Help Fight Efforts to Stifle Essential Conversations on Race and Gender Bias
Last month, the Administration released an Executive Order (EO) and two memoranda seeking to block legitimate efforts to address racism and sexism. The EO and memoranda direct that all trainings on implicit bias and other racial and gender bias equity concepts will stop immediately in the executive branch and military, and stop sometime after November 21 for all federal contractors and many grantees. Every federal agency has been charged with identifying and canceling staff trainings that address nearly a dozen concepts the Administration has deemed “divisive” and “anti-American,” including conducting keyword searches for such terms as "unconscious bias," “white privilege” and “systemic racism.” New reporting and restrictions have been ordered. Further, the Labor Department has set up a complaint hotline for individuals to report trainings that may make them feel uncomfortable by discussions of racial and gender inequality.
In an article published today in Nonprofit Quarterly - How Nonprofits Can Stop Trump's Effort to Roll Back Diversity Training - Tim Delaney and David Thompson of the National Council of Nonprofits analyze these pronouncements and actions, laying out the many constitutional, statutory, and practical flaws. Citing multiple sources observing that the Executive Order is designed to inflame racial strife, the authors encourage nonprofits to remain calm and not fall into the trap that has been set. Rather, they write, “we can focus our resolve and (1) double-down on our commitment to advance racial and gender equity, (2) support organizations working to have the courts strike down the EO, and (3) express our firm opposition to the scheme by submitting formal comments in any rulemaking process. The EO must be stopped.”
You can help. Share what you are seeing, hearing, and thinking about this offensive order.
No COVID Relief Deal Yet, Negotiations Continue
Politicians across the spectrum are increasingly calling for COVID relief legislation that addresses the health and economic fallout of the pandemic, but agreement remains elusive. Last week, the House passed a revised Heroes Act (Heroes 2) with only Democratic votes. See the summary, National Council of Nonprofits analysis, and the status of nonprofit policy priorities (next article, below). In recent days, many Senators became more vocal in declaring the need for a bill before the election. The President even tweeted his support for a deal from his hospital room, writing “Work together and get it done.” Speaker Pelosi and Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reportedly continue to exchange proposals in the quest to reach a deal.
By the end of last week, the parties were $600 billion apart – the House-passed Heroes 2 bill is estimated to cost $2.2 trillion while the counteroffer proposed by Treasury Secretary Mnuchin reportedly would cost about $1.6 trillion. Many areas of agreement have been disclosed, including a second round of stimulus checks to families and targeted assistance for airlines and restaurants. In a message to her Democratic colleagues on Friday, Speaker Pelosi expressed hope about reaching an agreement, but identified “five notable areas of concern” in the negotiations: unemployment insurance; funding levels for state and local governments and for schools; expansion of the child tax credit and earned income tax credit; testing & tracing; and appropriations. Not addressed in this list, but certain to be a major sticking point in the negotiations, is the demand by Senate Republicans and the Administration for liability protections.
Where the Nonprofit Priorities Stand
The House and Senate have responded in different ways to the policy priorities identified in the Nonprofit Community Letter, the letter to congressional leaders signed by more than 4,000 nonprofits from all 50 states. Here is a quick recap of where those priorities are best incorporated in legislation:
- Paycheck Protection Program Improvements: The Heroes 2 bill would renew the Paycheck Protection Program, simplify loan forgiveness, and provide a second round of loans. This version improves on the text found in several Senate bills and would, if enacted, help sustain nonprofit organizations as they struggle to meet the increasing demands.
- Relief for Mid-Size Nonprofits: The Heroes 2 bill also provides needed expansion of the PPP to larger charitable organizations left out of prior COVID relief law. Further, the House-passed bill would improve the Main Street Lending Program by including a low-cost loan option tailored to the unique needs of nonprofits that could provide additional help in some situations. See National Council of Nonprofits’ analysis of forgivable loans legislation.
- Employee Retention Tax Credit: The CARES Act, and both the Senate HEALS Act and the revised Heroes Act, provide a refundable payroll tax credit that would enable nonprofits to retain and restore employees who are vital to providing services in communities. As drafted, the Heroes 2 version is the most generous.
- Unemployment Cost Relief: The Heroes 2 bill would extend for six months the temporary relief for nonprofits and governments set to expire at the end of the year. However, it fails to increase federal coverage to 100% of the costs of self-insured nonprofits and other employers. The Senate HEALS Act would raise that coverage to 75%, which is an improvement but still not adequate.
- Above-the-Line Deduction Expansion: The only legislation that proposes an improved charitable giving incentive is the Senate Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses Act, (known as the “targeted” or “skinny” COVID relief bill). Language in that bill would increase the above-the-line deduction in the CARES Act from $300 to $600/individual and $1,200/couple for 2020. Charitable nonprofits clearly need greater resources to maintain the support they are providing; an improved above-the-line deduction is critically needed as soon as possible.
