelancers, said Dina Pyron, global leader of the mobile tax preparation app EY TaxChat. “It doesn’t matter if you are an employee or a contractor.”

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Covid-19 Vaccines: Deportation Fears May Be Limiting Uptake Among Undocumented Migrants In The U.K.

British lawmakers have warned their government that fear of deportation may be stopping hundreds of thousands of undocumented migrants from getting vaccinated against Covid-19.

Most vaccines are being distributed through family doctors (GPs). But many undocumented migrants are afraid to register with their local GP over fears their details will be shared with the Home Office.

Health Minister Ed Argar previously told radio station LBC that the government was not going to “chase up” the immigration status of anyone getting a shot.

But on Friday, Labour party MP Sarah Owen and Conservative peer Lord Sheikh asked what “proactive” action was being taken to ensure the country’s 1.2 million undocumented migrants are not missed in the vaccine rollout, in a letter to vaccines minister Nadhim Zahawi.

They asked Zahawi how the government planned on reaching those who might be reluctant to get the shot, or who may not have access to vaccine information in their language.

They wrote: “We are deeply concerned that the large numbers of people who are undocumented will be highly vulnerable and disproportionately impacted by Covid-19, while also being some of the most hesitant to reach out to receive their vaccine.”

 

A recent survey revealed that more than 40 percent of migrants in the U.K. were reluctant to access healthcare services, including registering with a family doctor, over concerns they will be charged or have their details shared with the government. That figure rose to 56 percent for people with refugee status, according to the research by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants.

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Owen said in a press release: “No one’s safe until we’re all safe.

“The vaccine rollout is going incredibly well…but no one can be missed out because of who they are, what they look like, or where they come from.

“The government needs to urgently kick start a new public information campaign aimed at harder to reach groups like undocumented migrants, and work closely with communities with lower rates of vaccine acceptance, because only when as many people as possible have taken the vaccine will life truly be able to get back to normal.”

Lord Sheikh added: “Undocumented immigrants are some of the most vulnerable in society and have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. We need to better support those who are on the ground such as community and faith leaders to build trust so that we can all be safe.”

Kawsar Zaman, barrister and vaccine uptake campaigner said: “The government’s policy to invite undocumented migrants to come forward and take the vaccine is the right one. However, the reality is that these individuals will not come forward and register with their GP for fear of repercussions.

“Our entire national vaccination effort is at jeopardy if we do not reach the estimated 1.4 million undocumented migrants in a timely manner.”

Britain has received international praise for the speed at which it has rolled out Covid-19 vaccines. More than 21.3 million people—approximately 32 percent of adults—have already had at least one dose of a Covid-19 vaccine as of Friday.

But the government has already come under fire over serious discrepancies in uptake. Research shows that elderly people from minority ethnic backgrounds, for example, have been vaccinated at far slower rates than elderly white people.

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How Nonprofits Can Use Social Media To Increase Donations And Boost Visibility

 

By Jacqueline Tabas

Amidst the Covid-19 crisis, nonprofit organizations have faced onerous financial burdens. There has been a high demand for their services, which taxes their resources, yet their ability to bring in volunteers and host in-person fundraising events has been limited.

Nonprofits rely on donations in order to survive, and during the pandemic, fundraising has become even more challenging. As a case in point, The Salvation Army reported in December that fundraising was down 18% compared to prior years.

However, thanks to the power of social media, there are strategies nonprofits can use to achieve their fundraising and marketing goals. As people become more comfortable with their digital devices during the pandemic, they provide nonprofits with a captive audience for engagement.

If you run a nonprofit, here is how to take advantage of the unique opportunities offered by social media to increase the success of your organization.

Benefits of social media marketing for nonprofit organizations

Social media is an effective marketing tool for a nonprofit organization. Some of the key benefits include:

 

  • Social media significantly increases an organization’s reach (billions of people use social media).
  • Social media spreads the word about an organization’s mission.

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  • Social media postings are free.
  • Social media attracts new donors and keeps existing donors engaged.
  • Social media assists in growing a network of volunteers.
  • Each social media posting can include a link to the organization’s donor page.
  • Interactive content posted to social media allows the audience to participate and feel more engaged.

Many well-known nonprofit organizations, have employed social media tactics in successful marketing campaigns:

World Wide Fund for Nature: The World Wide Fund for Nature created a successful interactive content campaign called Earth Hour. The annual Earth Hour campaign requests that people turn off their lights for one hour and uses the #EarthHour hashtag (among others) to invigorate followers. In 2020, 90 countries and territories took part in the event and it generated over 4.7 billion global social media impressions.

