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Stay informed on news and legislation affecting philanthropy and nonprofit organizations via ABAG's Public Policy Updates blog. Here ABAG also announces current position statements and policy work undertaken on behalf of members and the philanthropic sector.


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Posted By Adam Donaldson, Monday, November 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2013

President Obama and Members of Congress: Protect the Charitable Tax Deduction

Petition of the Charitable Giving Coalition

As political leaders in Washington, D.C. focus on deficit reduction and tax reform, there are proposed harmful changes to the charitable tax deduction. Doing away with the charitable deduction at a time when people are still reeling from the recession and facing the consequences of government cutbacks is bad timing and bad logic.

The Charitable Giving Coalition, a group of more than 60 nonprofits, foundations and other charitable organizations, hopes to pierce the "inside-the-beltway" bubble with a dose of reality about the profound economic and social impact of America’s nonprofit sector.

On November 20, hundreds of frontline nonprofit and charitable sector leaders will gather in Washington, D.C., for "Protect Giving Day" to warn members of Congress about how limiting the charitable deduction would be devastating to the nonprofits and communities that depend on it. By signing and sharing our petition, you will be supporting a 100-year-old tradition of giving and a vital nonprofit support system that provides 10 percent of American jobs and serves millions of people every day.

Petition signatures will be delivered to members of Congress on Protect Giving Day to demonstrate the human impact of the charitable deduction. We encourage you to share in the comments how nonprofits serve your communities.

Tags:  charitable deduction  Protect Giving 

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America's Communities, Charities Face Urgent Threat

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Monday, November 18, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, November 20, 2013


Hundreds of Charitable Sector Leaders Gather in D.C. for "Protect Giving Day,”

Warn of Cascading Consequences if Lawmakers Harm Charitable Tax Deduction

On November 20th, more than 200 frontline nonprofit and charitable sector leaders will gather in Washington to warn members of Congress of the cascading consequences that could be set off by harmful limitations to the charitable tax deduction.

The Charitable Giving Coalition – a group of more than 60 nonprofits, foundations and other charitable organizations – represents a growing chorus of people from throughout America delivering a clear message to lawmakers – "I am the charitable deduction” – and sharing real-life examples about the impact of charities and the ripple effects of the charitable sector at work in communities every day.


November 20, 2013 – Participants will hold meetings with congressional members and staff throughout the day and gather for a congressional staff lunch briefing to hear from Coalition leaders and tax policy experts.

Noon – 1 p.m., - Hart Senate Office Building, Room 902

The lunch briefing includes "Gauging the Impact: A Panel Discussion on the Charitable Deduction and its Effect on Our Communities.” Participants will explore proposals to cut, cap or limit the charitable deduction and the potentially devastating impacts.

At this briefing, the American Enterprise Institute will release new research on how changes in tax policy will affect charitable giving.

Reverend Larry Snyder, president of Catholic Charities USA, will deliver opening remarks. Panelists include:

- Arthur Brooks, Ph.D., president, American Enterprise Institute

- Eugene Steuerle, Ph.D., Richard B. Fisher chair and Institute Fellow, Urban Institute

- Robert Sharpe, president, The Sharpe Group

- Gloria Johnson-Cusack, executive director, Leadership 18 (moderator)


In addition to panelists, representatives from participating organizations will be available to discuss the charitable sector’s efforts to protect the charitable tax deduction and what is at stake in communities if lawmakers enact harmful policy changes. Key spokespeople include:

- Peter Aquino, board chair, United Way Worldwide

- Rhett Butler, government liaison, Association of Gospel Rescue Missions

- Joanne Florino senior vice president for public policy, Philanthropy Roundtable

- Jim Gibbons, president and CEO, Goodwill Industries International

- Michael King, national president and CEO, Volunteers of America

- John Lippincott, president, Council for the Advancement and Support of Education (CASE)

