Washington Snapshot

Snapshot: We are monitoring Congressional negotiations on a package that would extend federal funding and COVID-19 relief

Tuesday, December 22, 2020 - 10:41 am EST

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In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...

News from the Hill

News from the Hill

We are monitoring Congressional negotiations on a package that would extend federal funding and COVID-19 relief. Once there is an agreement we will provide more information. Until then, we will continue to engage with Congressional offices on the priorities in the Nonprofit Community Letter and others important to the sector.

Executive and Regulatory Affairs

Department of Commerce

Census Bureau
On December 15, the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2020 Demographic Analysis (DA) estimates for the nation, a tradition going back many decades as the census year draws to a close. DA is one of two primary methods the Census Bureau uses to measure the accuracy of a decennial census. The second is the Post-Enumeration Survey, or PES, which produces estimates of census accuracy, i.e., net undercounts and net overcounts, as well as components of census "error." The DA estimates alone will not provide the comparative data needed to calculate any undercount. The Bureau will need to finish its data processing and release the 2020 Census national population count, along with the apportionment counts for each state, which are slightly different than the "resident" population, to enable watchers to make the first comparison. The first 2020 Census numbers are expected in January but could come later if Congress pushes back the reporting deadline for apportionment data. 

Department of Health and Human Services

On December 14, HHS announced a joint final rule with eight other departments and agencies—the Department of Justice, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Labor, the Department of Education, the Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Department of Agriculture, the Agency for International Development, and the Department of Veterans Affairs—to implement President Trump’s Executive Order No. 13831, on the Establishment of a White House Faith and Opportunity Initiative (May 3, 2018). 

This rule ensures that faith-based and secular organizations are treated equally in HHS-supported programs and clarifies that faith-based organizations do not lose their legal protections and rights just because they participate in federal programs and activities. This final rule preserves most of the existing regulations governing participation of faith-based organizations in the HHS’s financial assistance programs, including provisions barring providers from discriminating against beneficiaries based on religion and requiring that any religious activities by the faith-based organization be separated in time or location from any services funded directly with federal money.  

Center for Disease Control
CDC has published new Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities web resources. These new web resources provide a centralized location for presenting data for COVID-19 outcomes by racial and ethnic group, summarize the underlying factors causing disparities, and disseminate other information applicable to response strategies to support health equity.

Department of Energy

DOE’s Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) Science, Technology and Policy (STP) Program is seeking to develop the future leaders in energy efficiency and renewable energy policy. The EERE STP appointments provide an opportunity for talented scientists and engineers to participate in policy-related projects at the department in Washington, DC. Selected participants will support the design and implementation of national R&D strategies, programs that advance photovoltaic and concentrating solar-thermal power technologies, and technologies to integrate solar into the electric power grid, making it more resilient and secure. Applications are due at the U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Office by January 15, 2021.

Department of Homeland Security

Federal Emergency Management Agency
FEMA is proposing to revise the “estimated cost of the assistance” disaster declaration factor that it uses to evaluate a Governor’s request for a major disaster under the Public Assistance Program. Nonprofit service providers and houses of worship are eligible for this financial assistance.  The proposed revisions would more accurately assess states’ disaster response capabilities, possibly resulting in recommendations to the President that a major incident could be found to be well within a state’s financial capabilities to respond. FEMA is compelled to by the Disaster Recovery Reform Act of 2018 to review and update its disaster declaration factors.

The public comment period is open until February 12, 2021.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The Secretary’s Center for Strategic Partnerships (CSP) engages companies and organizations that are committed to providing resources to better serve veterans by working together on innovative and bold initiatives that leverage their collective expertise.  In its end-of-year review, the Center reported on partnerships it forged in response to the coronavirus pandemic:  

  • Intel, Dell, Sprint, T-Mobile, and Apple provided critical donations to help thousands of veterans with significant technology challenges to connect to their care providers.
  • Nike provided 4,000 pairs of specially designed nursing shoes to VHA nurses who traveled to virus hotspots.
  • The Center rapidly sourced and built coalitions that resulted in getting scarce PPE to the VA healthcare system --- 4.5 million masks, 7 million testing swabs, over 9 million disposable gowns and 20 million gloves.
  • Through partner commitments from Walmart, Philips, the VFW, and the American Legion, the  CSP’s Accessing Telehealth Through Local Area Stations (ATLAS) pilot sites brought VA health services closer to Veterans living in rural communities despite challenges to keeping these sites open during virus surges.

