As DC prepares to re-open this week, Congress continues to enforce social distancing, with many staffers teleworking. And in the House of Representatives, lawmakers are making history as they vote by proxy. If you have not been following the multiple relief packages Congress has released amid the COVID-19 epidemic, do not panic! Here is a brief overview of the latest legislative issues affecting nonprofits during these challenging times:
Update on COVID-19 emergency relief packages
Earlier this month the House passed, by a partisan vote, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions—HEROES—Act (H.R.6800). The $3 trillion bill was crafted by Democrats, but negotiations have yet to start with the Senate, which is expected to return next week from the Memorial Day recess.
If negotiations do start with the HEROES Act, it would represent positive step for nonprofit advocates who have lifted their voices nationwide. This policy progress may be insufficient for organizations and communities facing urgent—and dire—needs, but these potential victories will need the sector’s support as discussions continue on Capitol Hill. Read Independent Sector’s full summary of key nonprofit provisions. Here are some highlights of the legislation:
- Modification to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) so that all nonprofit organizations can participate, regardless of size or type
- Dedicated funding within PPP, with 25% of all funds set aside for nonprofits, and at least half of those funds set aside for nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees
- A potential avenue for loan forgiveness through the Main Street Lending Program
- Increased flexibility for states that wish to provide more assistance to nonprofit organizations that self-insure for the purposes of unemployment insurance. This is not what our community has been asking for, but it is recognition of a problem
- $3.6 billion for safe and healthy elections alongside a significant investment in broadband internet access, to ensure that our communities are not forced to choose between their safety and their right to vote
- A federally supported “hazard pay” program that includes many social services workers, in addition to those in the fields of health and education
Letter to Congress Asks to Treat Nonprofits Fairly in Loan Forgiveness
On May 21, Independent Sector and the National Council of Nonprofits submitted a letter asking that nonprofits be treated fairly in eligibility for loan forgiveness in the Reviving the Economy Sustainably Towards a Recovery in Twenty-twenty (RESTART) Act.
We thanked Sen. Todd Young (R-IN) and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO) for introduction of the bill that would enhance the Paycheck Protection Programs (PPP), including extensions to apply for PPP beyond the currently designated 8-week period to up to 16 weeks, and the extension of the repayment period for part of the loan. However, we questioned the language in the bill that would give nonprofit organizations partial loan forgiveness as opposed to total loan forgiveness based on the decline of revenue for for-profit organizations.
Independent Sector is eager to continue working with the offices of Sen. Young and Bennet as they find ways to help nonprofit organizations who are on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Charitable giving drops down
The last time Gallup conducted the survey was in 2017. Since then, households making less than $40,000 have seen the greatest decrease in the rate of giving, from 73 percent in 2017 to 56 percent in 2020. Declines have also been seen among households with $40,000 to $99,999 in annual income, dropping from 90 percent to 78 percent, and households earning $100,000 or more, which fell from 92 percent to 87 percent.
The 2020 Gallup survey was conducted April 14 to 28, just as Americans were adapting to sudden, drastic changes in their daily lives, and many were being laid off. Although the survey asked Americans about their giving during the previous 12 months, Gallup researchers said it was possible many respondents focused on their most recent giving.
Sale of the .Org domain blocked
At the end of last month, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) rejected the sale of the Public Interest Registry (PIR) to private equity firm Ethos Capital, four days before an agreed-upon deadline.
Among the factors in ICANN’s decision, the board said, was a change “from the fundamental public interest nature of PIR to an entity bound to serve interests of corporate shareholders, which has no meaningful plan to protect or serve the .org community,” The Nonprofit Times reported.
The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) and NTEN, which launched the SaveDotOrg effort, welcomed the decision in a joint statement but cautioned that it’s not the final step. They called on ICANN to open a public process for bids to find a new home for the .org domain.
This is considered a win for the sector and it was only possible because many advocates raised their voices against the sale of the PIR.