August 28, 2020
Note: The North Carolina Center for Nonprofits typically provides Nonprofit Policy Matters each week as a benefit to its nonprofit members. However, to help all North Carolina nonprofits respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, we're temporarily providing this newsletter to non-member nonprofits.
In this issue...
General Assembly could approve additional COVID-19 relief next week
Governor Cooper proposes Medicaid expansion and additional COVID-19 relief in state budget
Reminder: Emergency federal leave programs available to nonprofit employees
Act now: Be certain everyone you know completes the Census questionnaire  
NC Job Retention Grants application deadline next Tuesday (September 1)
Local governments may have resources for COVID-19 relief for nonprofits
National Voter Registration Day is a month away
Free resources and support for nonpartisan voter registration and voter education
General Assembly Could Approve Additional COVID-19 Relief Next Week
The NC General Assembly will return to Raleigh next week for a two-day session to consider additional COVID-19 relief for North Carolina communities. North Carolina still has about $900 million in unspent CARES Act funding. Legislators will consider appropriating much of this funding next week for ongoing needs related to the pandemic such as healthcare, childcare, support for schools, and expanded unemployment insurance coverage. If your nonprofit has insights into specific needs in your community (hint: you probably do!), contact your state Senator and Representative today to let them know how they should prioritize the state’s remaining COVID-19 relief funding.
Governor Cooper Proposes Medicaid Expansion and Additional COVID-19 Relief in State Budget
On Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper released his proposal for the state budget for FY2020-21. Many of the details of the Governor’s recommended budget would be beneficial for nonprofits, including:
  • Closing North Carolina’s health coverage gap by opting for Medicaid expansion beginning on January 1, 2021. This change would provide health coverage for nearly 600,000 North Carolinians whose incomes are too high to qualify for Medicaid but do not have enough money to purchase their own private health insurance or to receive federal support to help pay for health coverage. With ever-rising health care costs, these North Carolinians in the coverage gap are turning more and more to nonprofits to meet many of their basic needs, such as health care, food, housing, and childcare.
  • Providing $200 million in funding for state and local governments to help address the impacts of the pandemic in communities throughout the state. Counties, cities, and towns could use some of this funding to increase access to childcare and to provide grants to nonprofits offering food assistance.
  • Appropriating $50 million for assistance to food banks and other nonprofits providing food and nutrition assistance during the pandemic.
  • Providing $10 million in assistance to arts organizations that have suffered business disruption due to COVID-19 and $10 million to other museums and cultural attractions that have suffered business disruption during the pandemic.
  • Establishing a $50 million emergency grant program to help expand internet access to communities with limited connectivity.
  • Providing $40 million in funding for childcare providers and other early childhood programs.
  • Appropriating $5 million to the NC Department of Commerce to work with local nonprofits on rural downtown development projects.
  • Significantly increasing unemployment insurance (UI) benefits by raising the maximum weekly benefits from $350 per week (current law) to $500 per week and extending benefits from a maximum of 12 weeks (current law) to 24 weeks.

Normally, the Governor issues a budget proposal before the beginning of the fiscal year (which started on July 1, 2020), but Governor Cooper chose to wait until August this year in hope that Congress would have agreed on additional federal support for state and local governments in responding to the pandemic. The General Assembly is unlikely to follow many of Governor Cooper’s recommendations if it approves a state budget during next week’s session or later this year, but this proposal could be a significant starting point if legislators ultimately try to negotiate with Governor Cooper on a state budget.
Reminder: Emergency Federal Leave Programs Available to Nonprofit Employees
With public schools across North Carolina operating partially or fully remotely (varying by school district) at the start of the school year, many nonprofit employees are finding it necessary to take time off work to manage their children’s education. The Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) requires nonprofits and other employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave and 10 weeks of paid family and medical leave (FMLA) for employees who are unable to work for reasons related to COVID-19. FFCRA also provides refundable payroll tax credits to nonprofits and other employers to cover 100% of the costs of the emergency paid sick leave and emergency FMLA that their employees take during the pandemic. These tax credits ensure that nonprofits don’t bear the cost of necessary paid leave when their employees are out of work due to the pandemic.

