Washington Snapshot

Washington Snapshot: Disaster Aid Bill Passes; Budget Caps Deal in Sight

Thursday, June 6, 2019 - 4:15 pm EDT

In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...

Congress IconNews from the Hill

Disaster Aid Bill Finally Passed and Heading to the President for Signature

The House of Representatives passed a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill Monday, sending the measure on to President Donald Trump, who is expected to sign it. Once it’s signed into law, the bill, H.R. 2157 (116), will unlock billions of dollars in grant funding and reimbursement cash for communities still recovering from hurricanes, tornadoes, volcanic eruptions, extreme flooding, wildfires and typhoons.

The measure makes $331 million in community development grants available to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, as well as $600 million in nutrition assistance to Puerto Rico, and $25 million to the Northern Mariana Islands. Under the bill, USDA would distribute $3 billion to help defray the effects of lost crops and $150 million to provide grants and loans to help rebuild rural facilities like health clinics, schools, police stations and town halls. Areas recovering from disasters will also have access to more than $2.4 billion in cash through grants from the Department of Housing and Urban Development, and nearly $1.7 billion for fixing damaged roads and bridges. The Army Corps of Engineers will get nearly $3.3 billion to repair damaged projects and conduct work to reduce the effects of future disasters.

California communities hit by wildfires during the state’s most devastating blazes last year would be eligible for money through USDA rural development programs until 2020 census data is available. Nearly $16 million would go to the Interior Department for fire remediation work and to cover firefighting costs, while another $720 million will be used to repay unrelated U.S. Forest Service accounts tapped in previous years to cover fire-related costs.

Billions of dollars will be spread across other federal departments and agencies such as the Coast Guard, the Department of Labor, the National Weather Service, the EPA and the Education Department to both rebuild government facilities and provide cash to assist disaster-wrought communities.

Budget Caps Deal May be in Sight

Negotiators are saying that a deal could be reached within the next week to raise budget caps and prevent severe sequestration cuts over the next two years. If a deal to raise budget caps is made, Chairman Richard Shelby (R-AL) said, spending leaders can quickly write funding bills for fiscal 2020, which begins in less than four months. However, there is no certainty that all spending measures will be ready for Senate floor action before lawmakers leave for the July Fourth recess.

Proposed Senate Bill Would Reveal Donations to Higher Ed

Oregon Sen. Ron Wyden has rolled out legislation to curb the practice of wealthy families making tax-deductible donations to colleges to help their children get admitted to elite schools. Done in the wake of the recent higher education bribery scandal, Wyden's bill would allow donations to colleges and universities to be fully deductible, only if the contribution, or the family's ability to make hefty donations, cannot be considered as part of a family member's admission to the school.

Parents could deduct no more than $100,000 over six years in contributions to schools that refused to stop considering donations in the admissions process. Schools that receive federal financial aid would be required to publicly report how many students admitted to the college, and others who applied, were the children of donors. That information would be available both through the Education Department and on the school's tax filings.

House Ways and Means Member Day Hearing

We’ve heard that not much relating to charitable giving was brought up in today’s hearing. Member Day hearings provide an opportunity for committee members to discuss issues of importance on a broad range of topics important to constituents across the United States. Read Chairman Richard Neal's opening statement.

Meanwhile on Health Care… Top Legislators Lay Out Policy

A new comprehensive bill to tackle health care costs by Sens. Lamar Alexander (R-TN) and Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate HELP Committee, respectively, tackles a wide array of issues ranging from prescription drug prices to vaccine promotion. But the plan's approach to one of the most contentious issues in health policy, surprise out-of-network billing, is largely noncommittal. Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) re-introduced a bill to extend an incentive program for doctors to serve in health shortage areas. And Congressman Richard Neal (D-MA), chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee, is seeking information on expanding long-term care services through Medigap policies.

