August 7, 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 crisis, we're temporarily providing this newsletter to non-member nonprofits.
In this issue...
Census Bureau plans to end Census count a month early
President signs law to improve UI process for self-insured nonprofits
NC Job Retention grants application now open for nonprofits
White House and Congress continue negotiations over additional COVID-19 relief 
North Carolina extends Phase 2 of COVID-19 reopening through September 11
Free resources and support for nonpartisan voter registration and voter education
Help identify legal needs for the community your nonprofit serves
United Way of North Carolina survey assesses impact of pandemic on North Carolinians
Free webinar on nonpartisan candidate engagement as events move online
Census Bureau Plans to End Census Count a Month Early
This week, the U.S. Census Bureau announced that it would be 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. 

The Census Bureau has indicated that a reason for ending the Census count early is to meet a December 31 statutory deadline for submitting final Census numbers for the apportionment of congressional districts for the next decade. This week, the Center joined nearly 900 other organizations asking Congress to extend this deadline to give the Census Bureau more time to get a complete count. 

An early end to the Census count is particularly problematic in North Carolina, where more than 40% of households still have not replied to the Census. 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. The NC Counts Coalition has excellent resources to help nonprofits get-out-the-count in their communities.
President Signs Law to Improve UI Process for Self-Insured Nonprofits
On Monday, President Donald Trump signed into law the Protecting Nonprofits from Catastrophic Cash Flow Strain Act (S. 4209), which clarifies that self-insured nonprofits do not have to pay 100% of their unemployment bill upfront and wait for repayment from the state. This fixes problematic guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor requiring nonprofits to fully reimburse states for the costs of their COVID-19 related unemployment insurance (UI) claims and then seek reimbursement of the money they just paid. Both houses of Congress unanimously approved the bill earlier this month. 

For self-insured nonprofits in North Carolina, this new law means they will not be charged for their COVID-19 related UI claims. The CARES Act provides funding for 50% of the cost of nonprofits’ UI claims, and the state of North Carolina is not charging nonprofits for the other 50% of these costs.
NC Job Retention Grant Application Now Open for Nonprofits
Yesterday, the NC Department of Commerce opened its application for the Job Retention Grant program. This new $15 million 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. The NC Department of Commerce encourages nonprofits to review the required documents and information before beginning the application.

The Center and NC Department of Commerce are offering a free webinar today at 11 a.m. to provide more information about this grant opportunity. If your nonprofit is interested in applying for a grant, we strongly encourage you to join the webinar.
White House and Congress Continue Negotiations Over Additional COVID-19 Relief
Leaders in Congress and the White House continue to negotiate COVID-19 relief legislation this week. The negotiations have taken on greater urgency since the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) program, which provides $600 per week in supplemental unemployment insurance (UI) benefits to workers who are unemployed due to COVID-19, expired last week. 

These expanded federal UI benefits are particularly important to North Carolinians who are out of work since our state UI benefits, which are capped at $350 per week, are among the lowest in the country. The expiration of these supplemental benefits means that many nonprofit employees who have been furloughed or laid off are experiencing a steep decrease in their UI benefits this week. It is also creating greater demand for many nonprofits’ services as hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians who are out of work are losing nearly two-thirds of their weekly UI benefits and now must rely more on nonprofits to provide for basic needs like food, rental assistance, and healthcare. 