In support of the CSP’s core work, Council on Foundations’ member Bristol Myers Squibb Foundation awarded a grant for $4.5 million to accelerate VA’s implementation of Teleoncology.

Happening in the States

Happening in the States

Aid for state and local governments remains a sticking point in  Congressional deliberations over additional relief to address the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic. Some argue that states do not need assistance because of better-than-expected tax collections. But the Tax Policy Center’s  State and Local Finance Initiative’s  data show the actual revenue losses experienced by the states are deep and widespread, if not universal. The Tax Policy Center suggests that state revenue data also paint a clear picture for how Congress can best target federal dollars where they are needed most.

National Council of Nonprofits

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

State Revenues, Budgets Surge, Plunge

Forecasts for state budgets across the country are varying widely due to increased sales tax revenues, delayed income tax payments, and less government spending during the pandemic. Some revenue projections and budget proposals reflect stronger financial positions than previously expected, which officials are citing as a result from federal stimulus monies from the spring that helped states respond to the pandemic. Several states (Maryland, Minnesota, Mississippi) have experienced increased sales tax revenues that they credit to federal unemployment payments that allowed families and individuals to continue to buy necessities and other goods.

However, long-term forecasts in some states anticipate large budget gaps and austerity. The Governor of Hawai`i is warning nonprofits that they face deep cuts as tax revenues dwindle due to the pandemic, which are projected to drop by more than $1 billion from 2019 levels before partially rebounding. Illinois Governor Pritzker has already announced $711 million in budget cuts, including $126 million in grant reductions and operations. Many of the agency cuts and adjustments are to government grants and contracts that go to nonprofits in health and human services. Last week Massachusetts Governor Baker signed a $45.9 billion budget for the remainder of the fiscal year, which will cover state finances through June of 2021. Minnesota currently has a $641 million surplus right now but is expected to make a swift shift to a $1.27 billion budget gap next budget period and then decline further to a $4.7 billion deficit for the following two years.

The Massachusetts Nonprofit Network successfully advocated for the inclusion of a 6-month deadline extension for nonprofit employers that self-insure for their unemployment costs. Without this deadline extension, nonprofits across the Commonwealth would have faced large balloon payments owed for unanticipated COVID-19 layoffs that occurred from March to December of 2020. Kentucky general fund receipts are forecasted to increase by $17 million for the current fiscal year according to a panel of economists independent of state government. The receipts are to increase by $53 million for fiscal year 2022. Tax revenues in New Hampshire are up 10.3 percent from one year ago to $815.7 million due to higher than expected business tax revenues because of extensions and tax notice payments. Fiscal year 2020 was projected in July to have a revenue deficit of $144 million.

State Surveys Show Nonprofit Closures, Lost Revenues

Charitable nonprofits have seen demand for their services skyrocket as their costs of operations increase and revenues plummet, according to survey results from across the country. Research conducted in at least 35 states show dire conditions and the need for significant financial support from federal and state governments. Last week the Florida Nonprofit Alliance released its latest report, finding that current and future funding remains the top concern with 64 percent of nonprofit organizations reporting they are “somewhat” or “very concerned” with loss of revenue and 59 percent saying they are “somewhat” or “very concerned” for future funding in 2021 and beyond. Seventy-one percent of nonprofits responded that they have had a decrease in unrestricted revenue in 2020, and more than one in four nonprofits (29%) have no reserves to tap. In a separate statewide survey conducted in Texas, the majority of participating nonprofits reported a loss of individual donations and fee-for-service earnings, while 43 percent reported dealing with increased demand for services. Almost two-thirds (61 percent) of respondents to a new pulse survey from the Hawai`i Alliance of Nonprofit Organizations projected a loss of revenue in 2020 compared to 2019, with closures due to COVID as the “dominant theme for this change in revenue," although the results varied by subsector.

The Nonprofit Association of the Midlands reported the results of a pulse poll of 248 nonprofits in Iowa and Nebraska, finding the nonprofits collectively anticipated losing $54 million dollars in revenue, up from $42 million in April. The Montana Nonprofit Association reported in September that one in four nonprofits in the state had experienced significant new expenses as a result of COVID-19, and half of the organizations reported significant reductions in revenue. In a follow-up survey released last week, the Montana state association found that these trends continued into the fall, with only food banks reporting increased donations, though not enough to keep pace with escalating demands. Nearly a third (29 percent) of South Carolina nonprofits responding to a statewide survey indicated they had only three months of cash on-hand, and five percent said they were already out of funds. 

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