Executive & Regulatory News IconExecutive & Regulatory News

Office of Rural Health Policy Collaboration with Grantmakers

The Federal Office of Rural Health Policy and Grantmakers in Health held their seventh annual public-private collaborations in health meeting on May 30-31 in Washington, DC. The Partnership has a new webpage housed on the Rural Health Information Hub.  Find more information about the Partnership, resources, and materials from the recent meeting. Upcoming from the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services: a Rural Maternal Health Forum on improved access, quality, and outcomes is scheduled for Wednesday, June 12.  CMS will provide an overview of the state of maternal healthcare in rural communities.

From the Commerce Department

NTIA Releases Comprehensive Guide to Federal Broadband Funding
NTIA announced a new searchable database of 50 federal broadband programs, spanning a dozen federal agencies with billions of dollars for broadband grants, loans and other resources. The database, created with help from participating federal agencies, fulfills a goal set out in the American Broadband Initiative announced in February to make it easier for community leaders to find federal funding and permitting information. See complete new release here.

NOAA Hurricane Season Prediction
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting that a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year. This outlook forecasts a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 30% chance of a below-normal season. The hurricane season officially extends from June 1 to November 30. Know how to help your community prepare.

State Policy IconHappening in the States

States’ New Revenue Struggles After the Great Recession

A new Pew Charitable Trust report released on June 4 shows that States are still struggling with the aftermath of the Great Recession ten years later. The report found that states have had to live without some $283 billion because of falling revenues starting in 2008. While revenues are basically back to normal, Pew says that States are still wrestling with the decisions they made to balance the books in those lean years that are now playing out in fights over teacher pay, college tuition levels, depleted rainy day funds, infrastructure and other issues.

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

National Council of Nonprofits

State Legislative Roundup

Thirty-four state legislatures have adjourned for the year, and their recent outputs show that nonprofits were on their minds:

  • Charitable Giving Incentives: With the Governor’s signature last week, Arizona taxpayers will now be able to claim a nonitemizer deduction for donations to charitable nonprofits. Specifically, donors who take the standard deduction on their state tax returns will still be able to deduct 25 percent of their donations from their state taxes. Kristen Merrifield, Chief Executive Officer of the  Alliance of Arizona Nonprofits, said that passage would help to “partially offset the projected annual loss of hundreds of millions of dollars in contributions to the state’s nonprofits from recent Federal tax-law changes that doubled the standard deduction and caused many taxpayers not to itemize.” Arizona now joins Colorado and Minnesota in providing a charitable giving tax incentive to state taxpayers who take the standard deduction.
  • Removing Taxes on Tax Exempts: Legislatures in Hawai`i and Illinois have passed, and sent to their Governors, bills to prevent automatic application of state taxes to the new federal tax on nonprofit transportation benefits. The bills passed with overwhelming support and are expected to be signed into law. Going even further, the Governor of Minnesota recently signed a major tax bill that, among other things, decouples state unrelated business income taxes on both nonprofit transportation benefits and on each separate “trade or business.”
  • 2020 Census: Fourteen states have appropriated funds to support a full, accurate, and complete 2020 Census count according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Colorado recently established a census outreach program to provide grants to government agencies and departments, school districts, and nonprofits for outreach, promotion, and education to focus on hard-to-count communities. Last week, the Governor of Washington State signed a census funding bill that appropriates $15 million for communications, nonprofit outreach, preparation of documents in multiple languages, and technical assistance.
  • Employment Policy: With no legislative action at the federal level, states are adopting their own labor standards that apply in nonprofit and other workplaces. Connecticut is raising its minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2023. Starting in 2020, Colorado will allow local governments to set their own minimum wage hourly rates, reversing a decades-old ban. Colorado also has a new law allowing individuals claiming that gender is a basis in wage discrimination to skip the administrative stage and go straight to court. Similarly, Alabama may soon become the 49th state to enact an equal pay statute that prohibits employers from paying workers differently based on gender or race. Finally, starting in 2021, Maine employers with 11 or more employees will be required to provide paid family and medical leave for up to 40 hours per year for employees.
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