September 11, 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...
U.S. Senate unable to pass scaled-down COVID-19 relief legislation
Governor signs COVID-19 relief legislation with significant nonprofit funding
U.S. House committee examines impact of early end to Census enumeration
Act now: Be certain everyone you know completes the Census questionnaire  
Absentee ballot requests now available online
National Voter Registration Day is just 11 days away
Free resources and support for nonpartisan voter registration and voter education
U.S. Senate Unable to Pass Scaled-Down COVID-19 Relief Legislation
Yesterday, the U.S. Senate voted down a new scaled-down COVID-19 relief bill. The Senate voted on the bill mostly along party lines, so the bill didn’t receive the 60 votes necessary to pass. Even though the Senate didn’t pass this proposal, it signals the next step in the (very slow moving) negotiations between the two major political parties over the next iteration of COVID-19 relief. Notable provisions in the bill for nonprofits include:
  • Universal Charitable Deduction. The bill would have increased the universal deduction in the CARES Act from $300 per tax taxpayer to $600 for individuals and $1,200 for married couples filing jointly. It would not have extended the temporary charitable giving incentive beyond its current expiration date of December 31, 2020. To help prevent tax fraud, the bill also would have doubled the penalty for non-itemizers who overstated the amount of their donations. This provision is an encouraging sign for nonprofits, since neither the previous Senate relief bill (the HEALS Act) nor the HEROES Act that passed the House in May would have improved upon the universal charitable deduction from the CARES Act. 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 couple filing jointly). 
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The bill would have created a second round of PPP loans, limited to employers with 300 or fewer employees that experienced a 35% decline in “gross receipts” in any quarter of 2020. The calculation of “gross receipts” would have been problematic for many nonprofits, since it would have excluded federal grants and many foundation grants. The bill also would have simplified the PPP loan forgiveness process for borrowers (including many nonprofits) receiving loans of $150,000 or less. 
  • Unemployment Compensation. The bill would have provided for $300 per week in supplemental unemployment insurance benefits for workers who have been laid off or furloughed due to COVID-19. This is only half of the $600 weekly benefits provided through July 31 in the CARES Act. Unlike the HEALS Act, the latest Senate proposal does not increase the federal reimbursement for self-insured nonprofits. Regardless of what Congress does, North Carolina is holding self-insured nonprofits harmless for the cost of their COVID-19 related UI claims.
  • No State and Local Government Funding. The bill included no additional support for state and local governments. Its only support for state and local governments – the extension of the deadline to use CARES Act money through September 30, 2021 – would not have mattered in North Carolina since the General Assembly just approved the appropriations of the remainder of the state’s CARES Act funding.
  • Liability Relief. Many nonprofits have expressed concern about the possibility of legal liability if someone who has been in their facilities contracts COVID-19 and sues the nonprofit. This is a particular concern since many insurance providers are excluding COVID-19 claims from coverage. Like the HEALS Act, the latest Senate bill would have limited liability for nonprofits and businesses for personal injuries arising from alleged COVID-19 exposure at their facilities. This provision would have complemented a new North Carolina law that provides limited immunity for nonprofits, businesses, and individuals (including nonprofit volunteers and board members) from claims of transmission of COVID-19. 

With the failure of this latest COVID-19 relief package in the Senate, it is unclear how leaders in Congress and the White House will move forward with negotiations on much-needed relief for nonprofits, individuals, and businesses that continue to struggle during the pandemic. After the Senate’s vote yesterday, the National Council of Nonprofits and other national organizations issued a statement explaining why it is essential to communities across the country for Congress to pass additional relief legislation soon. The statement concludes: “It is imperative that Congress enact significant bipartisan coronavirus relief legislation as soon as possible. Final legislation should include not only an increase to the universal charitable deduction and extend that deduction at least through 2021, but it should also extend a new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to nonprofits of all sizes, expand refundable payroll tax credits, provide forgivable loans to mid-size and large nonprofits that have thus far been unable to access this necessary aid, provide full unemployment benefit reimbursement for nonprofits that self-insure, and continue emergency funding programs to provide nonprofits with financial support to maintain services protecting vulnerable families and frontline responders. These are all provisions with broad bipartisan support in both chambers.”
Governor Signs COVID-19 Relief Legislation with Significant Nonprofit Funding
Last Friday, Governor Roy Cooper signed into law the Coronavirus Relief Act 3.0 (H.B. 1105), which appropriates the final $900 million of North Carolina’s COVID-19 relief funding from the federal CARES Act. More than $145 million of this funding was allocated to a wide range of nonprofits, including food banks, arts organizations, YMCAs, free and charitable clinics, nonprofit residential facilities, domestic violence agencies, and sexual assault centers. The Center has prepared a comprehensive list of nonprofit funding in the bill, including details on the process for disbursing funds to nonprofits and limitations on use of these funds. The appropriations to support the work of nonprofits are the result of months of effective advocacy by dozens of organizations across the state.

