Policy News

July 12 Federal Update: Advocating for State Relief Funds in American Rescue Plan

Alliance
July 23, 2021

The National Council of Nonprofits (NCN), one of our coalition partners, recently released the special report, Strengthening State and Local Economies in Partnership with Nonprofits: Principles, Recommendations, and Models for Investing Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds. In the American Rescue Plan passed in March, Congress allocated $350 billion to states, localities, tribes, and territories to help communities recover from the pandemic, and expressly stated that nonprofits should be partners with government entities and recipients of these funds. In the report, NCN presents guiding principles for governments in identifying the best use of these dollars with nonprofit partners. In particular, the report states, governments should prioritize equity, invest in economic multipliers like nonprofits, work quickly to distribute funds, and encourage accountability and transparency. The report also outlines existing state plans and programs that engage nonprofits in the use of state and local funds.

We encourage you to join us in advocating for nonprofit relief funding for your organization and community. View and customize this sample letter and send it to your governor and state legislators urging them to prioritize nonprofits in the distribution of American Rescue Plan funds.

Biden’s Team Takes on Balancing Act with Congress on Infrastructure 

With President Joe Biden having reached a tentative deal on physical infrastructure with a bipartisan group of senators last month, the race is on to work out the minute details of the $1.2 trillion bill. Staffers are still waiting on a revenue estimate from the Congressional Budget Office and some conservative groups are voicing objections to the IRS enforcement aspects of the bill. Meanwhile, a larger, separate human capital bill, which includes provisions on child care, health care, education, and climate change, is gaining steam in the Senate. Democrats hope to pass that bill through a budgetary maneuver called reconciliation, which allows them to circumvent the filibuster and pass a bill with 50, rather than 60, votes.

The initial negotiations among democrats focus on the top line number. Though Biden has expressed interest in a bill that runs up to $4.5 trillion financed by increased taxes on corporations and the wealthy, his team will have work to build consensus, since Democrats cannot afford to lose a single member of their 50-member caucus in the Senate to pass a bill through reconciliation. Senate Budget Committee Chair Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) is pushing for a $6 trillion bill that encompasses many of Biden’s policies but also allows Medicare to negotiate drug prices, among other things. Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.V.), the most moderate democrat in the Senate, has announced he will not go above $2 trillion; he also opposes Biden’s plan to raise corporate taxes from 21% to 28%, opting for 25% instead.

The timing and sequencing of the bills also present massive challenges. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) says that he wants both the bipartisan and reconciliation bills to be considered simultaneously before the August recess, which leaves little time for differences to be worked out. Multiple committees in the House and Senate must provide input into both bills before they can be moved to the floor. Moreover, Republicans who signed onto the bipartisan bill are unhappy that Democrats are insisting both bills move through the process on parallel tracks. They are pushing to pass the bipartisan bill as soon as possible, and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is pressuring moderate democrats to abandon the reconciliation bill altogether.

Last week, President Biden visited Traverse City, Michigan; La Crosse, Wisconsin; and Crystal Lake, Illinois, to tout both bills.

Sources: New York Times, The Hill, POLITICO, CBS, ABC

Charitable Giving Policy Updates

In recent weeks, new reports on charitable giving trends during the pandemic have been released. At the beginning of the pandemic, nonprofit sustainability was a concern. However, the sector was able to turn the corner and stay afloat due to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and other relief supports. According to a new report from the Center of Effective Philanthropy, the PPP played a big role in buoying the budgets of many nonprofits last year.

In June, Giving USA released its annual report on charitable giving, which includes information on giving by corporations, foundations, individuals, and bequests. According to that report, charitable giving hit a record high of $471.44 billion in 2020. However, when adjusted for inflation, giving by individuals only increased by one percent. It also is important to note that these numbers were further inflated by large gifts by MacKenzie Scott in July and December of last year. Corporate giving, on the other hand, dropped by 7.3% in 2020. The change in overall giving varied among different segments of the sector. For example, donations to religious nonprofits were flat, donations to health organizations dropped by 4.2%, and donations to the arts dropped by 8.6%. 

