August is usually a slow month in DC while Congress is in recess until after Labor Day weekend. But August 2020 is busier than usual with concerns about structural changes in the USPS and Republicans introducing a skinny package of the HEALS Act. If you have not been following the latest issues on Capitol Hill affecting nonprofits, do not panic! Here is a brief overview of the latest legislative issues impacting nonprofits during these challenging times:
Update on negotiations talks and the USPS
Negotiation talks of another COVID-19 relief package stalled right before the start of the August recess. But things in DC have been less than quiet these past weeks, as concerns about structural changes in the United States Postal Service (USPS) have lawmakers on both sides of the aisle concerned about timely delivery of prescription medications and Social Security checks, as well as ballots. Both the Senate and the House held hearings during which Postmaster General Louis DeJoy testified.
Last week, both Democrats in the House of Representatives and Republicans in the Senate released legislation that would provide extra funding for the USPS. On August 18, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) released a “skinny” version of the HEALS Act, that includes $300 in weekly unemployment insurance benefits through December 27, and would fuel an estimated $158 billion more into the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the popular small-business loan program that expired on August 8th.
There were earlier hopes that the Democrat led bill in the House in favor to fund the USPS would include other much needed coronavirus relief measures such as an increase in unemployment benefits, similar to the ones included in the Republican skinny proposal to reactivate the negotiation talks, but Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) told her members in a “Dear Colleague” letter that a package of economic stabilizers could be taken up at a later date. If things continue the way they are, we will not see a coronavirus relief package until Congress comes back from recess.
Read more about the Senate Republican “skinny” package and the Democratic led House USPS bills here.
Unemployment Insurance bill signed into law
On August 3, the President signed the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act or (S.4209), this law overrides the Labor Department guidance issued on April 27, requiring that self-insured nonprofits must pay 100 percent of the unemployment benefits costs upfront and get reimbursed by their states later.
Now that this bill was signed into law, the Labor Department has issued new guidance in line with the CARES Act to allow self-insured nonprofit organizations to reimburse 50 percent of the unemployment benefits costs collected by their former employees to the states, while the federal government covers the other half.
Independent Sector letter supporting loan forgiveness
On August 19, Independent Sector sent a letter addressed to Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Bob Mendez (D-NJ), and Kristen Sinema (D-AZ, the co-sponsors of the Paycheck Protection Small Business Forgiveness Act (S. 4117). The letter doubles down on our support of the bill to allow borrowers of $150,000 or less from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to self-certify for loan forgiveness through a one-page form.
This legislation would not only streamline the loan forgiveness process for nonprofits and small businesses, but it would greatly improve the process for many small, community-based financial institutions. Borrowers who received loans of $150,000 or less make up 85 percent of all PPP loans but account for just 26 percent of the program’s cost. For nonprofits, these loans alone retained almost 1 million jobs—an average of 7 jobs per organization.
Census Project letter in support of an accurate count
On August 3, the Census Bureau announced an Administration reversal from its April position in support of an extension, and a surprising speed-up of census operations that will end data collection a full month earlier than expected, at the end of September.
In response to the Census Bureau announcement, Independent Sector joined 900 organizations in signing a letter led by the Census Project urging Senate Leadership to add a provision to the next COVID-19 relief bill that would extend the statutory deadlines and give the Census Bureau four more months to get a quality count of everyone in the country.