Make-A-Wish Foundation: The Make-A-Wish Foundation has granted wishes to a myriad of children since 1980. Reportedly, the Foundation’s efforts fulfill a child’s desire every 40 minutes in the United States. Make-A-Wish shares all its video wishes on its YouTube channel. Videos of the children receiving their wishes are also published on the foundation’s website as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts. This strategy has increased Make-A-Wish’s interaction. You can view the success of their efforts here.

Save the Children: The goal of Save the Children is to improve the lives of children around the world. Notably, the organization targets children living in war zones. Save the Children created a video where a Western child was shown in a situation that a child living in a war zone would face. The footage helped donors better understand and empathize with these children and was responsible for a multitude of donations and video shares:

Amnesty International: Amnesty International uses Twitter to raise awareness of ongoing campaigns and current social issues. Its Twitter profile has 4.2 million followers and has posted nearly 33,000 tweets.

Wings of Rescue: Pet rescue organization Wings of Rescue transports at-risk shelter pets from disaster areas and overcrowded shelters to shelters with empty kennel space. The organization has done a great job posting videos on YouTube, images on Instagram, and posts on Facebook to bring in donations.

Most popular social media platforms for nonprofits

While there are many social media platforms out there, here are the most popular ones used by nonprofits:

Facebook

With over 2.8 billion monthly active users, Facebook continues to be the most popular social media channel.

Facebook success strategies:

  • Most successful posts on Facebook are short because people generally do not like to read lengthy paragraphs. If you write a long post and the action link is at the end, there is a chance the viewer may never see the donation link. Ideally put the donation link at the beginning of your posts, followed by brief copy.
  • Including hashtags on Facebook posts helps popularize your nonprofit’s content and helps you gain more followers. If you utilize the hashtags that potential donors typically use, this will improve the page’s visibility and hopefully generate more donations.
  • Another way to gain more followers on a Facebook page or Facebook group is to run ads on Facebook. The Facebook Lookalike Audience tool helps you target people similar to your supporters and donors to increase engagement.
  • Share live events on Facebook. Live events allow supporters to see real-time updates of a fundraising event and inspires them to donate within the moment.
  • Consider generating a Facebook survey to boost engagement and followers.
  • Ask followers to share their connection to your organization by posting on their status section with a tag to your nonprofit.

YouTube

With over 2 billion monthly active users, the online video-sharing platform owned by Google is extremely popular. Many businesses, nonprofits, and influencers use YouTube to market their products and services.

Video content is more expensive and time-consuming to create than articles or images, but this type of content has the biggest engagement among audiences. With your nonprofit, you can set simple, yet stylized ways to shoot content, even from your office (or home office).

YouTube success strategies:

  • A YouTube channel is an essential component of a social media marketing program. Your nonprofit should have an established, central channel that is search engine optimized. You might even make money from your YouTube channel if it becomes popular.
  • Educational videos and content create awareness of the issues of importance to your nonprofit and are good ways to make your brand visible on YouTube.
  • Sign up for a free Google for Nonprofits account at google.com/nonprofits and click on the “Get Started” button. To create a channel and find an ID, click here. With a Google for Nonprofits account, you can raise money via YouTube without requiring donors to go to outside sources. YouTube has also implemented various features to help nonprofits raise money, such as:
  • Fundraisers, which resemble Facebook fundraisers. They display a donate button next to the video or livestream.
  • Community Fundraisers are when multiple YouTubers target the same cause to raise money on various channels.
  • Campaign matching is when other businesses or YouTubers show their matching pledges during fundraisers or community fundraisers.
  • Super Chat allows users to pay to have their messages emphasized during a live chat with numerous participants. Super chats are popular forms of advertising during fundraisers and community fundraisers.

Additionally, Google covers all of the starter fees, so that nonprofits will receive the maximum funds raised.

Instagram

With over one billion monthly active users, Instagram is a video and photo-sharing app owned by Facebook. It is popular among 18 to 34-year-olds.

Instagram success strategies:

  • Hashtags are vital on Instagram and use them liberally when publishing content. Hashtags help build a following because people search for content and accounts by searching hashtags related to their interests.
  • Instagram offers the option to host a live event. Nonprofits can specifically use Instagram live events to share fundraising events, allowing followers to participate actively in donating.
  • Gain more followers by hosting interactive question and answer sessions through your Instagram stories.
  • Stories, in general, are viewed more than regular Instagram posts. People are more likely to look at stories rather than scroll through an entire Instagram feed. Highlighting your best stories will increase followers and inspire donations.
  • You can easily add donation stickers to your Instagram stories to inspire others to donate. In addition, by sharing your Instagram stories on Facebook, you allow Facebook followers to take advantage of the donation sticker too.
  • In your stories and posts, you can increase engagement and visibility by tagging other organizations or individuals whom you work with. Also when you create a story or post, Instagram has a feature that allows you to post your location, which gives your content a broader reach and further establishes your credibility. There are also ways to apply these same features to Facebook stories and posts, and you can publish the same content shared on Instagram to linked social media channels, such as Facebook and Twitter.
  • Reach out to influencers who may be interested in supporting your nonprofit, asking if they would be kind enough to include a mention of your organization in their content.

