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How employers can help with hurricane relief

Published on October 3rd, 2017 by Triton Benefits & HR Solutions

The United States has experienced an onslaught of extreme weather over the last month. Hurricane Harvey tore through Texas, Hurricane Irma carved a path through Florida and the East coast, and Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico entirely without power, putting 3.4 million people at risk for a range of continuing problems. Companies may find they have employees directly affected by the storms, or that the staff would like to help those in need. If that's the case, here are a few ways your business can organize and come together for hurricane relief:

To help an employee directly

If you have an employee whose family was directly affected by a natural disaster, you may be inclined to do some fundraising on their behalf. Before you solicit donations from staff, however, you should understand that the IRS is generally wary of gifts from employers to employees. You should instead set up a qualified disaster relief payment program. QDRPs were set up after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 as a way to provide employees with financial relief following federally declared disasters. QDRPs are tax-free for the recipient, making them a good option to deliver aid to employees in need.

Others in your company may want to donate to the affected employees as well. You may consider setting up a 501(c)(3) employee relief fund, which staff can contribute to. Then you can use the fund to make payouts to staff members who have been affected by the storms. This approach has a few benefits – it's tax deductible for your company and has no tax liability for the employee receiving aid. This is the best option if you're considering starting a new charitable arm to your organization rather than a one-off payment to a single employee.

By enacting these programs, employers can make cash payments to staff members in need and help them as soon as possible. This will help employees get back on their feet more quickly as they wait on federal government aid, insurance payments and can help them more efficiently deal with any medical problems they or their family members may have.

General fundraising

Your company may be personally unaffected by the recent onslaught of natural disasters in the United States, but that doesn't mean you don't want to help. Often after a crisis, people flock to help in any way they can – if you're not directly in the zone of destruction, the best way to help is through monetary donations to a reputable charity.

Start by doing some research on what kind of aid you would like to provide. Emergency relief is crucial, and while supplies are definitely in need, most organizations are currently asking for cash donations so they can determine spending based on what's happening on the ground. To help Puerto Rico, for example, where almost every one of the 3.4 million residents need help and are living without electricity and other basics, you can donate to UNICEF, United for Puerto Rico, Save the Children and other charities.

Do some research into what the population needs and then compose a company-wide email that lays out how employees can donate. Include direct links to donation pages and a quick description of how the charities will help hurricane victims.

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