In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...
Nonprofit CEOs Urge Congress to Act on Another COVID-19 Relief Package
On Thursday, more than 30 nonprofit CEOs, including Kathleen Enright, CEO and President of the Council on Foundations, sent a letter to Congressional leaders urging them to immediately pass an additional legislative package that includes relief for the nonprofit sector. The letter highlights a recent report from John Hopkins which found that more than 1 million nonprofit jobs have already been lost during the pandemic, and more are expected without Congressional action. The Council on Foundations will continue to stand with our nonprofit partners to urge Congress and the Administration to provide the support and relief charities need during this unprecedented time.
Next Coronavirus Relief Legislation
On September 24, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) directed committee chairs to develop a new relief package to respond to the ongoing needs of families, businesses, and communities as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. This comes after several Democrats, including Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD), expressed their support for the House to vote on a new package. House Democrats have indicated that a vote on this new package could happen later next week.
Still, it is unclear if Congressional Democrats, the White House and Senate Republicans will be able to reach a deal that could become law.
On Friday, House Republicans’ discharge petition on legislation to extend the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) ripened for signatures. The procedural measure is designed to force floor action on legislation that the House Leadership has not moved. A majority of Members must sign the petition in order to discharge it from committee and secure a floor vote. If all 198 House Republicans sign the petition, they will still need at least 20 Democrats to join them for it to be successful. In August, the PPP ended with $138 billion remaining unspent.
September Government Funding Shutdown Likely Averted
The House of Representatives voted Tuesday evening (9/22), to continue funding the federal government through December 11, 2020. Current funding for the federal government ends on September 30, the official end of the federal fiscal year. The funding proposal hit a small hiccup earlier in the week when Senate Republicans threatened to oppose the deal unless funding for the Commodity Credit Corporation (CCC) was included. On Tuesday, the House amended their package to include the additional money for farmers as well as nutrition assistance for families. In addition to preventing a government shutdown, the package contains several authorization extensions, including an extension of the National Flood Insurance Program through 2021, a one-year extension for the surface transportation programs, and funding for several public health programs through December 11, 2020.
The Senate is expected to vote on this by Wednesday, September 30.
Department of Agriculture
On September 18, Secretary of Agriculture, Sonny Perdue announced the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP 2) that will provide an additional $14 billion dollars for agricultural producers who continue to face market disruptions and associated costs because of COVID-19. The program provides financial assistance for producers to absorb increased marketing costs associated with the COVID-19 pandemic. Signup will begin September 21 and run through December 11, 2020. The program will support row crops, livestock, specialty crops, dairy, aquaculture and many additional commodities. Find information and the application here.
Department of Commerce
The Department’s Inspector General (IG) released its report on the circumstances surrounding the accelerated 2020 Census schedule. The IG found the following: (1) The decision to accelerate the Census schedule was not made by the Census Bureau, and (2) the accelerated schedule increases the risks to obtaining a complete and accurate 2020 Census. Read the full report here.
On September 24, Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY), the Chairwoman of the Committee on Oversight and Reform, sent a letter to Census Bureau Director, Steven Dillingham seeking information about internal Census Bureau documents that raise concerns about actions the Trump Administration is taking to rush through the 2020 Census. The first document of concern for the letter signers is a Census handout that describes recent operational changes to “service based enumeration” (SBE) related to the counting of people who do not live in conventional housing or are experiencing homelessness. The handout instructs Census Bureau enumerators not to identify any more SBE locations or count any additional populations they observe while in the field because the “deadline for adding” them to the enumeration plan “has already passed.” The second document is a script in which the Census Bureau directed employees to tell homeless shelter administrators that enumerators would be asking about the citizenship of their residents—a question that the Supreme Court banned from being asked on the current Census.
YESTERDAY (9/24): A federal court ordered the Trump Administration to abandon last-minute changes to the 2020 Census schedule and extend the counting phase through October 31, as originally proposed earlier this year. The preliminary injunction, in National Urban League et al v. Wilbur Ross et al, notes that the truncated census schedule is likely to produce inaccurate numbers about historically undercounted groups, including people of color and immigrants, which would harm the constitutional purpose of the count to apportion seats of the US House of Representatives. The Administration has already signaled it will appeal the ruling. Stakeholders will be telling Congress it must codify the ruling to remove confusion and doubt about census operations by extending the statutory reporting deadlines for apportionment and redistricting.
The Federal Reserve Board
- On Wednesday, Federal Reserve (The Fed) officials said the economy was likely to need additional government spending to avoid an uneven and protracted recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. During his testimony on Capitol Hill this week, Fed Chairman, Jerome Powell said the recovery would move along faster if Congress and The Fed both provided support. Last week, the Fed affirmed it would hold interest rates near zero until inflation reaches 2%, which they don’t see happening in the next three years. The Chairman testified that recent improvements in economic data reflect both the reopening of commercial activities, the enhanced unemployment benefits, small-business grants and other relief measures Congress approved earlier this year. Meanwhile, top CEO’s in the nation have called on Congress to pass another major coronavirus stimulus warning that failure to act would impose long-term damage on the U.S. economy.
