Washington Snapshot

Washington Snapshot: Register for AmeriCorps CEO Meet and Greet with Philanthropy

Friday, May 13, 2022 - 1:24 pm
Stephanie Powers

What's Happening This Week...

Happening at the Council

Conversation with AmeriCorps CEO and Philanthropy

Next Monday, May 16, at noon ET, join the Council for a webinar featuring Michael D. Smith, the new CEO of AmeriCorps! Mr. Smith will be joined by Tonya Allen, President of the McKnight Foundation and Chair of the Council's Board of Directors, as well as Kathleen Enright, President and CEO of the Council. They will discuss Mr. Smith's vision for AmeriCorps and opportunities for the agency to partner with philanthropy among local communities. This webinar is co-hosted by Philanthropy for Active Civic Engagement and is free for both Council members and non-members.

Happening on the Hill

Congressional Update

With the midterm elections less than six months away and compounding crises at home and abroad, Congress is working to move key legislation, including COVID funding, a potential bipartisan retirement package, additional aid for Ukraine, and other priorities. On Tuesday, the House passed a $40 billion Ukraine aid package. It is expected to pass in the Senate in the coming days. In addition, the Senate continues to process President Biden’s nominations. On Thursday, the Senate voted to approve Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell to a second term. As we get closer to the November elections, it will become even more difficult for Congress to move legislation.

Happening in the Executive Branch

Small Business Administration Expands Rural HUBZones

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, Rural Development (RD); and the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) are collaborating to increase economic development in rural areas. SBA has expanded its Historically Underutilized Business (HUBZone) Program map to include additional rural counties. These efforts are aimed at fostering economic development in underserved and economically challenged rural areas by promoting entrepreneurship and community development. Rural funders investing in economic development partnerships in these Zones should be aware of the benefits available to small businesses in their communities, especially those owned by an Indian Tribal Government, an Alaska Native Corporation, a Community Development Corporation, a Native Hawaiian Organization, or a Small Agricultural Cooperative.

Federal Health Benefits Extended to Veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom

Veterans who served in Operation Iraqi Freedom or in the Southwest Asia Theater of Operations and other locations may now be entitled to compensation for medical conditions presumed to be related to exposure to fine particulate matter. Many philanthropies have supported veterans advocacy organizations that have fought hard for this designation. On April 25, the Department of Veterans Affairs encouraged veterans and survivors who believe they may be eligible for compensation for conditions, such as asthma and rare respiratory cancers that have emerged within a 10-year period after separation from military service, to file a claim for benefits.

Emergency Food and Shelter Funding for the Southern U.S. Border Now Available

The National Board for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program (EFSP) is charged by Congress with oversight of the EFSP. The EFSP is currently awarding $150 million to state government facilities, as well as local nonprofit and governmental organizations, that have been assisting people encountered by the Department of Homeland Security at the southern U.S. border with shelter, food, and supportive services. Awards, including reimbursements, are available to organizations addressing humanitarian needs, such as life-sustaining food and shelter expenses. Local nonprofit and governmental organizations must submit applications to the program’s local boards. To find a local board, contact EFSP or call National Board Member United Way Worldwide at (703) 706-9660.

2023 Budget Proposal Will Speed Up CDBG's Disaster Funding Process

Many philanthropic funders are aware that federal disaster funds through the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Relief program, administered by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, do not arrive speedily to devastated communities after natural disasters like floods, hurricanes, and wildfires. Unlike other federal disaster programs, such as through FEMA, HUD does not have money to quickly send out to states when disaster strikes. Congress must pass a supplemental appropriation to fill the fund when needed. This means that new grant processes and regulations must be written each time the money is appropriated. The time from disaster event to availability of funds can drag on for a year before impacted communities see the money for rebuilding and recovery.

In the Administration’s 2023 budget, President Biden proposed changes to speed up the flow of these monies to states by making the 30-year-old CDBG-DR program permanent. This would require HUD to establish consistent regulatory requirements for CDBG-DR across all future disasters, eliminating the current practice of establishing new requirements in response to each supplemental appropriation. These new rules would also emphasize assistance to disadvantaged communities and resilience priorities to better withstand future disasters. There is bipartisan support for the idea.

Funders familiar with the situation are encouraged to share stories with their Members of Congress that illustrate the hardships to their communities by the prolonged delay in receiving federal disaster recovery funds.

Happening in the States

National Council of Nonprofits

Exclusive from our colleagues at the National Council of Nonprofits.

Houses of Worship Losing Property Tax Exemptions

Administrative boards and courts across the country are re-evaluating whether property owned by religious organizations and houses of worship qualify for property tax exemption. The City of Fredericksburg, Virginia denied a property tax exemption for church property under state law because the exemption applied only “to the residence of the minister.” However, the property, occupied by the church’s youth ministers, was the only property the church claimed. The City denied the exemption based on the youth ministers’ titles and ordination status after extensive review of the church’s practices. The church appealed all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, which denied review of the case. Justice Gorsuch dissented from the denial stating, “The First Amendment does not permit bureaucrats or judges to subject religious views to verification.”

Churches in Indiana and Michigan both had property tax exemptions revoked in part or in full by tax boards. A church in Gary, Indiana, applied for a tax exemption for a parcel that included a church building and an unoccupied parsonage house that accounted for 14% of the overall property. An assessor found that only 86% of the property qualified for a tax exemption. In the Michigan case, a church and two individuals co-owned a building being used as a house of worship. The Michigan Tax Tribunal restricted tax exemptions to property owned exclusively by a religious society, not co-owned with third parties. Finally, a Tennessee administrative judge ruled this month that a church structure where charitable activities take place is exempt from property taxes, but two unimproved lots are not.

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