TAKE ACTION NOW
Demand That Congress Enact COVID Relief Now – Before the Election
Time is very short so we’ll be brief: Every Senator and Representative needs to know that a post-election relief package will come too late for the individuals, nonprofits, for-profit businesses, and communities that are suffering now. Reach out today – not tomorrow – and tell them to act now:
2020 Census Running Out of Time
Repeated efforts by the Administration to curtail the 2020 census count and alter how the census is reported to Congress are being stymied by judicial barriers and strong, bipartisan opposition in Congress. In recent days, federal courts have required the Census Bureau to continue field counts through Oct. 31 and rejected the Administration’s plan to exclude undocumented immigrants from the final count. Both issues likely will end up before the Supreme Court in the coming weeks. In the Senate, a bipartisan coalition of Senators is advancing the 2020 Census Deadline Extensions Act (S. 4571), a bill that would mandate extension of two key statutory deadlines for the 2020 Census by four months and require the Census Bureau to continue field operations through Oct. 31, 2020. More than 200 organizations, including the National Council of Nonprofits, state associations of nonprofits, and many charitable organizations, endorse the legislation because of the need for a fair, complete, and accurate count.
- Federal Government Funded: Last week, the President signed the bipartisan Continuing Resolution (H.R. 8337) to extend funding for federal agencies through December 11. The measure provides funding for much of the federal government and prevents a partial government shutdown. See the section-by-section summary.
- Independent Contractor Rules: On Sept. 25, 2020, the Department of Labor issued a proposed rule that would clarify whether workers are employees or are independent contractors under the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA). The regulations would replace an existing multi-factor inquiry with a two-prong test focusing on the employee’s exercise of control over their work and their opportunity for profit or loss. Employers could also consider three other factors as “additional guideposts” in assessing worker classification: the amount of skill required for a job; how permanent a working relationship is; and whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production. This revised “economic realities” test may permit more employers – including some nonprofits – to classify their workers as contractors to avoid paying benefits and payroll taxes. The public can submit comments on this rule until October 26, 2020.
State Revenues Less Dire – For Now
Despite early projections of extreme financial distress for the states in both 2020 and 2021 due to the pandemic, recent revenues in many states are exceeding pessimistic expectations. Some states (Connecticut, Iowa, South Carolina, and South Dakota) amassed budget surpluses in the 2020 fiscal year that ended June 30. Others (Colorado, Michigan, and New Jersey) finished in better positions than anticipated due to smaller declines in tax collections than originally projected. Oregon shows an upward economic forecast of 40 percent compared to earlier this year, which reduces an expected budget deficit. Looking to next year, Washington State anticipates a net $760 million surplus, including reserves.
Economists and policy analysts, however, warn that revenue shortfalls and budget gaps will be more pronounced next year from the fallout of the coronavirus. “It’s always been expected that fiscal 2021 will be rougher than fiscal 2020, especially on the income tax front,” according to an analyst at the Tax Foundation. A research associate at Urban-Brooking Tax Policy Center adds, “The picture is still really bad. Even if it’s not as bad as anticipated – it’s still bad, and it’s going to get worse.”
States Working to Disburse Remaining COVID Funds Before Deadline
State lawmakers are finalizing appropriations, sometimes in ways beneficial to nonprofits, as the Dec. 30 deadline for Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF) disbursement nears. A federal COVID relief bill would likely extend the deadline for CRF spending through September 2021, but state officials are not willing to rely on the ability of Congress and the Administration to reach agreement. The Minnesota Legislature appropriated $31.25 million from the CRF for grants to nonprofits that meet certain criteria for small business emergency loan programs. Legislation pending in the New Jersey Assembly would appropriate $10 million from its CRF for grants to nonprofit arts and cultural organizations that have experienced a 50 percent or greater reduction in revenue, not including tax-deductible charitable donations, in any month from March to August 2020. The North Carolina Governor recently signed a law to appropriate $900 million of CRF, including $145 million for nonprofits. It also allocates $45.5 million in new funding for the Job Retention Grant Program for grants up to $250,000 for nonprofits and businesses. Lawmakers in neighboring South Carolina agreed to spend some of its remaining CRF on charitable organizations by appropriating $25 million for the Nonprofit Relief Program, establishing a program to award grants equal to two-month’s payroll expenses prior to March, up to $25,000. It also establishes a panel to award grants and creates a priority for certain types of nonprofits for grant awards.
The Election Has Begun –Vote.
In-person voting has opened in 16 states as of today, Oct. 5, and every state has some vote-by-mail options available to voters. Thirty-four states permit voters to request an absentee ballot without a reason or by citing concerns over coronavirus. Seven states (Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee, Texas, and South Carolina) require an excuse beyond COVID-19 to vote absentee. Voting by mail is safe and secure and does not advantage one party over the other, according to Vote Safe. Given the health crises caused by the pandemic, the majority of Americans want an option to vote by mail. No matter the way you do it, make a voter plan and get #VoteReady.
