September 25, 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 end date in question after court extends enumeration through October 31
Executive order could limit race and gender equity training at some nonprofits
Spread the word: Many low-income North Carolinians need to apply for tax relief 
Congress continues to struggle to provide additional COVID-19 relief
Join a free webinar to ensure your nonprofit is prepared for the 2020 Election
Do you have questions about nonprofits and the 2020 Election? We have answers!
Voting tip of the week: Consider giving your employees paid time off to vote
Bonus voting tip of the week: Request your absentee ballot today
DOL issues proposed regulations on worker classification
Nonprofits excluded from new state grant program for businesses closed due to COVID-19
DOL addresses nonprofits’ questions about FFCRA paid leave
U.S. House passes continuing resolution to try to avert government shutdown
Center offers updated resources on nonprofit advocacy
Census End Date in Question after Court Extends Enumeration through
October 31
The U.S. Census Bureau is planning to end its in-person operations next Wednesday, September 30. That would also be the deadline for households to self-respond to the Census by mail, email, or phone. Late last night, however, a federal judge in California ruled that the Census count must continue through October 31. The U.S. Department of Justice is expected to appeal that decision, so the final day of the Census count remains unclear.

As of Tuesday, 6.7% of North Carolina households still had not responded to the Census with just three weeks remaining in the Census count. North Carolina has the nation’s seventh-worst response rate. 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.

With so many North Carolina households still uncounted, it is critical that nonprofits do everything in their power TODAY to get a complete and accurate count. 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

The Center is one of about 200 national and statewide organizations to formally endorse the bipartisan Census Deadline Extensions Act (S.4571), which was introduced in the U.S. Senate last week. That bill would extend key Census deadlines by four months and require the Census Bureau to continue the 2020 Census count through October 31. 
Executive Order Could Limit Race and Gender Equity Training at Some Nonprofits
On Tuesday, President Donald Trump issued an executive order aimed at limiting the ability of federal contractors and grantees to use workplace training “that inculcates in its employees any form of race or sex stereotyping or any form of race or sex scapegoating.” The executive order would cover most trainings that cover topics like race equity, gender equity, implicit bias, or systemic racism. Specifically, the executive order would require federal agencies to add provisions to future contracts prohibiting contractors from offering these types of workplace trainings and would allow federal agencies to prohibit grantees from using federal funds on these types of workplace trainings. 

The Center is very concerned that this misguided executive order could limit the ability of some nonprofits with federal grants and contracts to offer workplace trainings on important topics related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. It is important for nonprofits with federal grants and contracts to note that this executive order is not effective immediately, but could affect the terms of their future grant or contract agreements. Let us know if your nonprofit has a federal grant or contract and might be affected by this executive order.
Spread the Word: Many Low-Income North Carolinians Need to Apply for Tax Relief
Earlier this month, the NC General Assembly approved the Extra Credit Grant Program which provides $335 payments to help taxpaying families with children pay for virtual schooling and child-care costs during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

While most taxpayers will receive these payments automatically, low-income families that did not file a 2019 state tax return will need to apply to the NC Department of Revenue (DOR) to receive their $335 payments by October 15. This week, DOR opened the online and printable paper applications for Extra Credit Grants in English and Spanish. Applications are relatively simple, only requiring taxpayers to list their names, SSNs, contact information, and their children’s names, ages, and SSNs. 

