Washington Snapshot: States extend spending for nonprofits, plus updates on a new COVID-19 relief package and news from the executive branch.
In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...
The House and Senate are moving forward to quickly pass a new COVID-19 relief package. As we have noted earlier, Congressional Democrats are using a procedural vehicle known as "budget reconciliation." This process requires just a majority vote in the Senate, allowing Democrats to pass a bill on a party-line vote. There are limits about what can be considered under reconciliation, possibly limiting the scope of the package. House and Senate committees named in the resolution have until February 16, 2021 to report their legislative recommendations back to their Budget Committee, which will assemble the packages. Congressional Democrats have said they are working to pass the package before the enhanced unemployment benefits expire in mid-March.
Dr. Julie Morita of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation testified before the House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Health on Wednesday, detailing the importance of equity in the COVID-19 recovery and vaccine rollout.
New Congressional Committee Members
The House Ways and Means Committee and Senate Finance Committee announced members for the 117th Congress. Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and John Barrasso (R-WY) were added to the Finance Committee. In the House, Representatives Stacey Plaskett (D-VI), Carol Miller (R-WV), Lloyd Smucker (R-PA), and Kevin Hern (R-OK) were added to the Ways and Means Committee.
Congressional Budget Office
Much of the economic recovery will rely on the pace of vaccinations, the effectiveness of fiscal and monetary policies to curb the pandemic, and the evolution of the coronavirus as new strains turn up across the U.S., according to the CBO's latest projections released this week. The economy is expected to grow "rapidly" at 4.6 percent this year, continuing to expand over the next decade. The unemployment rate will drop from 6.8 percent in 2020 to 5.3 percent this year, with the number of employed people returning to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
Senate Confirmation Hearings for Biden Cabinet Nominees Continue
Tom Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture
In a hearing in front of the Senate Agriculture Committee, Tom Vilsack, like many of President Biden’s Cabinet nominees, said he will use his position to combat climate change. In addition, his Department of Agriculture will address food insecurity and racial inequity in the farming industry.
Miguel Cardona, Secretary of Education
Miguel Cardona committed to safe school re-opening, reiterated his support for a legislative solution to the student loan crisis, and indicated he will champion community college and technical education in his confirmation hearing. Mr. Cardona also reaffirmed the Biden administration’s commitment to protecting LGBTQ students.
Isabel Guzman, Administrator of the Small Business Administration
The bulk of Isabel Guzman’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship focused on the Paycheck Protection Program, particularly the gaps in its coverage and the problems with its initial distribution. Ms. Guzman committed to working to expand accessibility and smooth out the implementation and distribution process, including to eligible nonprofit organizations.
Marty Walsh, Secretary of Labor
In his hearing on Thursday morning, Marty Walsh committed to advancing Biden administration priorities, including strengthening workers’ rights and establishing a $15 federal minimum wage.
On Wednesday, the Biden Administration unveiled details about the release of staffers' personal financial information and records of White House visitors. The White House will begin releasing staffers' personal financial disclosure forms on March 19 and press secretary Jen Psaki also announced that the White House plans to release visitor logs each quarter that reestablishes transparency.
On February 2, President Biden issued an Executive Order on the Establishment of Interagency Task Force on the Reunification of Families related to the reunification of children separated from their families at the United States-Mexico border during the Trump Administration.
Department of Agriculture
The February 17 virtual forum, Building Resilience in Agricultural and Food Systems through Innovative and Strategic Partnerships, hosted by the Office and Partnerships and Public Engagement (OPPE), will focus on innovative and strategic food resilience partnerships between federal, state, local, and private partners, especially during disaster recovery. The Community Foundation of New Haven (CT) and the Walton Family Foundation will be featured on panels on urban agriculture and private partnerships that build resilience across a broad agricultural community. The event is open to any interested parties representing the public, private, or nonprofit sectors. Register here.
Department of Commerce
The Census Bureau has published an examination of small businesses in the United States with data showing that the majority of U.S. businesses have fewer than five employees.
Department of Education
Environmental Protection Agency
The EPA has announced a grant solicitation seeking applications (1) to assist in the development and use of innovative activities relating to water workforce development and career opportunities in the drinking water and wastewater utility sector, and (2) to expand public awareness about drinking water and wastewater utilities and 3) to connect individuals to careers in the drinking water and wastewater utility sector. EPA will invest $1,000,000 in up to five grant awards. Eligible applicants are nonprofit professional or service organizations, nonprofit labor organizations, nonprofit community colleges, institutions of higher education, or other nonprofit training and educational institutions. Proposals are due by March 26.
Department of Labor
Occupational Safety and Health Administration
OSHA has issued new guidance on protecting workers during COVID as well as COVID-19 Information for State Unemployment Insurance Agencies to help states respond to the COVID-19 pandemic
Department of Health and Human Services
Center for Disease Control
Roughly 13 million Americans have received at least one dose of a vaccine. Of the vaccine recipients that provided information on sex, age and race or ethnicity, 63 percent have been women, 60.4 percent have been white and 55 percent were 50 years or older, according to a new report released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Even though Black and Hispanic Americans are 2.8 times more likely to die from COVID-19 than their white counterparts, they have been vaccinated at much lower rates. Black Americans accounted for 5.4 percent of those who have been vaccinated so far, which is less than half of the 12.5 percent of the U.S. population they comprise. Hispanic Americans similarly accounted for 11.5 percent of vaccine recipients but represent 18.5 percent of the U.S. population.