Yesterday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued updated guidance with answers to questions about how the FFCRA FMLA applies to parents whose children are engaged in remote learning this fall (see questions 98-100 in the DOL guidance). Notably for nonprofit employees with children in remote learning:
  1. In schools operating on a hybrid system alternating days or weeks of in-person and remote learning, parents are eligible for FMLA on days when their children are engaged in remote learning, since schools are deemed “closed” on those days.
  2. Parents are not eligible for FMLA if they choose a remote learning option for their children when schools are offering the option of hybrid or in-person learning since schools are not “closed.” The guidance suggests, however, that these parents may be eligible for FMLA on the days when their children would otherwise be learning remotely in a hybrid system.
  3. In school systems that are temporarily using only remote learning but may switch to a hybrid or in-person system later in the school year, parents are eligible for FMLA during the period when all learning is taking place remotely.
Act Now: Be Certain Everyone You Know Completes the Census Questionnaire
The U.S. Census Bureau is ending its in-person operations on September 30, a month earlier than what the Bureau previously said would be necessary to ensure a complete and accurate count of all Americans in light of the delays stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. September 30 will also be the deadline for households to self-respond to the Census by mail, email, or phone.

A analysis from Carolina Demography provides more details about why an early end to the Census count is particularly problematic in North Carolina. Currently, nearly 40% of North Carolina households still have not replied to the Census, and only 5.3% of North Carolina households have been counted through the Census Bureau’s Non-Response Follow-Up. A massive undercount could cost North Carolina billions of dollars in federal funding for public schools, childcare, health care, affordable housing, food assistance, and many other programs over the next decade. It also could cost North Carolina a 14th seat in the U.S. House of Representatives for the next decade.

The call to action for nonprofit staff, volunteers, and board members is simple: Remind everyone you know to be certain that someone in their household has completed the Census questionnaire. For households that have not yet completed the Census questionnaire, there is still time to respond online, by mail, by phone, or through an in-person visit from a Census Bureau representative.
NC Job Retention Grants Application Deadline Is Next Tuesday (September 1)
Nonprofits seeking Job Retention Grants from the NC Department of Commerce must submit their applications by next Tuesday, September 1. The $15 million Job Retention Grant program is open to businesses and nonprofits that: (1) maintained 90% of payroll during the early part of the COVID-19 pandemic; (2) had at least a 10% reduction in gross receipts from the same period in 2019; and (3) did not receive federal loans through the Paycheck Protection Program or the Main Street Lending Program. The Center worked with legislators to ensure that nonprofits would be eligible for this job retention grant program.

For more information on the Job Retention Grants program, check out FAQs from the NC Department of Commerce and the recording of the informational webinar hosted by the Center earlier this month. The NC Department of Commerce encourages nonprofits to review the required documents and information before beginning the application.
Local Governments May Have Resources for COVID-19 Relief for Nonprofits
In the past few weeks, the City of Charlotte has used $1 million of its CARES Act funding to provide COVID-19 relief for arts and cultural organizations and Guilford County created a $500,000 relief fund for arts nonprofits. As Arts North Carolina explains, this is not just good news for arts organizations in Charlotte and Guilford County, but potentially for nonprofits throughout the state since all 100 North Carolina counties and many cities have access to CARES Act funding. The Arts North Carolina blog post includes suggestions for ways arts organizations and other nonprofits can advocate for local government officials to use some of this money to provide business interruption grants to support to their organizations during the pandemic.
National Voter Registration Day Is Just Over Three Weeks Away
National Voter Registration Day (September 22) is less than a month away! National Voter Registration Day is a great opportunity for nonprofits to ensure that their staff, volunteers, and community members are registered to vote. Sign up to join the nationwide effort to register hundreds of thousands of voters on September 22. As an official partner, your nonprofit will receive a free voter registration kit and access to other opportunities to support your nonpartisan voter registration work.

Nonprofit VOTE is offering a free webinar next Wednesday, September 2 at 2 p.m. with tips on how your organization can promote your National Voter Registration Day event.
Free Resources and Support for Nonpartisan Voter Registration and Voter Education
The COVID-19 pandemic has forced many nonprofits to rethink their plans for in-person voter registration and voter education work this year. To help North Carolina nonprofits navigate the changing landscape of nonpartisan voter registration and voter education, You Can Vote launched its Voting Rights Champion program to provide accurate, easy-to-read, bilingual resources on voter registration and the election process in North Carolina. Become a Voting Rights Champion to get access to free resources and support to ensure that voters in your nonprofit’s community can successfully cast their ballots this fall.

You Can Vote also provides Voter FAQs with clear, accurate, and nonpartisan answers to a variety of common questions about the 2020 election process in North Carolina, including absentee voting by mail (it will be very popular this year), the process for requesting an absentee ballot (it’s best to start the process sooner rather than later!), photo ID (not required this year), and voter fraud (it’s extremely rare). The Center encourages all nonprofits to read these FAQs and share them with their staff, boards, volunteers, and the people they serve.
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Nonprofit Policy Matters is a weekly newsletter for current members of the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits. We track state and federal policy issues that affect all 501(c)(3) nonprofits. Learn about the Center's public policy priorities. For more information, contact David Heinen, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy.