Nonprofit Policy News | October 28, 2009

October 28, 2009

Nonprofits and Public Policy

Thank you for the positive feedback to the new format of our Nonprofit Policy News. We will continue to focus on helping you by:

  • Increasing the frequency to get information to you on a timely basis;
  • Streamlining the content so you can quickly see key trends;
  • Providing links to give you easy access to more detailed information; and
  • Reinforcing the "National Voice ● State Focus ● Local Impact" nature of our collective network by focusing on Federal Issues, State Trends, and Advocacy by Local Nonprofits.

Please forward this and future editions to your fellow staff and board members, as well as friends and colleagues at other nonprofits, so those who care about nonprofits can sign up to receive this free e-newsletter directly and learn about policy matters impacting nonprofits.

URGENT: Public Health Alert

On Friday October 23, President Obama declared a national emergency because the H1N1 flu pandemic "may overburden health care facilities." The White House indicated it viewed this declaration as one "similar to a declaration ahead of a hurricane making landfall" so that people can respond more quickly during the actual emergency.  The National Council STRONGLY urges nonprofits to take this most seriously.

To help nonprofits get ahead of this issue, last month the National Council developed a Flu Toolkit. Among other things, the Flu Toolkit provides:

There is no need to panic, but there is great need to be prepared. As community leaders, nonprofits need to model the way by taking necessary precautions and remaining informed. Please read this Press Release.

One in Six Americans Live in Poverty

According to a formula developed by the National Academy of Sciences that considers increased medical, transportation, and child care costs normally ignored by the traditional poverty formula, the poverty rate is actually higher than previous official counts, with about 47.4 million Americans living in poverty - or about 7 million more than the traditional census calculation. Using this more complete formula, the Census Bureau calculates that "18.7 percent of Americans age 65 and older, or nearly 7.1 million people, are in poverty due to out-of-pocket expenses from rising Medicare premiums, deductibles, and coverage gaps in prescription coverage," according to an article in the Philanthropy News Digest.

Health Care Reform

Although the 3 health care reform bills passed by House committees excluded nonprofits, last week 44 Members of Congress from 22 states stood up for the millions of people employed by America's nonprofits by urging House leaders to make sure that "language be included in the final House health care reform bill to address the health care needs of the 15 million Americans employed in the nonprofit sector." The letter underscored the fact that the vast majority of nonprofits are small employers experiencing the same unsustainable increases in insurance premiums that small for-profit businesses experience. The letter pointed out that "none of the current House bills extend reforms and benefits to the nonprofit sector. As written, the tax credit provisions included by the House to address the needs of small, for-profit business would not be available to small nonprofit employers."

Congresswoman McCollum (D-MN) explained her reason for initiating the letter and leading this effort to bring the nonprofit sector's health care reform concerns to the attention of Speaker Pelosi and Majority Leader Hoyer: "The millions of Americans who work in the nonprofit sector must be included in health care reform. The nonprofit sector includes a wide range of small and midsize organizations, from food banks and homeless shelters to health clinics and domestic violence shelters, that are all working to improve life for families in our local communities. It's only fair that nonprofit organizations receive comparable treatment to the small business sector in health care reform legislation." To see if your Member of Congress stood up for nonprofits, see the letter and listing in this press release.  For more background, see our recent Special Report on Health Care Reform.

Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2010

The budget "stop-gap" measure that Congress passed in September allowing the federal government to continue operating from the October 1 expires on October 31. Yet only 4 of 12 appropriation bills have been enacted for Fiscal Year 2010, which began October 1. According to CQ Today (Subscription Required), Congress likely will pass another Continuing Resolution, but this one will run probably until mid-December. So far, the House has passed all 12 appropriations measures and the Senate has passed only 7, with the following 5 still to pass before they can go to conference committees: Commerce-Justice-Science, Financial Services, Military Construction-VA, State-Foreign Operations, and the bill containing funding for the Serve America Act and Nonprofit Capacity Building Program: Labor-HHS-Education.

State Budget Situations Are Worsening

The Center on Budget Policy and Priorities reports that while states were able to use stimulus funds to lessen the impact of the recession on state budgets, the situation in "the state revenues situation is rapidly worsening" and "states face other problems from the worsening economy."

Unemployment Rates to Get Worse, Not Better

The Minnesota Budget Project, citing official government data, reports that most experts predict that the unemployment rate will continue to increase through early next summer. Even more sobering are the predications that employment will not return to pre-recession levels until 2012 and not dip below 8% until 2013. So the economy on Wall Street might be looking better, but the economy on Main Street is not.

Colorado to Lower Minimum Wage as the Cost of Living Goes Down

On January 1, 2010 the minimum wage in Colorado will be lowered by three cents, from the state's current rate of $7.28 to the federal rate of $7.25 (the lowest it legally can go).  The state's minimum wage laws are tied to inflation so as the cost of living goes up, wages do not stagnate.  But because the law - approved by the voters in 2006 - also is one of the few in the country allowing wages to deflate, the state is lowering its minimum wage.  According to an New York Times article, Colorado's action is "the first decrease in any state since the federal minimum wage law was passed in 1938."

New York Property Tax Exemptions Draw Scrutiny

A legislative panel held a hearing to review the increase in the value of property tax exemptions.  Some lawmakers are considering reforming the criteria for property tax exemptions.

Proof That Foundations Can Leverage Their Dollars Through Nonprofit Advocacy

The Grantmaking for Community Impact Project, an initiative of The National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy (NCRP), recently studied the impact of grants invested for nonprofit advocacy.  The study produced eye-popping results. In return for the $48.5 million invested in advocacy across the three states in the study, nonprofits produced $6.68 billion in new dollars. NCRP tracked the activities of more than a dozen nonprofits in each state for a period of 5 years and calculated the return on investment (ROI) by totaling state appropriations, leveraged funding, value of services provided, aggregated wage increases, and various cost savings. The estimated returns on investment from each state are:

Minnesota Study

  • Total Support from Foundations and Other Sources: $11.5 Million, Total ROI: $2.28 Billion, or $138 return for every $1 invested in advocacy work

New Mexico Study

  • Total Support from Foundations and Other Sources: $16.6 million, Total ROI:  $2.6 Billion, or $157 return for every $1 invested in advocacy work

North Carolina Study

  • Total Support from Foundations and Other Sources: $20.4 Million, Total ROI:  $1.8 Billion or $89 return for every $1 invested in advocacy work

Note: The estimates of ROI are conservative because many benefits are not quantifiable. For example, the advocacy helped expand college access, environmental clean-up, and increased civic participation, but the studies did not attempt to quantify or include the various returns on those investments.


The National Council of Nonprofits publishes Nonprofit Policy News as a service to the state associations and our members. The Nonprofit Policy News presents important information needed by all nonprofits. Therefore, we make it available to all who sign up for it, irrespective of membership in our network. We do, however, encourage all nonprofits to join their state association so the voices of nonprofits can be united at the national, state, and local levels.