The Center strongly encourages nonprofits serving low-income North Carolinians to help spread the word to ensure that those who did not file a 2019 tax return submit their applications by mail or online before the October 15 deadline. DOR has also developed an online toolkit to help nonprofits spread the word about how low-income North Carolinians can apply for these payments.
Congress Continues to Struggle to Provide Additional COVID-19 Relief
Leaders in Congress and the White House made little progress this week in negotiations on much-needed additional COVID-19 relief. Last week, the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus released a Bipartisan COVID Relief Framework that is a middle ground between the HEROES Act that the House passed in May and the scaled-down COVID-19 relief bill that was defeated in the Senate earlier this month. Additional relief is critical for the thousands of nonprofits (and the millions of North Carolinians they serve) that continue to struggle because of the pandemic. Specifically, the Center and other nonprofits are asking Congress to enact these four policy solutions:
  1. Continue Emergency Funding Programs. Specifically, it is important for Congress to: (a) enable a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans; and (b) appropriate funds for federal grant programs to state and local governments that depend on nonprofits to deliver services to the public. A policy solution like the WORK NOW Act, which would provide a grant program to help nonprofits serving critical needs related to the pandemic, would help create new jobs AND maintain critical services in our communities.
  2. Strengthen Charitable Giving Incentive by making meaningful improvements to the above-the-line charitable deduction in the CARES Act from $300 in 2020 to about $4,000 per individual and $8,000 per married couple in 2020 and 2021 so the incentive is universally available to all Americans, not just the wealthy. 
  3. Extend Loan Programs to Mid-Sized and Larger Nonprofits with more than 500 employees because the CARES Act largely excluded them. Many larger nonprofits have not received any government assistance for their financial losses during the pandemic and are having to turn to individual donors and foundations for more support, possibly at the expense of private contributions to smaller nonprofits.
  4. Provide Full Federal Unemployment Coverage for self-insured nonprofits by increasing the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement from 50% to 100% of costs. This would remove uncertainty from North Carolina nonprofits about their pending financial losses due to unemployment claims.

For more, check out the summary and video from last week’s press conference featuring North Carolina nonprofits’ stories about the need for additional relief from Congress.
Join a Free Webinar to Ensure Your Nonprofit is Prepared for the 2020 Election
The 2020 election is here! Absentee voting is already underway, and Early Voting opens on October 15 throughout North Carolina. To help your nonprofit’s staff, board, and volunteers prepare for the election, the Center is offering a free webinar on Thursday, October 8 from 1:00-2:30 p.m. that will include:
  • A brief synopsis of what nonprofits can (and can't) and should (and shouldn’t) do leading up to the 2020 election, complete with answers to the most common questions nonprofits are asking the Center this year.
  • Basic election information that every nonprofit leader – and every North Carolina voter – should know, with tips on how to find your polling places for Early Voting and Election Day, who is on your ballot, and much more.
  • An update on the status of policy issues affecting the nonprofit sector and a preview of some important sector-wide issues on the horizon in 2021 and beyond.
  • A nonpartisan overview of several important major policy issues affecting North Carolina’s future to help you make sense of discussions in debates, candidate forums, and candidate guides.

Do You Have Questions about Nonprofits and the 2020 Election? We Have Answers!
Have you been wondering what types of election-related activities your nonprofit can and can’t do between now and the November 3 election? You’re not alone; the Center has been fielding many questions about what’s legal and what’s advisable. Last week, the Center posted answers to some of the most common questions we're hearing. We encourage you to check out this blog post and let us know of other questions you have about your nonprofit’s engagement in the 2020 election. In addition, we encourage nonprofit leaders to check out the webinar recording from You Can Vote highlighting the basics of the 2020 election process in North Carolina and ways that nonprofits can get involved.
Voting Tip of the Week: Consider Giving Your Employees Paid Time Off to Vote
The Center has long held the position that it is important for all 501(c)(3) nonprofits to participate in nonpartisan voter registration, voter education, and get-out-the-vote activities to strengthen the voices of their communities and the people they serve. To help your nonprofit take simple steps in nonpartisan voter engagement leading up to the 2020 election, the Center will offer these weekly voting tips for the next few weeks.
Voting Tip of the Week
Nonprofits can help ensure their staff have the opportunity to vote by offering paid time off to vote during Early Voting or on Election Day, and paid time off for staff to volunteer as nonpartisan poll workers. To help your nonprofit implement this type of policy, the Center is sharing the language that our board recently adopted:

“Voting and Election Day. The Center encourages all employees who are eligible to vote to participate fully in the electoral process. Any Center employee may take paid time off work on Election Day or during the Early Voting period to vote in any primary, general, or run-off election. Employees should notify their supervisors of the time they plan to take off for voting.
 