Twitter

With over 330 million monthly active users, Twitter is a site where users post and interact with other users via mini-messages called “tweets.” Many businesses have used Twitter to increase their visibility and engagement with consumers.

Twitter success strategies: 

  • It is vital that your message/bio in the “About” section of your Twitter profile contains a cohesive and clear message for people learning about you for the first time. Donors need to understand and care about your organization if they are going to donate.
  • A simple way to gain more followers on Twitter is to advertise your Twitter account on other social media channels. Connecting other channels in some form draws more followers and helps grow an account.
  • Always be concise in your wording, and if possible, support your tweets with images or videos.
  • Post often or daily to Twitter. Frequent posting with hashtags offers a greater opportunity for people to discover your organization’s content and account and provides more opportunities for engagement.
  • Increase your number of followers by engaging with other Twitter accounts. Social media is primarily about instantaneous communication. Vital social media thrives on reciprocity and interacting in the moment; engaging with related accounts inspires reciprocal engagement. When you interact with other users on Twitter, there’s a chance that those accounts will share your nonprofit’s account and content with their followers, which can lead to even more followers for you.
  • Live tweeting allows supporters to watch real-time updates of a fundraising event, increasing followers and donations. Similar to Facebook Live events, this could inspire people to donate instantly.
  • The Twitter Poll is an excellent tool to use. It allows you to create your own poll and immediately see the results. A poll inspires more engagement because it requires more effort than reading text or watching a video. Also, if people enjoy voting, there is a high likelihood they will share the poll amongst their followers, hopefully helping your charity gain more followers and boost engagement.

Pinterest

With over 469 million active monthly users, Pinterest is a platform for promoting, saving, and finding information via visual content, and has evolved as a way to showcase a brand, a business, or a nonprofit. It provides an optimal outlet to showcase strong visual content and can serve as an additional engagement tool to drive traffic to a nonprofit’s website.

According to Lisa Sherman, president and CEO of the Ad Council, “Pinterest is a place where people get inspired and then take action. Leveraging the platform gives nonprofits a unique, impactful way to share their causes and encourage people to support them.”

Pinterest success strategies: 

  • Infographics perform well on Pinterest. Posting infographics that share relevant and vital data about your organization eliminates the need for users to click on your website.
  • Pinterest is effective for collecting donations and even selling goods. You can use Pinterest to sell items related to your work, even if you already have a store on your website. Link your donation page to Pinterest images.
  • Archive donation landing pages from previous fundraisers. “Pin captions” can showcase past fundraising events. If a user is impressed with a pin that advertises the cause’s past success, the Pin could refer them to future, pertinent fundraising occasions.
  • Utilize Pinterest for networking purposes by following related accounts who may be interested in donating or following your organization. You can also connect with influencers who are passionate about your cause; influencers can promote the charity on their personal Pinterest accounts.
  • Promoting pins, especially donation-focused ones, is also crucial. Boosting such pins around important gift-giving-oriented holidays when people are more cheerful and generous is wise, especially since people browse Pinterest for gift inspiration.

LinkedIn

With over 310 million active monthly users and 740+ million registered professionals, LinkedIn is the leading employment networking platform.

Nonprofits can use LinkedIn to contact professionals involved in social responsibility or philanthropy. Large corporations have senior employees coordinating donations and partnerships with nonprofits, and these employees all have a presence on LinkedIn. You can use the platform to network with these individuals and develop advocates for your cause.

LinkedIn success strategies: 

  • Business professionals use LinkedIn for networking; thus, connecting with a donor, especially during the pandemic, is the best virtual alternative to an in-person meeting.
  • Many nonprofits have had success using LinkedIn to acquire talent. LinkedIn can help you discover new team members, board members, and volunteers.
  • LinkedIn also has a “status” feature. Use the status update line to push relevant facts and ask supporters for donations.
  • Take advantage of the “groups” feature to join several groups closely related to your mission. Try to frequently post in these groups to create more visibility and gain more connections.
  • Post articles to LinkedIn. 

