Washington Snapshot

Washington Snapshot: An Update on the American Rescue Plan Act, Happenings in the Executive Branch, and a Council Survey about Snapshot.

Friday, March 5, 2021 - 4:30 pm
Stephanie Powers

In This Week's Edition of Snapshot...

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American Rescue Plan Act in the Senate

The Senate began consideration of the American Rescue Plan Act (H.R. 1319) on Thursday. They are expected to pass the bill as early as this weekend, sending it back to the House for final passage. The Senate has announced several changes that they will make to the package, including increased funding for broadband expansion and rural hospitals as well as a lower income threshold for direct stimulus checks. The National Council of Nonprofits released a special edition of their weekly advocacy newsletter focused on the relief legislation; read the Special Edition on the American Rescue Plan Act here.

Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs Hearing on the Racial Wealth Gap

The Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs held a hearing March 4 to examine how the financial system impacts workers and widens the racial wealth gap. Witnesses—three scholars who study inequality—emphasized the need for direct investment in communities that have structurally been denied wealth-building opportunities while facing exploitation from predatory financial practices.

Executive & Regulatory News IconExecutive & Regulatory Affairs

FYI: A Biden Administration Appointments Tracker is published by the Washington Post in real time. Keep up with the appointments being made by President Biden and the confirmations by the United States Senate.

White House

  • On March 4, President Joe Biden delivered remarks on the Administration’s COVID-19 vaccination efforts.
  • On March 5, additional staff appointments were announced for the White House COVID Response Team, Domestic Climate Policy Office, Domestic Policy Council, and the National Economic Council.

Department of Commerce

Bureau of Economic Analysis

The BEA reported at the end of February that personal income increased 10.0 percent (monthly rate) while consumer spending increased 2.4 percent in January as provisions of the Coronavirus Response and Relief Supplemental Appropriations (CRRSA) Act, enacted on 12/27/20, began to take effect. The increase in personal income in January was more than accounted for by an increase in government social benefits related to unemployment compensation and economic impact payment made through the CRRSA. Details on the analysis can be found here.

Small Business Administration

A new Biden Administration rule on Revisions to Loan Amount Calculation and Eligibility was issued on March 3 that overhauls the way small business loans are made to sole proprietorships and the self-employed individuals under the PPP. The new rule will prevent many of those who have already received aid from the program from increasing their existing loans. The agency conceded that these types of businesses were shortchanged under the earlier rules because of the way loans were calculated but says it is not able to let PPP borrowers increase existing loans. The new rules that provide a more favorable calculation formula will only be available to new loan applicants. Essentially, SBA will not allow businesses to modify their existing PPP loans if they had already been approved for the aid prior to the new rule on March 3.

Census Bureau

Reminder: the Bureau announced that April 30 is the new target date for the Commerce Secretary to transmit apportionment data to the President. All of the redistricting data will be released to all states by September 30, and all states will receive the data at the same time. The Bureau posted a recent blog that explains the timeline and offers an overview of data processing. A new infographic is available from the Census Bureau on the data processing steps needed to get the data over the finish line.

The Bureau also announced that it will not produce block-level Citizen Voting Age Population (CVAP) data for the 2020 Census as called for in a Donald Trump presidential order in July 2019 that ordered the Bureau to determine the citizenship status of every U.S. resident, and where they live, without asking them. This was unprecedented as the Bureau had never collected this data at the level of city blocks. The Department of Justice sent a letter addressing this to the Bureau on February 16 to reaffirm that the traditional data collection method is adequate for compliance with the Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act.

Economic Development Administration

EDA has a long history of successfully supporting disaster recovery and resiliency efforts, including long-term community economic recovery planning and project implementation, redevelopment, and resiliency. Find information about EDA’s disaster recovery role and available resources for community stakeholders collaborating on regional recovery strategies on the EDA Disaster Recovery webpage. Find EDA Regional Office contacts here.

Department of Energy

DOE's Solar Energy Technologies Office will host a webinar, “100% Clean: How DOE’s Solar Investments Will Help Achieve Ambitious Decarbonization Goals,” on Thursday, March 25, at 3 p.m. ET. Department officials will discuss plans to achieve a carbon-free electricity sector by 2035 with net-zero emissions by 2050, as well as priorities for solar research and development. Register here.

Federal Communications Commission

The FCC announced this week that is launching a $3.2 billion program aimed at providing a monthly discount for Americans struggling to pay their internet bills. It is a first of its kind emergency program to support families at risk of digital disconnection who are at or near the poverty line, and who have experienced job loss or are students that receive federal assistance to subsidize their higher education costs. Reductions in month bills may be as much as $50.

Federal Reserve Board

On March 3, The Fed also issued its second Summary Beige Book of the year. Published eight times a year, each Federal Reserve Bank gathers anecdotal information on current economic conditions in its District through reports from Bank and Branch directors and interviews with key business contacts, economists, market experts, and other sources. The Beige Book summarizes this information by District and sector. Most of the twelve Federal Reserve Banks reported economic activity expanded modestly from January to mid-February.

Department of Health and Human Services

On March 2, HHS announced additional political appointees of the Biden-Harris Administration charged with carrying out President Biden’s mission to end the COVID-19 pandemic, expand affordable health care, and advance equity.