“Center employees also may take up to one day per year of paid time off to volunteer in a nonpartisan role as a poll worker on Election Day or during the Early Voting period. Employees must get prior written approval of their supervisors (which shall not unreasonably be denied) before taking this paid time off. Employees volunteering for political parties or campaigns on Election Day or during the Early Voting period may not be paid for their time engaging in partisan political activities, but they may take annual leave for any time spent volunteering for candidates or political parties.”
 
Feel free to use the Center’s policy as a model for your own organization or contact us if you have questions about ways to adapt it to the realities of your nonprofit’s work.
Bonus Voting Tip of the Week: Request Your Absentee Ballot Today
The NC State Board of Elections’ online portal for requesting absentee ballots is now open. 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.

Take action today: 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.
DOL Issues Proposed Regulations on Worker Classification
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) issued a proposed regulation creating a new “economic realities” test that employers can use to determine whether their workers are employees or independent contractors. The regulations would replace an existing multi-factor test with a two-prong test focusing on the employee’s exercise of control over their work and their opportunity for profit or loss. Employers could also consider three other factors as “additional guideposts” in assessing worker classification: the amount of skill required for a job; how permanent a working relationship is; and whether the work is part of an integrated unit of production. Notably, the proposed regulations would minimize the importance of the terms of contracts between employers and workers in determining worker classification.  

This revised “economic realities” test would likely allow more employers – including some nonprofits – to classify their workers as contractors to avoid paying benefits and payroll taxes. The proposed regulation is scheduled to be published on the Federal Register today, so public comments should be open through October 24 (30 days after it is published).
Nonprofits Excluded from New State Grant Program for Businesses Closed Due to COVID-19
On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper announced that the NC Department of Commerce has established a new $40 million grant program to provide financial relief to businesses in certain industries that were closed due to COVID-19. The program specifically excludes nonprofits from eligibility even though several of the lines of business covered (e.g. museums, indoor fitness and recreation centers, and banquet halls) are often provided by nonprofits. The Center continues to advocate for state policymakers to treat nonprofits equitably as they provide economic relief for businesses that have suffered economic harm due to the pandemic.
DOL Addresses Nonprofits’ Questions about FFCRA Paid Leave
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. 

The U.S. Department of Labor (DOL) recently issued revised regulations on the implementation of the FFCRA leave requirements in response to a recent court decision that invalidated parts of the original DOL regulations. Yesterday, the National Council of Nonprofits hosted a webinar with DOL staff addressing many of nonprofits’ questions about FFCRA leave. In case you missed this webinar, the recording and slides are available online.
U.S. House Passes Continuing Resolution to Try to Avert Government Shutdown
On Tuesday, the U.S. House of Representatives passed a bipartisan bill to extend funding for many federal agencies through December 11. Without congressional action, much of the federal government would shut down after the end of the federal fiscal year next Wednesday (September 30). A partial government shutdown can lead to payment delays to some nonprofits with federal grants and contracts and can force some North Carolinians who rely on the federal government for essential programs and services to have to turn to nonprofits to provide this assistance. The U.S. Senate is expected to vote on the House-approved continuing resolution next Tuesday or Wednesday.
Center Offers Updated Resources on Nonprofit Advocacy
Advocacy is a broad term that encompasses any type of communication that advances a nonprofit’s mission. Nonprofits often recognize that advocacy includes legislative lobbying on public policy issues, nonpartisan voter engagement activities, and issue-based rallies. But it also includes storytelling about a nonprofit’s mission, media outreach, and conversations with donors, volunteers, and business leaders. The Center is committed to helping every North Carolina nonprofit become an effective advocate for its mission and its community. The Center invites you to explore a growing list of advocacy resources on our website.
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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.