The debate on the national fiscal cliff rests on a choice of options. For a number of area households, many with veterans and children, there are no choices. No options. No alternatives. Worse, the safety net for those in need – the charitable organizations who support them – are at risk as charitable deductions are on the chopping block in the budget negotiations.

Charitable tax deductions have been a part of the IRS code for nearly a century. Up to now, they’ve been an untouchable part of the deductions landscape. But, there are voices on both sides of the aisle that see these deductions as expendable. Up to now there hasn’t been a clear consensus on how much these deductions matter. But, a new study makes it clear that America’s charitable organizations will be deeply hurt if donors lose all or part of the charitable income tax deduction. The study – conducted by Bank of America – asked affluent people how they might alter their giving to charity if deductions were eliminated.

Nearly 49 percent of those surveyed said they would decrease their giving – and 20 percent of those people said they would “dramatically decrease” their giving. Less than 2 percent said their giving would increase. Some lawmakers and others like to point out that most donors wouldn’t be affected by changes in the charitable deduction because 70 percent of Americans don’t itemize. While it is true that people who don’t itemize often give generously from their incomes, they don’t provide the lion’s share of the gifts that help fuel the nonprofit world.

One way to think about this is that the federal government would essentially be asking charities to forgo a portion of the gifts they receive from individuals to help close the federal budget gap, which doesn’t sound right and definitely doesn’t seem charitable. If a loss of the charitable deduction caused people who itemize deductions to reduce their giving by just 20 percent, that would mean a $34 billion drop in charitable giving, by far the largest decrease since the Great Depression. To put that in perspective, $34-billion is more than three times the sum that individuals donated to all U.S. colleges last year (not counting bequests).

It’s all confusing, all unclear, and very unsettling.

But, we know one thing for certain: if you can donate to Community Lifeline Center now – before the end of the year – the US fiscal cliff won’t matter, and the fiscal cliff that affects the hundreds of people CLC will serve this month can be reduced to a fiscal nuisance. With your help CLC can turn cliffs into slopes, mountains into molehills, generosity into blessings.

Local nonprofits wish lists can be found by clicking the Wish List link provided here: Wish List.