September 4, 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 approves more than $145 million in new COVID-19 relief for nonprofits
North Carolina moves to “Phase 2.5” of COVID-19 reopening this evening
Governor Cooper extends executive order on nonprofit membership meetings
Act now: Be certain everyone you know completes the Census questionnaire  
Funding available for nonprofits to make last-minute get-out-the-count push
Absentee ballot requests now available online
National Voter Registration Day is just over two weeks away
Free resources and support for nonpartisan voter registration and voter education
Updated DOL guidance explains availability of emergency leave for nonprofit employees with children in remote learning
Treasury Department issues guidance on payroll tax deferrals
General Assembly Approves More than $100 Million in New COVID-19 Relief for Nonprofits
This week, the NC General Assembly approved 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.

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. Applications for the first round of grant funding expired on Tuesday. The second round of funding will be available to nonprofits with 20 or fewer full-time employees or full-time equivalent employees that didn’t receive funding in the first round and that have not reduced staffing by more than two employees since the end of February. Applications for the second round of funding will be due by September 25.
  • 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.

The bill passed by the Senate and the House with large bipartisan majorities, and Governor Cooper is expected to sign this bill into law in the near future. Many of the appropriations in the bill were made because of strong and effective advocacy by nonprofits. Now is a great time for nonprofits that received funding to thank legislators for their support. 
North Carolina Moves to “Phase 2.5” of COVID-19 Reopening This Evening
On Tuesday, Governor Roy Cooper issued Executive Order No. 163, moving North Carolina into “Phase 2.5” of the re-opening of the state’s economy at 5 p.m. today. Some notable provisions in the Governor’s Phase 2 executive orders for nonprofits include:
  • Mass gatherings of up to 25 people indoors and up to 50 people outdoors (up from 10 people in indoor gatherings under Phase 2) will be permitted. 
  • Museums and aquariums – many of which are nonprofits – may re-open at 50% of their capacity.
  • Gyms and indoor exercise facilities may re-open at 30% of their capacity.
  • 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. 
  • 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.
  • All employers in North Carolina – including nonprofits – are required to make a good-faith effort to provide face coverings for their employees. The Executive Order calls for employers to provide either a weekly supply of re-usable face coverings or a daily supply of disposable face coverings for their employees.
Governor Cooper Extends Executive Order on Nonprofit Membership Meetings
On Monday, Governor Cooper issued Executive Order No. 161 , which extends by 60 days two previous executive orders (Executive Order No. 149 and Executive Order No. 136) allowing nonprofits with members to hold membership meetings remotely during the COVID-19 crisis. The order gives boards the flexibility to allow membership meetings to take place by remote communication and through remote voting, even if these types of remote meetings are not expressly authorized in the nonprofit’s articles of incorporation or bylaws. The Center advocated for Governor Cooper to issue the original executive order and to extend it (for a second time) for an additional 60 days. We are appreciative that Governor Cooper has provided this relief to nonprofits, since it will help some organizations continue to take actions that require membership approval during the COVID-19 crisis.
Act Now: Be Certain Everyone You Know Completes the Census Questionnaire
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.

A analysis from Carolina Demography provides more details about why an early end to the Census count is particularly problematic in North Carolina and parts of the state that have the largest undercounts. Currently, nearly 40% of North Carolina households still have not replied to the Census, and only 17.1% 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.
Funding Available for Nonprofits to Make a Last-Minute Get-Out-the-Count Push
The NC Counts coalition is offering mini-grants to nonprofits to “adopt a tract” to help increase the Census self-response rate in low-response Census tracts in their community. Nonprofits may apply for grants of $1,000 to $2,500 to help get-out-the-count in historically under-represented Census tracts.
Absentee Ballot Requests Now Available Online
This 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 Over Two 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.

To prepare your organization for National Voter Registration Day (and for the nonpartisan voter engagement more generally), Nonprofit VOTE is offering a free webinar next Wednesday, September 9 at 2 p.m. with tips on best practices for communicating with potential voters both in-person and online.
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.

NC Child is also offering a free webinar next Tuesday, September 8 at 4:30 p.m. with tips on ways nonprofit service providers can help their clients vote this fall.
Updated DOL Guidance Explains Availability of Emergency Leave for Nonprofit Employees with Children in Remote Learning
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, including managing their children’s remote education when classes are not being offered in-person. 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.

Last week, 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. Parents are eligible for FMLA during periods of remote learning in school systems that temporarily use remote only learning even if they switch to a hybrid or in person learning plan later in the school year.
Treasury Department Issues Guidance on Payroll Tax Deferrals
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Treasury and the Internal Revenue Service issued guidance implementing last month’s Presidential Memorandum allowing employers to defer withholding and payment of the employee’s portion of payroll taxes. Under the guidance, nonprofits that elect to defer this payroll tax withholding will need to pay these taxes between January 1, 2021 and April 30, 2021, meaning they will have greater payroll tax liability during that period.

As the Venable law firm notes in its summary, the guidance does not address many of the practical concerns that nonprofits and their employees have about the logistics and implications of the payroll tax deferrals. Last month, a group of 30 business associations sent a letter to Congress and the U.S. Department of Treasury raising concerns about the payroll tax deferral and seeking a path forward that provides relief to families without imposing a large tax bill in the future. The associations call the executive order “unworkable” and explain that many businesses “will likely decline to implement deferral, choosing instead to continue to withhold and remit to the government the payroll taxes required by law.”
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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.