Department of Homeland Security

Federal Emergency Management Agency

FEMA’s FL-Philanthropy team is coordinating virtual grant technical assistance training workshops for local governments and community organizations impacted by Hurricanes Sally and Michael. They are disseminating a survey to understand the training needs of their state, federal and public-private sector partners. Funders that have done grantmaking in response to these past Hurricanes might want to share the survey with their grantees.

Regarding vaccine distribution:

  • FEMA has civil rights advisors and disability integration specialists in each of FEMA’s regions to advise state, local, tribal, and territorial governments, and other partners. Additional disability integration advisors and civil rights advisors are deploying to support these efforts. Also, to support the deaf community, FEMA has made live on-demand American Sign Language interpreters available at any federally supported Community Vaccination Center.
  • The agency has established a Civil Rights Advisory Group to proactively consider and promptly resolve civil rights concerns and help ensure equity in the allocation of scarce resources including future vaccine allocation. The publication “Ensuring Equitable Vaccine Access” defines FEMA’s commitment to equity and describe the Civil Rights Advisory Group. The agency has also developed a Civil Rights Checklist to assist state, tribal and territorial partners in understanding and fulfilling their obligations to provide access to vaccine-related programs, activities and services in a nondiscriminatory manner.

Department of Interior

U.S. Geological Survey

The Regional Climate Adaptation Science Centers is a partnership-driven program that teams scientific researchers with natural and cultural resource managers and local communities to help fish, wildlife, waters, and lands across the country adapt to changing conditions. The CASCs periodically request proposals for research projects addressing high priority climate adaptation science needs. Statements of Interest for FY 22 projects are now being accepted until March 19 for the Alaska, Midwest, North Central, Northeast, Northwest, Pacific Islands, South Central, Southeast, and Southwest regional CASCs. Eligible applicants include Principal Investigators (PIs) from USGS and regional CASC consortium organizations. Climate science and environmental grantmakers might share this grant opportunity with grantees working on ecological resilience and other related climate science issues identified in the funding announcement.

Department of Treasury

The Department announced a $9 billion fund on March 4 to give capital infusions to community development financial institutions and minority-owned banks and credit unions to boost lending to underserved communities. These financial institutions can apply for funding through the Emergency Capital Investment Program that was set up through the spending bill passed in December. Treasury’s investment will either be an equity stake or a loan that is subordinate to the institution’s other debt, depending on how the investment is treated under capital rules. Workers with lower-incomes, particularly Black and Hispanic people, have been disproportionately hurt by the coronavirus pandemic. Federal Reserve officials have said unemployment is likely above 20 percent for workers in the bottom quartile of wage earners, while it is below 5 percent for the top quarter. The new program aims to boost lenders that have a track record of helping those types of borrowers. They will receive credit for lending to certain markets, such as rural communities, in the form of a smaller dividend or interest rate that must be paid to Treasury. The institutions do not have to make those payments for the first 24 months.

Internal Revenue Service

A report released by the Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) recommended that the IRS take certain steps to increase detection of unrelated business taxable income (UBTI) of tax-exempt organizations under section 512. TIGTA made eight recommendations to help improve guidance, address compliance issues, and safeguard against reporting material errors related to UBTI. The IRS agreed with six of the eight recommendations.

Department of Veterans Affairs

The VA has announced that John Boerstler, a Marine veteran, will join the Veterans Experience Office (VEO) as the new Chief Veterans Experience Officer (CXO). This office is charged with understanding the experiences of all those who served in uniform and are served by the VA through the use interactions based on the Human-Centered Design (HCD) fundamentals. Insights gained from these interactions is used to improve the customer experience with VA health care and other benefits.

State Policy IconHappening in the States

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

National Council of Nonprofits logo

Nonprofit Property Tax Exemptions At Risk

Lawmakers in the Northeast are considering legislation affecting nonprofit property tax exemptions. New Hampshire legislators have introduced bills to require educational and other charitable organizations to annually file with the municipality for property tax exemption and to study payments in lieu of taxes. A bill pending in Maine would permit municipalities to impose an “impact fee” on property owners unless a so-called payment in lieu of taxes agreement has already been made with the charitable organization. The impact fee would be at least 50 percent of the assessed property tax value, but organizations with an annual budget of less than $50,000 would be excluded.

Nearly a dozen bills in New York would affect property tax exemptions for nonprofits depending on whether the property is leased for commercial purposes (A.4534); violates local zoning laws (A.2011/S.3965); can annually prove eligibility for the exemption (A.145/S.1954); is used in good faith for exempt purposes (S.1952); is broken down by use of each acre (S.1951); or is unimproved (A.278/S.1638). In New Jersey, a law recently signed by the Governor reinstates hospital property tax exemptions while also imposing and increasing a community service contribution rate based on the number of beds. The legislation overrides a state tax court decision that caused the removal back in 2016. The new law also prevents third parties from challenging a nonprofit’s property tax exemption. Rounding out the tri-state area, legislators in Connecticut are attempting to impose stormwater property fees on nonprofits. Nonprofits are currently exempt because the fees can only be imposed upon the “taxable” interest in real property by an owner, which does not apply to charitable nonprofits that are exempt from property taxes.

Further west, a proposed ballot measure in Arizona would amend the state Constitution to repeal property tax exemptions for educational, charitable, or religious associations or institutions and permits the state Legislature to provide the exemption.

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