What You Need to Know About Public Policy This Week...
- News From the Council
- House to Vote on Infrastructure and Reconciliation Packages
- Federal Healthcare Open Enrollment Extended
- Remembering the Sacrifices of the Nation's Veterans
- Happening in the States
A Big Thank You! Our 2021 Public Policy Summit was yesterday, and we thank everyone who took the time to be a part of it. We appreciate the many speakers who gave their time to share insights about what is happening in Washington D.C., how philanthropy can better advocate for policies that advance the greater good, and the role of foundations in addressing the racial wealth gap. And thank you to everyone who joined us virtually and contributed thoughtful questions and comments. Now that this year’s Summit is over, we are already looking forward to our 2022 Summit on November 15-16, and we hope you can join us then.
After what feels like weeks, if not months, of negotiations, House Democratic Leaders are saying the House may vote on their reconciliation package and the bipartisan infrastructure bill today. If both votes happen as scheduled, the House will advance two significant legislative priorities of the Biden Administration.
The House is scheduled to start consideration of the Build Back Better Act, the reconciliation package, this morning. After a vote on the Build Back Better Act, the House is then expected to take up the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684). Assuming the House can pass both legislative priorities today, the Build Back Better Act will then head to the Senate, where it is expected to be amended. The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act will go to the President for his signature since it has already passed the Senate.
Independent Sector has released a summary of the Build Back Better Act as well as a summary of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. In addition, the National Council of Nonprofits also has a summary of the Build Back Better Act.
The White House announced this week that the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) are taking a number of steps to make it easier for the Americans looking to the government for health care insurance to sign up for this program. Consumers will have an extra 30 days to choose health plans through Open Enrollment, which started on November 1, 2021, and will run through January 15, 2022. The goal is to encourage more sign-ups, especially in communities where health disparities are greatest. Funders should share the information with grantees and partners that can help new applicants navigate the application on HealthCare.gov.
For the first time in nearly 100 years, and as part of Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Centennial Commemoration, the public will be able to walk on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier Plaza on Nov. 9 and 10, 2021. In a lead-up to this year’s Veterans Day remembrances, the flower ceremony will start at 8 a.m. Nov. 9 with representatives from the Crow Nation placing flowers at the Tomb. The Chief Plenty Coups Honor Guard will recite a prayer in honor of Chief Plenty Coups, who served as a scout for the U.S. Army.
Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.
Special Sessions Spotlight Vaccination, Masking
Several states have gone into special sessions to consider legislation to prevent or restrict vaccination mandates and masking requirements imposed by the federal government. More than 120 bills were introduced within 48 hours in two states alone, and nonprofits and for-profit employers are urging lawmakers not to create additional conflicts and confusion with a Presidential Executive Order and subsequent federal administrative guidance. In Tennessee, many of the proposed measures have been combined into an omnibus bill that would prohibit nonprofits, businesses, and governments from requiring their workers or customers to be vaccinated for COVID-19 and from taking adverse action to compel proof of vaccination. The measure would create a private right of action for terminated workers and ensure they remain entitled to unemployment benefits even when they voluntarily quit. Perhaps in recognition of the likely untenable conflict employers will face, the legislation includes an allowance for masks and a waiver provision, but only for employers that face the loss of federal funding for complying with the Tennessee prohibitions. The bill is awaiting the Governor’s signature.
The Wyoming Senate just defeated a bill that would have prohibited certain employers including nonprofits from requiring a COVID-19 vaccination as a condition of employment, with exceptions, and providing “reasonable accommodation measures.” Other bills that failed to pass would have imposed a 50% severance pay requirement on employers and expressly confirmed the eligibility for unemployment benefits of workers who voluntarily quit their jobs because their employer failed to comply with federal COVID-19 prevention requirements. One bill awaiting signature prohibits public entities from enforcement of the federal mandate until after it goes into effect and any legal challenges are exhausted. Last week, Iowa Governor Reynolds signed a bipartisan vaccine mandate bill that provides a waiver procedure to exempt employees based on health or religious considerations. It also extends unemployment benefits to employees terminated for failure to get vaccinated but makes clear that an employer’s contribution rate or experience rating would not be affected, and no penalties would be imposed. Legislatures in Florida and North Dakota are expected to go into special sessions soon to consider legislation on blocking vaccine mandates.
Nonprofit Jobs Vacancy Crisis
Businesses, the news media, and Congress are taking notice of the growing vacancies at employers across the country, including charitable nonprofits, and the resulting consequences on communities nonprofits serve. A nonprofit human service provider in Illinois explained the challenge in personal terms: “we’re providing really quality and really critical services to some of the kids in our community who need them most. And when we don’t fulfill that need, it has a dramatic impact on the rest of our community, on the rest of our wellbeing.” Job vacancies at nonprofit residential homes for disabled individuals in Maine are so severe that some facilities have closed, forcing them to turn away children and others in need while adding to already long waiting lists. Crain’s Cleveland Business recently detailed the challenges charitable organizations in Ohio are facing in competing for employees as other industries are increasing wages and paying sign-on bonuses. The article chronicles the “immense” challenge for human service providers that typically are paid by fixed government grants and contracts that often don't cover the cost to deliver services. "There's no way to pass on the cost to customers the way that Amazon or Target or Walmart can,” said Rick Cohen of the National Council of Nonprofits, noting that for-profit businesses “can increase the price of a few products by 50 cents here or a dollar there. ... There just isn't a way for nonprofits to do that."
These concerns are dramatically demonstrated in preliminary results from an ongoing nationwide survey showing that four-in-five respondents (79.9%) cite salary competition as a major cause for jobs remaining vacant. Nearly a quarter (23.5%) report a lack of available child care as a reason why individuals are not able to take jobs. Please share your nonprofit’s experience in this quick Survey on Nonprofit Workforce Shortage so we can learn more about the scope of the issue and try to find solutions. Take the survey!