- The Federal Reserve Board issued an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPR) that invites public comment on an approach to modernizing the regulations that implement the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) by strengthening, clarifying, and tailoring them to reflect the current banking landscape and better meet the core purpose of the CRA.
Department of Health and Human Services
On September 23, the Department of Health and Human Services announced it would provide $200 million to jurisdictions with existing cooperative agreements with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for COVID-19 vaccine preparedness. The funding, which was first allocated under the CARES Act, will provide critical infrastructure support for the planning and eventual distribution of a COVID-19 vaccine.
Department of Homeland Security
Federal Emergency Management Agency
Residents of certain municipalities in Puerto Rico are now eligible, until December 17, for free disaster legal services to help them with unexpected crises caused by damage from the recent Tropical Storm Isaías, as well as other multiple disasters in Puerto Rico. Examples of assistance include help with insurance claims, counseling on landlord/tenant problems and other consumer protection matters. These services are available to those impacted who are unable to secure adequate legal assistance. Find more information here, or call 787-728-5070 or 800-981-5342. For more information on Puerto Rico’s disaster recovery, visit FEMA's Disaster Isiasis webpage.
Department of Justice
The Justice Department submitted a proposal to Congress on Wednesday (9/23) to curb longstanding legal protections for internet companies such as Facebook, Inc., Alphabet Inc.’s Google, and Twitter, Inc. and force them to shoulder more responsibility for managing content on their sites. The proposal advances two main goals the Trump administration and the department outlined in June - encouraging online platforms to actively address illicit conduct and manage content on their sites in fair and consistent ways.
Department of Labor
DOL’s CareerOneStop announced a new mobile-friendly, Work Values Matcher—an online tool to help job seekers, career explorers, and students identify which aspects of their working life matter most to them. The Work Values Matcher is a card sort that asks users to reflect on 20 statements about different aspects of a job or workplace to help people identify which ones best describe their ideal work environment. Work Values Matcher joins the suite of career assessment tools on CareerOneStop including the Interest Assessment and Skills Matcher. Additional career exploration and self-assessment content can be found at CareerOneStop.org/ExploreCareers.
Department of Treasury
On September 21, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of Inspector General (OIG) released an updated FAQ document that contains positive modifications to the reporting requirements for the Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). The OIG’s updated guidance addresses concerns made by the bipartisan organizations representing state and local governments regarding additional reporting and record retention requirements for counties using CRF payments. Specifically, the groups voiced concerns over the new requirements associated with reporting and tracking payroll expenses for public safety, public health and human services employees who are "substantially dedicated" to addressing and mitigating the impacts of COVID-19. The requirements outlined in OIG’s original August 28 guidance were more extensive than what was required under the U.S. Treasury’s guidance released on August 10 that focused on flexibility for local governments to ease administrative burdens. State and local governments expressed concern that these late additions to CRF reporting requirements could prevent communities from receiving reimbursements for payroll expenses incurred during the pandemic, which could severely impact budget forecasts.
Community Development Finance Institutions Fund
The CDFI Fund released the Notice of Allocation Availability (NOAA) for the calendar year 2020 round of the New Markets Tax Credit Program (NMTC). The NOAA makes up to $5.0 billion in tax credit allocation authority available for the CY 2020 round, an increase of $1.5 billion more than the initial $3.5 billion authorized in NMTCs CY 2019 allocation.
The Department of Community and Economic Development announced 100+ projects received grants through Pennsylvania’s $10 million Fresh Food Financing Initiative. The Fresh Food Financing Initiative (FFFI) was funded through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act and opened in July to for-profit, nonprofit, and cooperative entities including grocery stores, corner stores, convenience stores, neighborhood markets, bodegas, food hubs, mobile markets, farmers markets, on-farm markets, urban farms, and food aggregation centers with a direct connection to direct-to-consumer retail outlets.
Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.
States Using Coronavirus Relief Funds to Replenish Unemployment Trust Funds
As the pandemic and economic crises have dragged on, state unemployment systems have started to run dry, forcing some states to take out loans from the Federal Unemployment Account. States pass on the costs of the loan repayments to contributing employers, including nonprofits, that typically make quarterly payments into their state trust funds. The Labor Department reports that Trust Fund Loans currently total about $30 billion, with the largest borrowers being California ($12.5 billion), New York ($7.5 billion), Texas ($4.5 billion), Illinois ($1.9 billion), and Massachusetts ($1.4 billion). The CARES Act made sure that the states weren’t charged interest on these loans and no repayments are due this year. That will change in Januaary, however, when the law expires, and states will have to start repaying the federal government for the amounts they borrowed. Many employers in those states could see rate hikes of 50 percent or greater in their unemployment bills by early spring unless Congress extends the repayment moratorium.
Some states, rather than borrowing from the federal government, are using Coronavirus Relief Fund monies to shore up their trust funds to avoid tax rate hikes. Tennessee Governor Lee has announced $837 million of the state’s CRF will be allocated to the state unemployment system to avoid a 300 percent increase in unemployment taxes. Lawmakers in South Carolina this week voted to allocate its remaining CRF monies (approximately $420 million out of $693 million) to the state unemployment trust fund to cover the costs of benefits.