Paid Time Off to Vote
As nonprofit employers, take voting one step further and join us in the #nonprofitstaffvote campaign by offering time off to vote on or before Election Day, which can be a major barrier for people voting in person. Paid time off allows people to not choose between exercising their constitutional right to have their voice heard and receiving their paycheck. Help your staff be #VoteReady by making sure they are aware of your time off to vote policy. Join us in offering paid time off to vote today!
National Voter Registration Day a Success
The numbers are in for this year’s National Voter Registration Day: 1.5 million new or updated voter registrations! This new record shatters the previous record of 865,000 from 2018. More than 4.500 community partners participated, including 2,000 nonprofits, 800 colleges, and 800 libraries. There were 106 Premier Partners with 50 new organizations joining and 30% of the partners had never done voter registration before. #NationalVoterRegistrationDay trended #1 for nearly 12 hours and more than a million people saw the campaign via 26 media outlets. But the work doesn’t end with National Voter Registration Day, so continue to join us in getting #VoteReady.
Newsworthy, Immediate, and Virtual
The stability of the nonprofit community in the midst and aftermath of the COVID-19 pandemic is in doubt. The same can be true for other segments of the economy; airlines and restaurants certainly have significant challenges too and have attracted tremendous attention from policymakers and the news media. The dilemma nonprofits face is how to get the word out about the combination of lost revenues and increased demand – something airlines and restaurants aren’t experiencing. One advocacy technique gaining favor is the well-planned virtual news conference.
In recent weeks, state associations of nonprofits and their members have convened the media and other nonprofits to discuss the impact of the pandemic and public policies on organizations from all subsectors and regions of their states. First up was the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, which hosted a virtual news conference with eight other nonprofits to lay out challenges faced by people nonprofits serve. Speakers expressly called on Congress to get back to work. “The crisis has not stopped doing its thing, but Congress has,” said Marie Ellis, policy director for the state association of nonprofits. Amplifying its advocacy campaign, the state association spearheaded a letter to the congressional delegation signed by more than 150 nonprofits.
Not long after the Minnesota event, the Kentucky Nonprofit Network (KNN) hosted a press conference to call on Senate Majority Leader McConnell and the Kentucky congressional delegation to pass a COVID-relief bill as soon as possible. Nine nonprofit leaders joined KNN in making the case for action on the nonprofit policy priorities identified in the new Nonprofit Community Letter. The comments were respectful, but emphatic: “We urge of Kentucky’s congressional delegation to not give up on Kentucky,” Danielle Clore of KNN said. “Their good work from the CARES Act must continue and they must move swiftly to include the bipartisan solutions needed by the nonprofits serving Kentuckians. As was heard today, the needs are urgent – Kentucky, and our nation, simply cannot wait.” Read the KNN recap.
A variation on the theme occurred in South Carolina when Together SC, the state association of nonprofits, and its research partner hosted a virtual news conference to announce the results of a statewide survey, COVID-19 and the Status of South Carolina’s Nonprofit Sector. A key data point that received the national attention it deserves: “29% of nonprofits in the state could not survive until the end of the year without additional financial support.” Madeleine McGee, CEO of Together SC, explained that the data provided an important perspective for state lawmakers as they currently debate how to allocate the remaining federal COVID monies.
The North Carolina Center for Nonprofits hosted its virtual news conference on September 15, featuring panelists representing a diverse group of nonprofits from the arts, education, health care, human services, youth development, and social services. As in other states, the speakers described the impact of the pandemic on nonprofits and the communities they serve and urged federal leaders to pass a COVID relief package to ensure nonprofits can continue helping people in communities. View the recording: Nonprofits Call on Congress to Take Action.
This past week, the Center for Non-Profits in New Jersey brought together speakers from social services, the arts, and philanthropy. Each of the nonprofit professionals called on New Jersey’s U.S. Senators and Representatives, as well as state legislators, to act quickly to help New Jerseyans meet their basic needs during extremely challenging times, ensure that nonprofits are able to help people weather and recover from this unprecedented crisis,; and facilitate an equitable and faster economic recovery.
Also last week, a news conference hosted by the Maine Association of Nonprofits made clear through several speakers that without additional resources, nonprofits throughout Maine would be at risk of layoffs or potential closures. A panelist for behavioral service provider Spurwink explained that the need for services has only increased as more adults are reporting higher substance use and mental health challenges during the pandemic. The larger nonprofit hasn’t qualified for loans from the Paycheck Protection Program due to its size, but it has experienced significant cost increases for things like protective gear and technology. Learn more: Maine Nonprofits Call For More Federal Pandemic Relief.
No matter the state and no matter the mission focus of the charitable nonprofit – the need for COVID relief is omnipresent. By joining together, these organizations have focused the eyes of the media and policymakers on the critical services and supports that nonprofits are providing. They are defining this new technique of the virtual news conference to rally support when it’s needed the most.
Read more examples of Advocacy in Action,
a regular feature of Nonprofit Advocacy Matters.