2020 (and the first few weeks of 2021) have left us with no more synonyms for “unprecedented,” because of the unmatched volume of never-before-seen, first-of-their-kind events. Our hope is that 2021 ultimately brings a return to a sense of normalcy. The momentum of the recent past will continue into the days, weeks, and even months ahead, with the coronavirus still peaking, related economic pains, and another impeachment trial. Yet, with coronavirus vaccines being administered and the promise of a more substantial economic relief and recovery bill soon, there now is good reason for hope.
As we kick off the new year, this edition of Nonprofit Knowledge Monthly details what nonprofits secured in the year-end COVID relief package, the special role that nonprofits can play in helping encourage people to get the coronavirus vaccine, and a look at some of the new laws that nonprofits will need to know about to comply.
What was in the year-end COVID relief package for nonprofits – and what’s next
After months and months of drawn-out stalemates, the House, Senate, and White House finally enacted another COVID relief package as 2020 came to a close. The law contains several provisions that advocacy from nonprofits across the country – like yours – helped secure. Additional PPP loans, an extension of the above-the-line charitable deduction, and funding for performing arts venues are part of the law. For more information on what was included, you can view a recording of a nationwide webinar we hosted last week to look at the programs that can benefit nonprofits. We also created this quick guide to nonprofit-related provisions.
President Biden called that relief package a “down payment” and knows more must be done to help our communities recover. He released an outline of a $1.9 trillion relief package last week. As negotiations over the next COVID relief bill commence in Congress, your voice will be needed to ensure that the nonprofit sector’s priorities are included. Help us continue to advocate for further #Relief4Charities by taking two minutes to share how the pandemic is affecting your nonprofit. And, if you aren’t already receiving Nonprofit Advocacy Updates, you can subscribe for news on public policy issues affecting nonprofits and how you can participate in everyday advocacy.
Nonprofits and the Coronavirus Vaccine
Nonprofits play many important roles engaging people in their communities. Nonprofits helped get out the count last year for the 2020 Census. Nonprofits helped register millions of new voters and encouraged them to go to the polls (both in-person and via mail). Now, many nonprofits have a new role to play: encouraging people in our communities to get vaccinated – and, for some, to serve as vaccination sites.
As with those other civic engagement roles, it’s important to understand and respect the reasons why some people are hesitant to participate. Both historic abuses and more recent mixed messaging and misinformation are causing millions to doubt the safety and necessity for the vaccine.
One example of how nonprofits can come together to help their community comes from Washington State, where the Grays Harbor RISE coalition came together to better serve Spanish speaking and Latinx clients by ensuring public health information was reaching everyone in the community.
Nonprofit leaders also need to make important decisions about their workplaces. Will vaccines be required or optional? Will your organization follow the lead of some businesses by providing incentives for employees to get vaccinated?
While there will be many decisions to make, we all need to follow the advice of doctors and scientists to help get the pandemic under control. Nonprofits can help ensure everyone in our communities feels comfortable getting the vaccine when they are eligible to receive it.
New Year, New Laws
As the calendar flipped to 2021, many new laws went into effect across the country. Last year, as 2020 began, we celebrated the repeal of the tax on transportation benefits provided to nonprofit employees. (If your nonprofit paid that tax while it was in effect and didn’t apply for a refund last year, here’s a reminder of how you can apply to have those funds returned.)
What follows is only a sampling of new and changed laws for 2021.
Eighteen states instituted increases to the minimum wage for the new year. As a result, 29 states now have a higher minimum wage than the federal rate. There are also a number of localities that have set their minimum wage to be higher than their state's rate, so be sure that your nonprofit is complying with rates set by federal, state, and local lawmakers.
The IRS announced changes to mileage rates for business expense deductions (a decrease from 57.5 cents per mile to 56 cents per mile) and for medical or moving expenses (a decrease from 17 cents to 16 cents per mile). The mileage rate for volunteers using their vehicles is fixed in statute and remains at 14 cents.
Several states also changed their laws to improve equity in hiring practices. These changes included requiring employers to disclose salary ranges in job postings and prohibiting employers from asking about salary histories. Also, more states and localities have been adopting “Ban the Box” legislation regarding asking about a potential hire’s criminal history (see this chart for states, cities, and counties with Ban the Box laws). Here’s a good rundown of many of the employment-related laws that just went into effect.
Again, this was just a sampling. Be sure that your nonprofit is keeping up-to-date with changes at the federal, state, and local levels.
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