- Jerry Silverman, president, Jewish Federations of North America

- Vikki Spruill, president and CEO, Council on Foundations

- Stacey Stewart, U.S. president, United Way Worldwide


The federal government shutdown is over and political leaders in Washington, D.C., are turning their focus back to deficit reduction and tax reform, including proposed harmful changes to the charitable tax deduction. Fewer charitable dollars and government cutbacks are a double hit to those who need help the most. Enacting changes to the charitable tax deduction amounts to a dangerous game of Jenga, triggering devastating consequences that will undermine our economy and vital nonprofit support system. On November 20th, hundreds of front-line charitable sector leaders will meet with elected officials to share their perspectives, including powerful examples about the strength and stability the charitable sector provides to the communities it serves.


Media interested in covering "Protect Giving Day” activities should contact Sean Walsh at or 917-687-8291 or Becky Flesichauer at or 302-588-0671.


The Charitable Giving Coalition
Representing private and community foundations, their grantees and independent charities, the Charitable Giving Coalition’s members include United Way Worldwide, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities USA, the American Council on Education, Jewish Federations of North America, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Independent Sector, the Council on Foundations, and The Philanthropy Roundtable, among others. Formed in 2009, the coalition is a broad cross-section of nonprofit organizations across the country, including both the nonprofit organizations themselves and the associations and umbrella groups that serve their needs. The coalition is dedicated to preserving the charitable giving incentive that ensures that our nation's charities receive the funds necessary to fulfill their essential philanthropic missions. The coalition provides a unique and unified voice on Capitol Hill on issues affecting the charitable deduction, a voice composed of both direct lobbying and robust grassroots advocacy., #protectgiving, @protectgiving

Tags:  Charitable Giving  Charitable Giving Coalition  Charitable Tax Deduction  Protect Giving 

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Government Shutdown Ends After 16 Days

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Government Shutdown Ends After 16 Days

October 22. 2013

By Adam Donaldson, ABAG Member Services Director

The partial shutdown of the federal government ended after 16 days in the early morning of October 17 when the President signed a bill funding the government through January 15 and raising the debt ceiling until February 7.

The bill alsocreates a budget conference committee to report out a budget agreement by December 13 and requires that income be verified for people seeking insurance subsidies from the Affordable Care Act healthcare exchanges. It passed with 285-144 in the House and 81-18 in the Senate.While ending the current crisis, it does open the possibility of a similar situation early next year.

The Nonprofit Finance Fund polled over 150 nonprofits during the shutdown to gather data on how it was impacting their operations. It found that more than half of nearly 100 nonprofits that receive federal aid are experienced delayed or stopped payments from the federal government. See all the results.

The Chronicle of Philanthropy has gathered its articles, op-eds, and blog posts about the government shutdown here.

How Us Regionals Responded to the Federal Government Shutdown:


Our thanks to The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers for compiling this information.

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  October 2013 Members' Memo  Public Policy 

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How the Government Shutdown is Affecting the Work of Nonprofits

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Monday, October 7, 2013
Updated: Monday, October 21, 2013

October 7, 2013

By Adam Donaldson, ABAG Member Services Director 

As the federal government shut down continues, the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers is deeply concerned about the real harm to people.

Individual giving, foundations, and local governments will not have the capacity to fill the gap in resources needed.

The government stops, but human need does not – actually it increases.

People will turn for help to public charities that are already stretched to meet higher demand with fewer resources as a result of federal sequestration and the slow economy. Nor is this a Washington, DC problem.

Federal programs impact every state.

As a resource to our members, ABAG will continue to provide updates specifically on how the shutdown is affecting the work of nonprofits:

ABAG Members, don't hesitate to contact me with any questions. And, please feel free to share information and resources on this blog post.

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  October 2013 Members' Memo  Public Policy  Shutdown 

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Federal Shutdown Impact on Charitable Sector

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Thursday, October 3, 2013

Maryland Nonprofits has asked the charitable sector to share information regarding how the federal government shutdown is affecting communities and any specific guidance delivered by federal agencies regarding grant programs or contracts. Popular news media are covering the issue extensively, but below is current information most relevant to the charitable sector, reported first by Henry Bogdan from Maryland Nonprofits.

