Washington Snapshot

Washington Snapshot: President Biden and Democratic leaders in Congress have said that another legislative package addressing the pandemic will be a priority.

Friday, January 22, 2021 - 4:33 pm EST
Stephanie Powers

In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...

News from the Hill

News from the Council

Nonprofit Coalition Letter

The Council on Foundations joined several other national nonprofits in sending a letter to Congressional Leaders and the White House urging them to address the ongoing needs of the nonprofit sector in the upcoming COVID-relief legislation. President Biden and Democratic Congressional Leaders have said that another legislative package to address the ongoing pandemic will be one of their top priorities.

HUD Secretary's Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships: Apply Now

Together with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Council is pleased to announce that applications are open for the ninth year of the HUD Secretary’s Award for Public-Philanthropic Partnerships. The 2021 awards will be the first for the incoming Biden Administration HUD Secretary, soon to be confirmed! The new Secretary will recognize up to ten partnerships between foundations and their local government entities and nonprofit partners that demonstrate innovation and effectiveness of strategies to increase the quality of life for low- and moderate-income residents. Awards are welcome from across all geographies—urban, suburban, and rural, with two awards reserved for rural applicants. The competition is open to Council members and nonmembers alike. The awards event will be take place at the Council’s Leading Together Conference in June and will feature the HUD Secretary and the Council’s President and CEO, Kathleen Enright. The deadline to apply for this award is March 1st, 2021.


News from the Hill

News from the Hill

Another COVID-19 Package

This weekend, a bipartisan group of 16 Senators – 8 Republican and 8 Democrats – are expected to meet with National Economic Council Director Brian Deese to discuss the President’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 relief package. Senate Republican Leaders have indicated their resistance to the package, saying it cannot get the needed Republican votes, which will mean Democrats will need to use  “budget reconciliation," limiting what provisions can be included in the package. Some Democrats have indicated that they would like to avoid using budget reconciliation to pass a COVID-19 relief package, but they may not have a choice. In the House, Speaker Pelosi and Budget Committee Chairman John Yarmuth (D-KY) have both said that if they have to use reconciliation to move something forward, they are ready.   

An additional factor complicating any progress is the Senate’s inability to pass an Organizing Resolution for how to run the 50-50 Senate. Leader McConnell is demanding Senate Democrats promise not to eliminate the filibuster to move a resolution forward. Until something is passed, the Chamber is essentially stuck with Republicans still chairing committees and confusion about when the work of legislating will begin.

Senate Confirmation Proceedings of President Biden's Nominees

Janet Yellen, Secretary of the Treasury 

Ms. Yellen, if confirmed by the Senate, will make history as the first woman to hold the position in our nation’s history. During her confirmation hearing before the Senate Finance Committee, Yellen indicated that the Biden administration will prioritize economic recovery for those hit hardest by the current crisis, including women and people of color. Longer term, Yellen said the Treasury Department will look to build prosperity for middle- and low-income households and will also look to rebuild the U.S.’s international economic presence.  

  • On tax increases:  Yellen said the Biden administration will not move to raise taxes until the nation is further along in COVID-19 recovery. She indicated that the administration will work to extend the 2017 tax cuts for taxpayers making less than $400,000 annually to keep Biden’s campaign promise not to increase taxes on the middle class. 
  • On the charitable deduction:  In response to questioning from Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Yellen did not commit to increasing the charitable deduction for non-itemizers. 

Pete Buttigieg, Secretary of Transportation

Transportation secretary nominee Buttigieg called for major investment in infrastructure during his confirmation hearing with the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee. He said he is committed to bipartisan progress on infrastructure as a key part of the Biden administration’s plans for recovery from the COVID-19 and economic crises. He also suggested openness to using transportation policy to address climate change and racial justice. He is expected to be confirmed with bipartisan support.

Antony Blinken, Secretary of State 

During his hearings with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, nominee Blinken said the Biden State Department will promote human rights and democracy while reaffirming commitments to U.S. allies.

Alejandro Mayorkas, Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security 

The hearings to confirm nominee Mayorkas were the most contentious this week, with Republicans on the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee voicing discontent at his processing of visas in his previous position at DHS and his disagreement with the Trump administration’s border security policies. Mayorkas has indicated that he prefers a multi-pronged approach to border security rather than a single border wall. 

Retired Gen. Lloyd Austin, Secretary of Defense

In his testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, nominee Austin said his priorities as secretary will include addressing the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, addressing sexual assault and extremism within the military, and rebalancing the decision-making power back to career civilians. 

Avril Haines, Director of National Intelligence

Haines reaffirmed her commitment to bipartisanship in hearings with the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence this week, including promising to giving the president honest briefings even if those briefings reveal information that contradicts the administration’s preferences and priorities. Director Haines was confirmed on a bipartisan basis on Wednesday, making her the first woman to serve as Director of National Intelligence. 

Executive and Regulatory Affairs

White House

Executive Orders
On January 20, Inauguration Day, President Biden issued a range of actions that signaled the first priorities of the new Administration. These ranged from proclamations declaring a day of national unity and ending discriminatory bans on entry to the United States to Executive Orders on using federal government resources to advance racial equity and support for underserved communities and protect public health and restore science in tackling climate change.

