Washington Snapshot

Washington Snapshot: New U.S. Census Bureau Data on the Socioeconomic Impact of COVID-19

Friday, December 3, 2021 - 1:30 pm
Stephanie Powers

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

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Public Policy Action Network

In 2022, the Council will launch the Public Policy Action Network, a group of foundation leaders and staff using their voices, experiences, and networks to engage and educate federal elected officials to foster a policy environment in which philanthropy can thrive. As part of this Network, you will participate in monthly Policy Updates from the Council, assist with scheduling annual meetings with your members of Congress, and enjoy additional opportunities to engage with policymakers and be an advocate for foundations. Council members can join today.

Congress IconCongress Set to Keep Government Open Until February

With government funding set to expire this week, both the House and Senate voted to pass a continuing resolution, which keeps the government open until February 18, 2022. Also included in the bill is an additional $7 billion for Afghan refugee resettlement. While passing a continuing resolution solves the problem of government funding in the short term, it also sets the stage for additional negotiations to come in February, when pundits speculate Congress will seek to pass an omnibus that funds the government through FY2022, which ends September 30, 2022.

Executive & Regulatory News IconThe President's Democracy Summit: December 9-10

President Biden will host the U.S. Summit for Democracy on December 9-10 for leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector. The Summit will focus on challenges and opportunities facing democracies and will provide a platform for leaders to announce both individual and collective commitments, reforms, and initiatives to defend democracy and human rights at home and abroad.

Invited governments are being asked to develop commitments focused on strengthening their own democracies in three areas – fighting corruption, countering authoritarianism, and promoting human rights. A second Summit in 2022 will be convened to review progress made and forge a common path ahead.

This year’s Summit will be virtual and can be viewed on the live stream on the State Department’s Summit for Democracy website. Of note, civil society organizations have independently coordinated virtual sessions around the Summit that will run December 2- 8. Learn how to register for these sessions and use #SummitForDemocracy on social media to promote the event.

Executive & Regulatory News IconYellen and Powell Testify on Economic Recovery

This week, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified in both the House and Senate about the nation's current economic state. Chairman Powell detailed challenges to the ongoing economic recovery, including the newly identified omicron COVID-19 variant, supply chain issues, and inflation. Secretary Yellen praised Congress’s recent passage of the bipartisan infrastructure framework and called for the Senate to pass the Build Back Better Act. She also echoed her earlier concerns about the debt limit. Without congressional action, the federal government is set to hit the debt ceiling later this month, which experts—including Secretary Yellen herself—have suggested would have severe negative implications for the economy.

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U.S. Census Bureau Data on the Effects of COVID-19 on American Households

The Bureau has updated the functionality of a variety of data resources and tools on the social and economic effects of COVID-19 on American households and small businesses. Funders and grantees in need of local data to identify the most vulnerable populations in their regions can utilize the Community Resilience Estimates (CRE) Dashboard. For other COVID-related impacts information:

Funders should note that the Census Bureau’s data equity tools are a key resource for federal agencies and local governments in planning the distribution of federal funds. Data Gems is a series of "how-to" videos for users who are looking for an easy and quick way to understand the multitude of data tools. Reach the Census data scientists at census.data@census.gov.

State Policy IconHappening in the States

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

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States Enacting a Patchwork of Conflicting Vaccination Restrictions

In recent weeks, a dozen states have convened special sessions in opposition to federal vaccination and testing requirements. As one writer has observed, “Many of the new anti-vaccine mandate laws are either symbolic or vulnerable to federal preemption, or in some cases both.” However, the new state laws are setting the stage for further litigation, while creating confusion for nonprofits and other employers trying to keep their workplaces safe. The laws address numerous issues, ranging from clarifications to outright bans. Here is a summary:

  • Clarification of Exemptions: Many of the laws align with federal regulations by exempting employees with medical conditions or religious objections (AlabamaArkansasIowaNorth DakotaUtahWest Virginia). The Kansas law requires employers to accept claims for these exemptions without any questions. Florida went much further and expanded enforceable exemptions to include pregnancy or anticipated future pregnancy, and past recovery from COVID-19.
  • Banning Proof of Vaccination: Both North Dakota and Tennessee now prohibit employers from requiring employees to show they have been vaccinated – a provision directly in conflict with federal regulations.
  • Paying for Testing: Employers in ArkansasFlorida, and Utah must pay for employee COVID tests, although Arkansas may spend some American Rescue Plan Act funds for this purpose.
  • Unemployment Insurance Eligibility: ArkansasIowa, and Tennessee expressly state that employees who lose their jobs for refusing to get vaccinated remain eligible for unemployment benefits. The Iowa law makes clear that an employer’s contribution rate or experience rating under the state's unemployment system would not be affected, and no penalties would be imposed. It is unclear whether this protection extends to reimbursing employers. Learn more about unemployment insurance and the different types of employers.
  • Outlawing Vaccination Mandates: The states going the farthest in banning employer vaccination mandates are FloridaTexas (by executive order), and West Virginia.

It must be noted, however, that not all activities in the states are hostile to vaccinations and workplace safety protocols. The Mayor of New York City issued an executive order mandating that all city workers and city-contracted nonprofit workers get vaccinated. Vermont’s Governor signed a bill allowing municipalities to adopt their own temporary indoor mask mandates. In addition, not all special sessions resulted in new laws. Only one of the 36 bills introduced in Idaho’s special session made it past the state’s Senate: a non-binding memorial expressing disapproval of vaccine mandates.

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