In addition to the significant funding for many nonprofits, the COVID-19 relief bill includes several provisions that could help nonprofits recover from the pandemic. These provisions include:
  • Adding $45.5 million in new funding for the Job Retention Grant Program, which provides grants of up to $250,000 to nonprofits and businesses that suffered economic loss during the pandemic and did not receive loans through the Paycheck Protection Program or Main Street Lending Program. This should help ensure that nonprofits that applied for grants prior to September 1 receive close to the maximum amount of funding for which they are eligible.
  • Increasing the amount of unemployment insurance (UI) benefits for North Carolinians by $50 per week for the remainder of 2020. This will temporarily increase the maximum benefit amount to $400 per week.
  • Providing state matching funds for the new temporary federal program providing for $400 per week in supplemental UI benefits for workers who have been laid off or furloughed because of COVID-19; without these matching funds, these workers only would have received $300 per week in supplemental benefits. (From the beginning of the pandemic through the end of July, these workers had received $600 per week in supplemental UI benefits, but Congress and the White House have been unable to reach an agreement on extending these benefits.)
  • Extending state agencies’ authority to provide regulatory flexibility – such as extension of statutory filing deadlines – through the end of the Governor’s emergency declaration for the pandemic. Originally, the General Assembly had only allowed agencies this flexibility through August 1, 2020.
  • Creating a new “Extra Credit Grant Program” that provides for $335 grants for North Carolina families with children aged 17 and younger. Because the grants will be determined based on state tax filings, low-income families that did not have enough income to have to file state income tax forms in 2019 will need to apply for the grants by October 15, 2020. The Center will share information about the application process once it becomes available.
  • Notably, the bill does not close North Carolina’s health coverage gap by opting for Medicaid expansion beginning on January 1, 2021. Medicaid expansion 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.
U.S. House Committee Examines Impact of Early End to Census Enumeration
The U.S. Census Bureau is ending its in-person operations at the end of this month. September 30 will also be the deadline for households to self-respond to the Census by mail, email, or phone. As of Tuesday, 17.1% of North Carolina households still had not responded to the Census with just three weeks remaining in the Census count. 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 U.S. Census Bureau’s decision to end the Census count on September 30 – a month earlier than its previous plan of continuing enumeration through October 31 – is one of the main reasons that North Carolina is at risk of a significant undercount. Yesterday, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Reform held a hearing to explore the importance of extending Census deadlines. Stacey Carless, executive director of the NC Counts Coalition, was one of the witnesses at the hearing and provided clear and convincing testimony explaining the status of the Census count in North Carolina, the potential harm to North Carolina communities of an undercount, and the importance of Congress extending the enumeration period through October 31. Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Congress will be able to pass legislation to extend deadlines – and have the President sign it – in time to extend the Census another month.
Act Now: Be Certain Everyone You Know Completes the Census Questionnaire
With so many North Carolina households still uncounted in the Census, it is critical that nonprofits do everything in their power to get a complete and accurate count in the next three weeks. The call to action for nonprofit staff, volunteers, and board members is simple: Make sure that everyone with whom your nonprofit engages completes the Census questionnaire. To help with last-minute get-out-the count efforts, the NC Counts Coalition has a new toolkit with sample messaging, social media posts and graphics, and outreach ideas.

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
Absentee Ballot Requests Now Available Online
Last week, the NC State Board of Elections opened its online portal for requesting absentee ballots online. The online application process only takes about three minutes to complete. Voters who request an absentee ballot will receive one by mail and can still choose to vote in person during the Early Voting period or on Election Day instead of submitting their absentee ballot. The online portal for absentee voting also allows voters to check on the status of their absentee ballots.

The Center encourages nonprofits to urge their staff, board members, volunteers, and those they serve to request an absentee ballot now. This will ensure that they receive their absentee ballots with plenty of time to vote by mail before Election Day.
National Voter Registration Day Is Just 11 Days Away
National Voter Registration Day (September 22) is less than two weeks 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.
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.