On the first full day of the new Administration, President Biden issues a series of COVID response orders aimed at changing the course of the pandemic, addressing concerns related to worker safety, reopening schools, and insuring access to care and treatment of COVID

To keep up with all of the executive actions taken by President Biden, consult the Briefing Room section of the White House website.

Department of Commerce

National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration
 NOAA has published a Federal Register Notice announcing a matching fund opportunity using NOAA contract survey dollars. The goal of the pilot program is to acquire more ocean and coastal hydrographic surveying for mutual benefit, including for safe navigation, integrated ocean and coastal mapping, coastal zone management, coastal and ocean science, and other activities. Not a grant program, the purpose of the pilot is to encourage non-Federal entities to partner with NOAA on jointly funded hydrographic surveying and mapping and related activities of mutual interest. NOAA would match partner funds and rely on its existing contract arrangements to conduct the actual surveying and mapping activities. NOAA is requesting that interested entities submit proposals by February 26, 2021.

Small Business Administration
On January 6, the SBA reopened the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for First Draw PPP Loans the week of January 11, 2021, accepting applications for Second Draw PPP Loans on January 13, 2021. SBA is currently accepting Second Draw PPP loan applications from participating lenders. Lender Match can help match potential applicants with a lender and a map of all lenders is now available. At least $25 billion is being set aside for these Second Draw PPP Loans for eligible borrowers with a maximum of 10 employees or for loans of $250,000 or less to eligible borrowers in low- or moderate-income neighborhoods. The National Law Review has published a helpful resource page on the Second Draw Loans.

Department of Commerce

The Office of Minority Health
OMH is seeking nominations of qualified candidates to be considered for appointment as a member of the Advisory Committee on Minority Health, pursuant to Public Law 105-392. All nominations should be emailed to CAPT Samuel Wu, Designated Federal Officer, Advisory Committee on Minority Health, Office of Minority Health, at Samuel.Wu@hhs.gov and copy to OMH-ACMH@hhs.gov. The deadline to submit nominations is 5:00 p.m. (ET) on March 4th, 2021.

The Centers for Medicaid and Medicare
The CMS Office of Minority Health (CMS OMH) invites you to participate in a listening session to discuss the continuing impact of COVID-19 on populations who face health disparities, including racial and ethnic minorities, people with disabilities, sexual and gender minorities, people with limited English proficiency,  and rural populations.  Two upcoming sessions are January 26 and January 28.

Department of Treasury

Internal Revenue Service

IRS Commissioner Charles Rettig suggested this week to the House Oversight Committee that there will be challenges for the agency to distribute another round of stimulus payments during this year’s tax-filing season.  The agency needs time to program and reprogram for the second round of payments to guard against fraud.   Between annual tax refunds and two rounds of stimulus payments, the IRS has distributed some $735 billion in payments in roughly one year. Even with this year’s later start, Rettig said Earned Income Tax Credit payments should actually begin going out earlier — by one day, on March 1 — than they did last year.  Rettig also claimed that the agency has finally caught up with the massive backlog of mail created by the coronavirus shutdown.

  • Note to all taxpayers:  Tax filing season won’t start until Feb. 12  to give the IRS more time to adjust to changes Congress made late last year in the tax code and the second round of coronavirus-related stimulus payments lawmakers approved. April 15 remains the filing deadline, which was pushed back to July 15 last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

What We Are Hearing

Tax Policy Center Director Mark Mazur is temporarily heading back to the Treasury Department to be its point person on taxes. Mazur will fill in as deputy assistant secretary for tax policy until the administration’s nominee for the more senior position — assistant secretary for tax policy — is confirmed by the Senate. President Joe Biden has not named his choice for that job yet. Mazur served in a similar role during the Obama administration.  

Happening in the States

Happening in the States


National Council of Nonprofits

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

COVID-19 Influences Dynamics of State Legislatures
Governors Call for Budget, Tax Action

In their State of the State addresses and budget speeches, governors across the country are attempting to set their agendas for the year while grappling with the fluctuating budget reports and projections. Facing revenue uncertainties and concerns that Congress may not provide sufficient aid to the states, New York Governor Cuomo has proposed increasing income tax rates for high income earners and cutting rates for the middle class. Arizona Governor Ducey called for tax reform and smaller government, and Idaho Governor Little is proposing $450 million in tax relief through one-time relief and permanent tax cuts. Maryland Governor Hogan released an “economic recovery budget” calling for $1 billion in tax and stimulus relief while including “no tax increases, layoffs, or cuts to essential services.” Likewise, governors in ConnecticutGeorgiaIowaNorth DakotaSouth Carolina, and South Dakota have promised no tax increases, and Arkansas Governor Hutchinson and South Carolina McMasters both proposed individual income tax rate cuts.  

Governors in KentuckyIndianaIowaNew JerseyVermontVirginia, and Wisconsin promised continued investment in education, childcare, healthcare, housing, broadband, and small businesses. Vermont Governor Scott and Washington Governor Inslee also called for reducing the costs of unemployment insurance on employers, or at least reducing increases. Nebraska Governor Ricketts, who led property tax reform efforts last year, proposed spending controls by limiting property tax increases to three percent and pushing “new local spending constraints” measures. Finally, the District of Columbia has already begun cuts for services often run by nonprofits with revenue projections down $2.5 billion from pre-pandemic levels, and DC Mayor Bowser is asking some agencies for deeper cut proposals for next year.  


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