Three basic categories of federal activities are not impacted now:

  • Things funded outside the normal appropriations process, such as some entitlements. The biggest are Medicare and Social Security benefits, although agency staffing may be affected. Medicaid on the other hand is not an entitlement and is discussed below.
  • Things funded through the appropriations process but have prior years funds left that can be carried over into Federal Fiscal Year ("FFY”) 2014, or receive some amount of advance funding for 2014 (these would be affected when those funds run out).
  • Activities needing FFY 2014 appropriations but deemed ‘essential’ to protect life, property or national security, e.g. the military, the foreign service, prisons, air traffic control, etc.

For specific information on federal agency programs and payments, the White House website has links to the individual agencies’ contingency plans. There are numerous programs listed below that can be continued for a time at the state level with state funds appropriated as a state matching share for 2014, or with federal funds states can carry forward from a prior year.

  • Most federal aid to education – Title I assistance to poor schools and the IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) are already funded for FFY 2014; but this is not the case for federal Impact Aid.
  • Medicaid has advance appropriation, but only for the first quarter of the FFY; CHIP will continue because it is separately funded.
  • As well-publicized, funding for both state and federal health insurance exchanges under the Affordable Care Act is in place for the year.
  • The SNAP (food and nutrition assistance/food stamp program) is funded through October under the Recovery Act, but that website at the Dept. of Agriculture ("USDA”) is down. USDA has reportedly said that certain nutrition programs including School Lunch and School Breakfast, will continue into October; and some carry-over funds from FFY 2013 are available for meal programs.
  • The Women, Infants and Children nutrition program ("WIC)” is not funded. States may be able to continue operating the program for a limited period with any carry-over 2013 funds.
  • TANF (Temporary Assistance to Needy Families) is not funded without an appropriation, although states again may have federal funds left over from prior years, and may also elect to spend their required ‘maintenance of effort’ state funds to continue the assistance until federal matching funds are appropriated, if state budget rules allow. Child Care assistance funding is in a similar position.
  • Foster Care and Child Support enforcement funding will continue because these receive an advance appropriation.
  • Department of Housing and Urban Development ("HUD”) rental assistance will continue in October; HUD’s shutdown plan indicates this may or may not be true in November or beyond. HUD’s plan does indicate that homeless assistance grants and supportive housing for veterans and for people with AIDS will continue.

Tags:  Maryland Nonprofits  shutdown 

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Sequestration's Impact on Cultural and Educational Programs

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Monday, September 23, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013

September 23, 2013

By Adam Donaldson

Continuing ABAG’s efforts to understand the impact of sequestration and budget decisions, I invited Phoebe Stein and Aaron Heinsman of the Maryland Humanities Council, to share sequestration’s impact on cultural and education programs. This sector is not always connected with sequestration, but the loss of cultural events and social dialogue impact the economy and our quality of life.

What is the role of the Maryland Humanities Council in supporting local cultural and education programs?

The Maryland Humanities Council (MHC) has two primary roles: as a producer of public humanities programming and as a funder. During our last fiscal year, we offered more than 800 events throughout Maryland, utilizing literature, history, and the other humanities to bring community members together to engage with challenging questions and critical issues.

We also serve a critical function with our grants program. The "stamp of approval” -- a grant from MHC provides helps grantees typically leverage additional public and private support three-to-one. Last year, we provided grants to several Baltimore Area organizations including B&O Railroad Museum, Baltimore Choral Arts Society, Directing Dissent, Hosanna School Museum, and UMBC’s Center for Art, Design & Visual Culture.

What is the actual math of cuts in public humanities programs as a result of sequestration by Congress and state budget decisions?