The Charitable Giving Coalition, of which Alliance-COA is a member, issued a statement commenting, “While we’re encouraged by the initial increase in giving in 2020, the sector is still not out of the woods.” It also observed, “Nonprofit employment remains down from 2019 levels, with 800,000 fewer jobs now than before the pandemic.”

Source: National Council of Nonprofits

RISE from Trauma Act Reintroduced

Sens. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), and Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) have reintroduced the RISE from Trauma Act (S. 2086). The bill would expand the trauma-informed workforce in schools, health care settings, social services, first responders, and the juvenile justice system and increase resources for communities to address the impact of trauma. The first part of the bill, focused on community programming, would authorize grants of up to $6 million to local coordinating bodies to address community trauma, prevention, and resilience, and must include representatives from mental health, human services, child welfare, health care, education, workforce, and more. This program would be authorized at $600 million per year. It would also expand the performance partnership pilot program for children who have experienced or are at risk for trauma. It addresses hospital-based interventions to reduce readmissions and promotes training certification guidelines for key community leads. The second part of the bill focuses on workforce issues. It emphasizes training and recruiting individuals with lived experience, funds the National Health Service Corps, funds Infant and Early Childhood Mental Health Clinical Leadership Program, provides trauma-informed teaching and school leadership tools for front-line providers, funds the Children Exposed to Violence and Addiction Initiative, and establishes a law enforcement child and youth trauma coordinating center. Alliance-COA has endorsed this legislation for the second time.

Bill Increasing SNAP Benefits Introduced in Congress

On June 23, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-N.C.) introduced the Closing the Meal Gap Act of 2021 in the Senate and House, respectively. The bill aims to address the rising cost of food and the escalating number of Americans who face food insecurity. In particular, the bill would raise the baseline benefit amount of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) by calculating benefits based off the Low-Cost Food Plan, rather than the Thrifty Food Plan. The bill would also eliminate time limits for all Americans and strengthen access to needed benefits for individuals and families that face high medical costs and costs of living. The bill is projected to increase SNAP benefits by $80 per month for single parents of one child and by $150 per month for families of four. 

Transparency around Federal Spending on Children the Focus of Two New Bills

On June 23, Sens. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) introduced the Focus on Children Act and the Children’s Budget Act, which would require the Office of Management and Budget and the Congressional Budget Office to produce parallel reports on proposed and actual federal investments in children on a yearly basis. In addition, the Focus on Children Act would create a public website that illustrates federal spending on children’s programs, and the Children’s Budget Act would provide a more detailed breakdown of children’s spending by agency and initiative. Provisions in these bills would provide much-needed transparency on federal spending on children, a topic that has not been tracked by the federal government. According to First Focus, the total share of federal spending on children declined by 8.6% from 2016 to 2020. Meanwhile, almost one in seven children live in poverty.

Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund Dispersed to States

The Administration for Children and Families has allocated $994.5 million to states, the District of Columbia, tribes, and territories through the Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund (PEAF). Part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, which passed in March, PEAF dollars will complement already existing Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) funds. Unlike TANF, PEAF will provide cash and other benefits for immediate and acute hardship episodes that last no longer than four months. Potential uses include emergency housing and food aid, utility assistance, clothing allowance, and funds for back-to-school expenses. These short-term, non-recurrent benefits will help families meet immediate needs and recover from the pandemic.

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About Alliance

With millions of children, adults, and families across the nation experiencing barriers to achieving their full potential, the Alliance for Strong Families and Communities works with thousands of committed social sector leaders to help their organizations more positively impact their communities. During this time of immense change in our field, the imperative for our network to be strong, excellent, distinct, and influential has never been greater. Rooted in the historic cause of advancing equity for all people, the Alliance today is a national strategic action network driven by members aligned through shared ownership and a common vision to achieve a healthy and equitable society. The Alliance for Strong Families and Communities represents a network of hundreds member organizations across the U.S. The member network is comprised of private human-serving nonprofits that provide direct services to children, families, adults, and communities and state or regional federations, councils, and associations.