TikTok

With over 1.1 billion active monthly users, TikTok is a video-sharing social platform for short-form videos. It has become enormously popular with Generation Z.

With TikTok, you can create videos tied to emotional music, and intertwine the video with a trending hashtag. Inputting emotion and having a trending hashtag has helped TikTok videos go viral and garner more followers.

TikTok success strategies: 

  • When the Oregon Zoo posted a video of an adorable elephant swimming to a heartwarming song and affiliated it with an Earth Day hashtag, the video received 4.7 million views, 861,000 likes, and 2,561 comments.

Oregon Zoo TikTok campaign video

  • Dance challenges are popular on TikTok and a great way to inspire donations. The American Heart Association conducted a “Keep the Beat Challenge.” Supporters created videos of themselves dancing to “Keep their Beat.” The challenge promoted the American Heart Association while raising money and awareness for American Heart Month.

American Heart Association TikTok campaign video

  • Use TikTok to inspire involvement and donating through storytelling. The Save the Music Foundation shared videos of young, ambitious musicians playing their music, and used text overlays in the video to tell viewers their inspiring life stories as the video played. This allowed viewers to listen to each musician perform while being able to read how Save the Music impacted the person’s life.

Save the Music Foundation TikTok campaign video

  • Charities can take advantage of informative content as a means to spread awareness. For their National Walking Day Campaign, United Way produced a short video of two people walking while highlighting the health statistics of walking frequently and the safety measures to consider during Covid-19.

National Walking Day TikTok campaign video

More social media tips for nonprofits

Here are some general tips to keep in mind no matter what platform you use:

  • Postings should be regular and continuous. Organizations that are successful with social media will post once a day or more. An occasional posting does not successfully build an engaged audience.
  • Optimize your organization’s profile on each social media site with a clear mission statement, bio, and image.
  • Use relevant hashtags, such as #dogrescue or #cancercure. People on social media use hashtags to find content and accounts pertaining to their interests. Be careful not to overuse hashtags because this makes the content of the post less relevant or visible than the hashtags themselves.
  • Consider scheduling regular postings with software tools such as Hootsuite or Buffer.
  • Monitoring the analytics of your postings is important to enhance your marketing strategy. For example, you can monitor the number of follows, likes, comments, and the traffic to your website from your social media postings.
  • Use interesting visual content.
  • Ensure that each post links to your organization’s website and particularly to the donor page.
  • Use call-to-action words in postings, such as “please help,” “please like,” “please retweet,” and other such phrasing.
  • Invest in videos—videos can result in 12 times more “shares” than text and images.
  • Make sure that your website promotes social media icons on every page.
  • Use humor and funny images when appropriate.
  • Tread lightly on controversial subjects.
  • Be prompt when engaging with your audience, answering questions, replying to comments, and responding to messages.

Additional marketing strategies for nonprofits

Consider the following marketing strategies to supplement your social media program:

  • Crowdfunding. Your nonprofit can fundraise virtually via crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is an excellent way to attract a large group of people to donate small quantities in unison, and there are many ways to share crowdfunding goals on social media channels.

For example, GoFundMe.com reported that a five-year-old boy wanted to help less fortunate children during the holidays. He led a 20-minute meditation session and then asked his attendees to donate to the Coalition for the Homeless in his name; he raised $30,000.

  • Email newsletters. Consider emailing a weekly newsletter to subscribers. This is a great way to keep your nonprofit at the forefront of people’s minds. Newsletters can include news updates, new images, new videos, references to the nonprofit on social media, links to donation pages, information about upcoming events, and much more.

You can then build up your newsletter subscriber list, which becomes a valuable asset to maintain engagement with clients or donors.

  • Content marketing. Employ content marketing strategies by creating articles for your website and other business sites. Stories should have links back to your website and especially to your donation page. These posts can help drive traffic and Google ranking. Nonprofits should employ content marketing strategies by creating articles for their website and other sites such as Medium.com or AllBusiness.com.

Social media—a cost-effective strategy

A nonprofit organization can use social media to increase donations and improve its visibility by successfully employing a comprehensive social media marketing strategy. Starting and implementing a coherent strategy may take a lot of time and effort, but it has been shown to be an extremely cost-effective marketing method for many organizations.

RELATED: 7 Rules for More Effective Social Media Marketing

About the Author

Jacqueline Tabas is a content marketer and social media manager based in San Francisco. Jacqueline has extensive experience in content marketing, content development, blogging, copywriting, posting, and conducting analytics for Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Twitter, and other social media sites. She has been an advisor on social media marketing to many organizations, including nonprofits, technology companies, retail companies, and fashion brands. Connect with Jacqueline on LinkedIn.

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