Public funding to the Maryland Humanities Council was significantly reduced as a result of the recession that began in 2008 and hasn’t fully recovered. Sequestration has only compounded the challenges. The National Endowment for the Humanities, our primary funder, has reduced its support by 20% in the last three years alone, to just under $700,000. Sequestration resulted in more than a quarter of that cut (5.5% ). While our federal support is still significant, when you consider that we reach more than half a million Marylanders, you can see how precarious such a deep reduction can be.

Additionally, we are grateful to receive two annual appropriations from the State: one through the Maryland Historical Trust and one through the Maryland State Department of Education. The MHT award was cut in half in FY11 and has not recovered any ground since, though we’re hopeful that perhaps this year we will perhaps see a restoration to level funding. The MSDE award as a state-aided institution began in 2008 and was subsequently reduced 44% over the next two years; however, in FY14 a significant amount was restored and we are now just 16% below where we were.

These reductions in public support have been compounded by a shift in philanthropic priorities for many loyal and satisfied corporate supporters, who have either reduced or eliminated funding to literature/literacy programs in concentrating on STEM or basic services like housing, food, and jobs.

What will this mean for humanities in Maryland?

The cumulative effect has meant significant reductions across the board:

· In the amount of grant awards (total grant funds reduced 65% since 2008);

· in the printed resources we offer program participants;

· in the audience-building efforts we undertake to drive program participation, most significantly promotions, and;

· in staff and some reductions in hours for certain positions

We still face annual reductions in resources that will ultimately erode program participation, as outreach efforts in schools and with cultural partners continue to be curtailed. We also have had a foundational policy that audiences participate in MHC programs at no charge. This ensures the broadest possible access to our innovative programs. However, continued reductions in public support could imperil our ability to keep our programs free.

In addition to increasing charitable giving to these programs, what should foundations and nonprofit organizations do in preparation for these cuts?

1. Encourage foundation staff and support organizations like ABAG to aggressively work with funders’ trustees to make the case for general operating grants.

2. As always, ensure that communications efforts have, at their core, the impactful stories of individuals served by organizations.

3. Should reduction in public funding persist, grantmakers could help create outside-the-box collaborations for greater efficiencies in areas that are significant cost centers for nonprofits, such as employee benefits, CRM software, office space, or administrative support staff.

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  Cultural Programs  Education  Public Policy  September 2013 Members' Memo  Sequestration 

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Sequestration's Impact in Maryland

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Wednesday, September 18, 2013
Updated: Monday, September 23, 2013

September 18, 2013

By Adam Donaldson

"Sequestration is an internal bleed inside Maryland just starting to show bruises,” reported Adam Schneider from the Maryland Alliance for the Poor, during the recent ABAG Public Policy Committee discussion on Sequestration’s Impact in Maryland.

The broad reduction of $85 billion in 2013 to all federal programs has diffused the effects of sequestration, and everyone from advocates to the media to local government are trying still to calculate the real impact. There will be an overall economic effect, but what about services to low and middle income Marylanders?  The ABAG Public Policy committee has committed to monitoring sequestration and the policy debate in order to keep members informed of the impact on philanthropy, your grantees, and the Marylanders whom you serve.

Maryland’s General Assembly created a $100 million reserve fund to slow the federal cuts. In September, to restore some services to our most vulnerable residents, Maryland allocated $9 million so that 500 children will again be able to attend Head Start; an estimated 3,000 additional older adults will participate in the state’s Meals on Wheels program; 200 seniors will benefit from the new funding for home and adult day care; health screenings will be made available to 2,500 seniors and approximately 3,000 state residents will receive substance abuse and treatment and services through the new state dollars. The state money will also be used to fund vocational rehabilitation services, job placement and training assistance for 7,000 Maryland residents and adult education classes for 800 students.

The state funds are a blood transfusion but not a solution.  The definition of sequester is to remove or set apart, and many argue that sequestration not only removes federal funding, but sets Congress apart from the mood and needs of communities still recovering from recession and striving to build a robust economy that everyone has the opportunity to enjoy. The National Council of Nonprofits launched to track the effects of sequestration on nonprofits and the low income people whom they serve. Give Voice chronicles increased community needs and decreased resources (including funding cuts, delayed payments, increased costs, and more).

What can grantmakers do?

First, ask grantees if they have thought about sequestration and how it will effect resources, partnerships, and demand for services. If they receive major support from government grants or contracts are they prepared for payment delays and reduced support?

Second, encourage grantees to document and tell stories of the impact of sequestration. Stories can be transmitted to Stories can inform the advocates, the media, and local government just what is the real impact of sequestration.

Third, be prepared to explain that private philanthropy does not have the financial capacity to fill the gap in spending cuts or entirely reverse a depressed economy. Total annual foundation giving is around $47 billion. The math does not work.

ABAG will continue to report on sequestration. Here are some National Resources:

The White House State by State Reports

Center for Budget and Policy Priorities Sequestration by the Numbers

Economic Policy Institute on State Budgets

Coalition on Human Needs State Fact Sheet Main Page

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  general assembly  Public Policy  September 2013 members' Memo  sequestration 

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"Blank Slate" for Federal Tax Reform: Charitable Deduction Still On the Table

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Tuesday, July 2, 2013
Updated: Monday, July 22, 2013

July 2, 2013

By Adam Donaldson

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Baucus and Ranking Member Hatch announced the committee's next steps for tax reform on Thursday, June 27 - and it does not exempt the charitable deduction.

In a letter to colleagues, the Committee proposed a "blank slate" tax reform bill that that strips the tax code of all deductions and credits in order to reduce the corporate and individual tax rates.

Of importance, the letter informed Members of Congress that they have until July 26 to submit "legislative language or detailed proposals for what tax expenditures" they would like to be in the code, including any provisions that should be added, reformed, or repealed as a part of tax reform.

Additionally, the letter notes that bipartisan proposals will receive special attention. In order for any proposal to be considered it must help grow the economy, make the tax code fairer and effectively promote other important policy objectives. These submissions will be kept private.

Read more in this summary by the Alliance for Charitable Reform.

More on this issue:

●Learn how the Charitable Giving Coalition and Alliance for Charitable Reform are responding & how you can take action.

●A new study examines how tax incentives affect philanthropy

● Meanwhile, President Obama's FY 2014 budget again proposes a 28% cap on the charitable deduction for high-income taxpayers.

Our thanks to colleagues at The Forum of Regional Associations of Grantmakers and San Diego Grantmakers for providing information for this update. 

Tags:  Adventures in Philanthropy  Charitable Deduction  July/August 2013 Members' Memo  Public Policy 

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The Charitable Deduction - It's Not About the Donor

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Thursday, June 13, 2013
Updated: Monday, June 17, 2013
June 6, 2013

Emphasis on benefits to donors ignores the lifeline charities provide for poor,
as well as the jobs and community support provided through the nonprofit sector

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Millions of America’s most vulnerable are the true beneficiaries of the charitable tax deduction, the Charitable Giving Coalition said today. Any limits on this 100-year old tax incentive would most hurt the poor and the nonprofit sector, not the donors who give. The Coalition is reminding lawmakers in Washington, D.C. of that fact as they consider comprehensive tax reform proposals.

New research from the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) regarding the impact of tax credits, exclusions and deductions emphasizes the benefit to the donor, which the Coalition views as a faulty premise. Rather, the analysis should focus on the collective benefits that charitable contributions bring to communities and citizens.

"Viewing it as a ‘tax break for the richest’ ignores the lifeline that nonprofit support services and jobs provide millions of Americans,” the Coalition said. "It’s not about the donor. It’s about what donors’ dollars do to aid the most vulnerable, educate, heal, nurture and innovate – often in ways that government and the private sector cannot.”

The Coalition adds that analysis like the CBO report glosses over the fact that a donor must make a donation to a charitable organization that is far greater than the amount of the tax deduction.

Studies indicate that billions in donations could be lost each year if lawmakers reduce the value of the deduction.

- According to one estimate, donations to the nonprofit sector could decline as much as $5.6 billion per year. That is more than the annual operating budgets of the American Red Cross; Goodwill Industries International, Inc.; Habitat for Humanity; the Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Catholic Charities USA; and the American Cancer Society – combined.
- According to a recent report released by the Center for Effective Government, the president’s proposal would reduce giving by up to $9.1 billion annually.
Michigan is already seeing how changes in tax policy can hurt charitable giving and vital nonprofit services. Earlier this year, the state enacted a set of new tax laws, including the removal of a tax credit for charitable contributions. Donations to many nonprofits are down significantly. According to the Council of Michigan Foundations, donations are down 28 percent overall for community foundations across the state and the decline is expected to be worse in the wake of the new law.

According to United Way Worldwide, nearly two-thirds (62 percent) of Americans would curtail their giving significantly—by 25 percent or more—if the charitable deduction is capped or limited. The United Way also says that a 2.5 percent reduction in donations would mean 1.3 million fewer times the organization can provide job training services to an unemployed worker, home care for an elderly citizen, housing support for a single mother or a mentor or a tutor for an at-risk youngster.

"For every $1 a donor can claim for his or her donation, the public receives approximately $3 of benefit,” the Coalition said. "What other incentives provide such a high return on investment? Millions of people will be put in harm’s way if lawmakers tamper with the charitable deduction. Given the tremendous needs in our communities, we simply can’t afford to weaken a 100-year-old tradition that encourages giving. The nonprofit infrastructure is a robust and stable source of jobs, services and support. At a time of economic uncertainty, it is imperative that we support, not weaken this vital sector.”


The Charitable Giving Coalition
Representing private and community foundations, their grantees and independent charities, the Charitable Giving Coalition’s members include United Way Worldwide, the Salvation Army, Catholic Charities USA, the American Institute for Cancer Research, the Association of Fundraising Professionals, Independent Sector, the Council on Foundations, The Philanthropy Roundtable, among others. Formed in 2009, the coalition is a broad cross-section of nonprofit organizations across the country, including both the nonprofit organizations themselves and the associations and umbrella groups that serve their needs. The coalition is dedicated to preserving the charitable giving incentive that ensures that our nation's charities receive the funds necessary to fulfill their essential philanthropic missions. The coalition provides a unique and unified voice on Capitol Hill on issues affecting the charitable deduction, a voice composed of both direct lobbying and robust grassroots advocacy.

Tags:  Charitable Deduction  June 2013 Members' Memo  Public Policy 

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Quick Update - House Tax Reform Report

Posted By Adam Donaldson, Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Updated: Wednesday, May 15, 2013

As legislators in the House Ways and Means Committee begin writing a tax reform bill, they will rely on a 558-page report from the Joint Committee on Taxation completed May 6, 2013. You can read the full report here (if you have a lot of time!).

"This document provides an important and comprehensive overview of the tax code, an overview of some of the most commonly referenced previous tax reform proposals, and summarizes the views of more than 1,300 submissions offered to the Ways and Means Committee by key stakeholders,” reported Rep. Dave Camp (R-MI). It does not contain recommendations or decisions.

Regarding the charitable deduction, the report includes both opposition to changes and recommendations to cap the deduction at 28 percent, as the President previously suggested, to convert the deduction to a credit program, or to adopt alternative tax incentives that "would achieve similar results.”

While Congress continues to receive comments that overwhelmingly support preserving the charitable deduction and oppose changes to the current tax system that could discourage giving, the outcomes are uncertain. From what we hear there is a big push to get tax reform done now before the 2014 mid-term election cycle and some legislators want tax reform to generate more revenue, or spending power for Congress.

The Senate Finance Committee is on a parallel path to create a tax reform bill. This smaller group of Senators is likely to hold meetings in June about how to treat the charitable sector. ABAG will look for opportunities to communicate our view that the charitable deduction should be preserved.

Tags:  charitable deduction  deduction  House Ways and Means  tax  Washington 

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