Federal Reserve Board
The Community Development Staff of the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and the Federal Reserve Banks of Atlanta, Boston, Cleveland, and Philadelphia will host a virtual conference, Uneven Outcomes in the Labor Market, February 1-4 from 2 to 3:30 p.m. (ET) each day. The conference will convene a diverse network of researchers, policymakers, and practitioners to examine inequalities in labor market outcomes and explore the implications of disparities on aggregate economic performance, individual workers, and communities. They will also identify new directions for policy and research.
Department of Homeland Security
Federal Emergency Management Agency
- FEMA, in accordance with President Biden’s Jan. 21 Memorandum, will provide reimbursement to states, local, tribal and territorial governments and the District of Columbia for the use of their National Guard to respond to COVID-19 and other assistance, which may include support to vaccination distribution and administration, at a 100% cost share until Sept. 30.
- FEMA is supporting COVID-19 vaccine distribution by providing reimbursement to governments for costs associated with vaccine distribution and administration.
- As of Feb. 3, the Disaster Relief Fund balance was more than $12.6 billion. These funds will support continued response to COVID-19, including expanded vaccination efforts across the country by providing financial assistance to governments and other eligible applicants for vaccination efforts as well as personal protective equipment, alternative care sites and durable medical equipment.
- Providing funding to states, tribes, and territories is an Administration priority. After a request is reviewed and validated, FEMA can expedite reimbursement for eligible emergency work projects to ensure resources are available to support vaccine distribution and administration.
- As of February 3, FEMA has provided more than $1.76B to states, territories, and tribes for expenses related to COVID-19 vaccination at 100% federal cost share. These funds cover emergency protective measures including:
- Supplies and commodities needed to safely store and administer the vaccine.
- Transportation support and reasonable, necessary security for refrigerated trucks and support for leasing space to store and/or administer vaccines including utilities, maintenance, and security.
- Medical and support staff including onsite infection control measures, personal protective equipment for staff, cloth face coverings for patients, temperature scanners, physical barriers, and disinfection of the facility in accordance with CDC guidance.
- Dissemination of public information and communication regarding vaccines.
- The costs of purchasing the vaccine and support kits are not covered by these obligations and do not duplicate any US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) funding. COVID-19 Vaccines and support kits are provided to state, tribal and territorial governments at no cost by the federal government.
Department of Veterans Affairs
VA offers three grant programs to help Veterans and service members with service-connected disabilities buy, build, or modify a home to meet their needs and live more independently.
- If a veteran has a service-connected disability that limits their ability to work or prevents them from working, the Veteran Readiness and Employment program provides five support-and-services tracks that can help veterans train for and start a new career.
- VA has partnered with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to ensure Veterans and service members receive free tax preparation and electronic filing services.
Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.
State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery
To help Governors and states align short-term activities with longer-term economic and workforce recovery goals, the National Governors Association (NGA) has compiled the experience, insights and innovations from more than 100 state and industry leaders from 32 states who participated in the Creating an Agenda for Workforce Recovery: A Workshop Series into a State Roadmap for Workforce Recovery. This new resource, made available by the NGA's Workforce Development and Economic Policy Program, offers a first-of-its-kind framework for organizing state workforce response and recovery activities to accomplish four critical objectives necessary for a stronger and more equitable post-pandemic future:
- Expanding access to essential support services
- Rapidly connecting jobseekers to work
- Advancing digital access and skill development
- Enhancing job quality for all workers
Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.
States Extend Spending for Nonprofits
State legislative sessions have started in earnest, and policymakers in some states are advancing grant and funding programs that may benefit charitable nonprofits. California lawmakers have proposed using $2.6 billion in coronavirus relief funds (CRF) to create the Keep California Working Grant Program, which would provide grants to nonprofit organizations and small businesses that have experienced economic hardship resulting from COVID-19. In Washington State, legislators are debating between several proposals that would allocate up to $250 million in coronavirus relief monies for additional grants to organizations providing housing, food, education, childcare, COVID-relief, and more. Another Washington bill would extend state expenditure deadlines for CRF funding. Similarly, North Carolina lawmakers also extended deadlines for their federal funding expenditures as well as state tax credits for families with children in remote education. The bill awaits the Governor’s signature.
Kentucky policymakers are considering appropriating $20 million for direct relief payments to eligible small nonprofits for one-time grants of up to $10,000. A separate bill would allocate an additional $220 million for small businesses, including certain nonprofit subsectors. This week a Pennsylvania Representative reintroduced legislation that would establish the Nonprofit Assistance Grant Program and appropriated $100 million for grants up to $50,000 for expenses and losses due to COVID-19. Along the same lines, the New Hampshire Legislature is considering establishing the Save Our Granite Stages Program and a COVID-19 Micro Enterprise Relief Fund.
Loan programs, which often are not popular with nonprofits, have also been proposed this year. New Mexico lawmakers are looking to extend the deadline to apply for a Small Business Recovery Loan for up to $150,000 for small businesses or nonprofits with net revenues of less than $5 million that can demonstrate substantial decline in gross revenues or meet other requirements. In New York two bills (S.1976 / S.3406) were reintroduced that would establish loan programs for small businesses and nonprofits for loans up to $75,000 and $5,000, respectively.