This year has seen a lot of powerful forces buffeting Congress: a generational pandemic, a unique economic crisis, public outcry, and crippling election year partisanship to name a few. But this week, Congress encountered perhaps the most formidable lobby of all: the smell of jet fumes.
On Sunday, negotiators announced a deal on a massive $900 billion COVID-19 relief package, a $1.4 trillion Fiscal Year 2021 spending bill, and a combination of other tax extensions and policy provisions. Just hours after its public release, the 5,593-page behemoth had passed both houses of Congress and was on its way to the President’s desk. He is expected to sign it. Even by Congress’ usual standards for last-minute productivity, the past 24 hours have been a whirlwind.
The nonprofit sector has been a powerful advocate this year for itself and the people it serves, and this package was long in the making. Yet like many legislative compromises, it contains some important victories and some stinging defeats. We’ve distilled some of the highlights for the nonprofit sector in our summary, but here are just a few key takeaways to whet your holiday appetite. The package:
- Offers another round of Paycheck Protection Program funding for the hardest-hit organizations. While access to this lifeline will not be nearly as broad as our sector had requested, advocacy efforts in the final days were successful in eliminating some barriers that could have excluded nonprofits disproportionately.
- Expands the universal charitable deduction very modestly to $600 per couple and extends it through 2021. This is far short of what our sector requested and what it needs, but a continued recognition from Congress about the power of tax incentives at this time.
- Extends and expands a credit for retaining employees, an important development for organizations that are denied access to PPP.
- Makes key investments in civic and community infrastructure, including broadband internet access, child care support, and postal service stabilization.
Nonprofit advocates have a lot to be proud of, despite our disappointment with the community’s unmet needs. Whatever your take on this legislation, you are surely tired today. Rest up over the next couple weeks. We’ve got a big year ahead!