Several provisions being considered in the COVID-19 relief bills would affect the work of nonprofits, including:
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Expansion. Thousands of North Carolina nonprofits received forgivable PPP loans over the past few months. Nonprofits would like to see funding for additional and expanded PPP loans. The RESTART Act (S.3814), a bipartisan U.S. Senate bill to expand the PPP, is problematic because most nonprofits would only receive forgiveness for 70% of their future loan amounts, while for-profit businesses would generally be able to have 90% of their loans forgiven. Nonprofits are advocating for a loan program that includes equitable treatment of nonprofits and for-profit companies.
  • Funding for State and Local Governments. Even with the federal support from the CARES Act, the state of North Carolina is facing a budget shortfall of more than $4 billion for the current fiscal year, and local governments across the state are also being forced to make significant budget cuts. Nonprofits are advocating for additional federal funding to support state and local government needs. At the very least, it is important for Congress to provide states and local governments with flexibility to use unspent CARES Act funds to fill budget holes.
  • Universal Charitable Deduction. The CARES Act created a very limited universal charitable deduction (capped at $300) for 2020. Nonprofits continue to advocate for Congress to expand this provision to allow all taxpayers to deduct their charitable contributions up to one-third of the standard deduction (more than $4,000 for individuals, and more than $8,000 for married couples filing jointly). This expansion would be a much more meaningful way to increase charitable giving to help nonprofits respond to the pandemic.
  • Employee Retention Tax Credit. The CARES Act included a very limited Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) that was only available to businesses and nonprofits that did not receive PPP loans and suffered severe economic loss due to the pandemic. The next COVID-19 relief bill could significantly increase the value of the ERTC, ease eligibility standards so that more nonprofits can use this payroll tax credit, and enable businesses and nonprofits that received PPP loans to also use the ERTC. The expanded ERTC could be a significant new financial relief program for nonprofits that suffered economic harm due to the pandemic.
  • Unemployment Coverage for Self-Insured Nonprofits. The CARES Act provided federal funds to cover 50% of the COVID-19 related unemployment insurance (UI) costs of self-insured nonprofits (i.e. organizations that elect to reimburse their state unemployment trust funds for UI claims rather than pay state unemployment insurance). Nonprofits are asking for the federal government to cover 100% of these costs. As noted above, the state of North Carolina is picking up the other 50% of the costs for North Carolina nonprofits.
  • Appropriations. Nonprofits have asked Congress to pass the Work Opportunities and Resources to Keep Nonprofit Organizations Well Act (WORK NOW Act), which would provide $50 billion in grants to nonprofits that have experienced increased demand for services during the pandemic.
North Carolina Extends Phase 2 of COVID-19 Reopening Through
September 11
On Wednesday, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 155, extending Phase 2 of the re-opening of the state’s economy by five more weeks until September 11 at 5 p.m. This executive order comes after COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in North Carolina have continued to remain at high levels. Some notable provisions in the Governor’s Phase 2 executive orders for nonprofits include:
  • Childcare providers, day camps, and overnight camps may remain open, but they must follow NC Department of Health and Human Service guidelines, screen individuals every day, and immediately isolate sick service providers, counselors, or children. Under the Executive Order, camp counselors and staff and children aged 11 and over would be required to wear masks at camps.
  • Mass gatherings remain limited to 10 people indoors and 25 people outside.
  • Parks, trails, and swimming pools may remain open with safety precautions in place.
  • Retail stores (such as nonprofit thrift stores) may remain open at 50% of their fire code capacity.
  • Theaters, gyms, indoor exercise facilities, and charitable bingo venues are among the types of venues that must remain closed to the general public. However, the NC Department of Health and Human Services has issued interim guidance on ways that gyms, exercise facilities, and fitness facilities may re-open for individuals who need to use these facilities for medical purposes.
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 recently launched its Voting Rights Champion program. This program provides accurate, up-to-date, easy-to-read, bilingual (English/Spanish) 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 has prepared an updated Voter FAQ that provides clear, accurate, and nonpartisan answers to a variety of common questions about the 2020 election process in North Carolina. The FAQ includes answers to common questions about 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.
Help Identify Legal Needs for the Community Your Nonprofit Serves
The NC Equal Access to Justice Commission and NC Equal Justice Alliance are conducting a survey to assess the civil legal needs of low-income communities across the state. Nonprofits that provide direct services are often the first to identify their clients’ legal needs. The Center encourages nonprofits that provide services to low-income communities to take 20 minutes to complete this survey to help NC Equal Access to Justice Commission, legal aid programs, and stakeholders set priorities and ensure that limited legal resources are allocated to the areas of greatest need. Individual survey responses will be confidential.
United Way of North Carolina Survey Assesses Impact of Pandemic on North Carolinians
The United Way of North Carolina has launched a COVID-19 Impact Survey to learn more about the impact of the pandemic on individuals and families in every community of North Carolina. This 10-minute survey is available for every household – in English and Spanish – to complete by August 21. The Center encourages nonprofits to consider sharing the survey link with their staff, board, volunteers, and the people they serve.
Free Webinar on Nonpartisan Candidate Engagement as Events Move Online
In recent elections, nonprofits have used nonpartisan candidate forums, nonpartisan candidate questionnaires, and nonpartisan participation in campaign events to help inform their communities about choices on the ballot. Although in-person events will be limited this year and many campaigns are choosing digital outreach to prioritize the safety of the community, there is still a role for nonprofits to play. Nonprofit VOTE is offering a free webinar on Thursday, August 13 from 2-3 p.m. that will cover why candidate engagement matters, remaining nonpartisan, and ways to adapt to online platforms.
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.

Your Center membership allows each staff member, board member, and key volunteer in your organization to set up their own online account to access member resources, benefits and services. Encourage everyone to create an account.