Washington Snapshot

Washington Snapshot: Congress Juggles Government Funding and Presidential Priorities

Friday, September 24, 2021 - 1:00 pm
Stephanie Powers

What You Need to Know About Public Policy This Week...

  • News From the Council
  • Congress Juggles Government Funding and Presidential Priorities
  • Operation Allies Welcome: Assisting Afghanistan Nationals' Resettlement in the U.S. 
  • Child Tax Credit Sign-Up Deadline: October 15
  • Senate Confirms Batchelder to Top Tax Post
  • IRS Rules on Private Foundation Grants
  • Happening in the States

News IconNews from the Council

Join the Council on November 4 for the 2021 virtual Public Policy Summit. Top government officials and national policy experts will convene with leaders in philanthropy. See our full schedule and register

Recently, the Council published a roadmap for foundations seeking to advance their missions and goals through public policy. Public Policy and Advocacy for Grantmakers is free to all Council members. The Council also developed a new resource on preventing funding of hate groups. Check out the free white paper, Values-Aligned Philanthropy: Foundations Resisting Hate and Extremism, and the accompanying online resource center. Register for the values-aligned philanthropy webinar on October 5.

Congress IconCongress Juggles Government Funding and Presidential Priorities

With government funding set to expire at the end of this month, House Democrats passed a Continuing Resolution (CR) that would keep the government open until early December. Included in the CR is an increase of the debt ceiling, which the Treasury Department is poised to hit some time in October without an increase. The CR is unlikely to make it out of the Senate, where Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has said his party will refuse to pass any legislation extending the debt limit.

If government funding expires next week, the government will shut down, cutting off some key federal services. Additionally, if the debt ceiling is not increased before the Treasury runs out of money, the government will be forced to stop meeting some of its obligations, including paying some federal employees and making some pension payments. According to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, continued debate without congressional action will likely lead to reduced consumer confidence as well as reduced trust in the American government, with a failure to increase the debt ceiling prompting renewed economic crises.

Complicating matters, congressional Democrats are continuing efforts to pass major presidential priorities, including the bipartisan infrastructure deal and the larger budget reconciliation bill, with President Biden meeting with key Democrats this week to identify a path forward.

Executive & Regulatory News IconOperation Allies Welcome: Assisting Afghanistan Nationals' Resettlement in the U.S.

The White House Office of Public Engagement reported this week that 130,000 Afghan nationals are currently at State Department Refugee Processing Facilities. Once they receive credentials to stay in the United States, including work authorization cards and documentation to seek housing and employment, the new residents will be provided with resources and passage to 130 cities across the nation that are preparing to welcome them. Significant immediate resources are needed, including food, clothing, housing, access to places of worship, culturally competent transition assistance, and mental health services. Philanthropic entities wishing to provide assistance should consult the State Department-approved resettlement agencies or the Office of Global Partnership at AfghanPartnerships@state.gov, if interested in assisting with long term needs, such as community integration for the new arrivals. Federal coordination of Operation Allies Welcome is being led by the Department of Homeland Security.  

Executive & Regulatory News IconChild Tax Credit Sign-Up Deadline: October 15

To receive the advance payments of the Child Tax Credit (CTC), families that have not filed a 2021 tax return and are not signed up yet for the CTC must take action to sign up by October 15, 2021. The Internal Revenue Service, with Code for America, has created a new bilingual, mobile-friendly sign-up tool that simplifies the process for these families. Philanthropic funders are urged to support local organizations doing outreach to eligible families or providing navigators to help people sign up. The next round of child tax credit payments is scheduled for October 15; additional payments will continue each month through the end of the year. Note: without congressional action, the credit will expire in December. If families miss the sign-up deadline, the full credit can be received in 2022. If they file a full 2021 income tax return next year, they may be eligible to receive additional benefits, including the three federal stimulus checks sent previously and the Earned Income Tax Credit.

Congress IconSenate Confirms Batchelder to Top Tax Post

Earlier this week, the Senate confirmed Lily Batchelder as Treasury’s Assistant Secretary for Tax Policy in the Department of the Treasury. Previously, the Assistant Secretary served on President Biden’s transition team; as chief counsel in the Senate Finance Committee; and most recently as the Robert C. Kopple Family Professor of Taxation at New York University.

Executive & Regulatory News IconIRS Rules on Private Foundation Grants

The IRS issued a ruling on private foundation grants to a supporting organization to be used by a city. These grants will constitute qualifying distributions and will not be taxable expenditures.

State Policy IconHappening in the States

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

National Council of Nonprofits logo

County and City Commissioners Take Lead

Nearly all of the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds, which President Biden signed into law in March and accounts for $240 billion, have been distributed to state, territorial, local, and Tribal governments in the past six months, according to a new report by the U.S. Treasury. Localities have been the most active in allocating their funds. In New Hampshire, the County of Cheshire issued a Notice of Funding Opportunity “to provide assistance to help nonprofits impacted by COVID-19.” Grants from $1,000 to $20,000 will be approved for eligible nonprofits to “reimburse the costs of operational interruptions caused by required closure” due to the pandemic. Commissioners in Camden County, New Jersey approved $8 million for grants of up to $50,000 to nonprofits serving vulnerable and at-need populations or providing on-demand pandemic-focused services. Similarly, officials in Franklin County, Ohio have allocated $5 million for grants of up to $50,000 for nonprofits serving lower-income households and up to $25,000 for other nonprofit organizations.

City officials in ColoradoDelawareMaryland, and North Carolina have all included nonprofits in their allocations of ARPA funding. Denver extended the Nonprofit Emergency Relief Fund, created last year under the CARES Act, and has added $485,000 from ARPA funds for nonprofit grants of up to $15,000. Baltimore Mayor Scott announced nonprofits may apply for some of the city’s $641 million allocation with a focus on community-based violence reduction, recovery, and equity. The City of Wilmington is setting aside $700,000 for grants to nonprofit organizations, including $200,000 reserved for arts groups. “Like everyone, nonprofits have been challenged throughout the pandemic, but they have also been one of our greatest resources,” Mayor Bill Saffo stated in a city press release, “[Nonprofits] have been and continue to be on the frontlines and on the ground helping our community recover and become more resilient.” Asheville, NC officials approved eleven categories to distribute its $7.3 million of ARPA monies, including some nonprofit priorities: affordable housing, care for aging residents, community communication, domestic violence prevention, food systems, homelessness, workforce development, and climate change.

In Focus: Redistricting and Nonprofits

Redistricting has begun in earnest across the country with various groups, mostly determined by the partisan makeup of the state legislatures, vying for power to create the boundary lines for state legislative and congressional districts. Adjustments to the lines through gerrymandered districts can give the political party in control of drawing the lines the ability to influence election outcomes. Some states have implemented less partisan or nonpartisan redistricting commissions, while others hold public hearings, invite residents to draw maps, or are required to consider maps drawn and submitted by the public. Ultimately, the outcome of redistricting decisions can affect the influence of charitable nonprofits. As David Heinen at the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits explains, “Pragmatically, gerrymandering means that most elected officials listen more closely to their partisan political donors than to the constituents whom they ostensibly represent. Since 501(c)(3) nonprofits are the voices of their communities but are not (and should not be) political donors, gerrymandering significantly reduces nonprofits' influence on public policy.” In addition, read the US Conference of Mayors’ letter to congressional leaders, expressing strong support for the nonprofit policy agenda as reflected in the Charitable Nonprofits Policy Priorities Letter supporting all nonprofits.

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