House and Senate Democrats have sent a letter to congressional leadership that supports including funding for nonprofits in the upcoming reconciliation legislation.
In the letter, senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.), Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), along with Representative Linda Sánchez (D-Calif.), request that Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) include their bill, the Work Opportunities and Resources to Keep Nonprofit Organizations Well (WORK NOW) Act (S. 740), as part of the reconciliation legislation.
“Congress enacted several support programs for businesses and nonprofits over the course of the pandemic, but in many ways relief for charitable organizations has fallen short,” the members of Congress wrote in their letter to Pelosi and Schumer.
The letter recognizes the role nonprofits have played during the coronavirus pandemic. “However, since demand for their services soared, many nonprofit organizations are now struggling financially and have been forced to lay off staff when their communities need them more than ever,” the letter noted.
Nonprofit priorities face stiff competition for inclusion within the reconciliation bill. Backers of other interests, such as childcare provisions, clean energy, housing subsidies and expanded Medicare benefits, are all clamoring for their share of the proposed package, which amounts to $3.5 trillion in spending and tax cuts spread out over a 10-year period.
All of these will have to be approved and passed with the thin margins Democrats hold in both the House and Senate. Few Republicans have expressed any support for either the process, which allows the reconciliation package to be passed by a simple majority without being filibustered, or for the items within the package itself.
In noting the specific constituencies within nonprofits that have been affected by the pandemic, the letter points out that as of June 2021, more than 700,000 nonprofit jobs had been lost as a result of the pandemic, with a significant portion of the burden falling on women and communities of color.
The bill, S.740, is designed to help nonprofits maintain their staffing levels, scale organizations’ capacity to meet demand and meet the needs of communities facing underemployment with new jobs that will also benefit these communities, according to the letter.
The proposed legislation also highlights the incentive and grant programs nonprofits are eligible for, and raises their importance in supporting programs and policy objectives.
“This means expressing inclusion of charitable properties in housing assistance and expressing eligibility for grants and contracts in youth-specific programs such as after-school programs and civilian climate corps, arts programming, support for the 211 referral system, health research, and mental health, including addiction and domestic violence services,” the signatories wrote.
As the United States faces a resurgent coronavirus infection rate, the letter highlighted the role nonprofits play, as trusted organizations with established relationships in under-vaccinated communities, in vaccine delivery.
“While we recognize there are many competing priorities seeking inclusion in the budget reconciliation bill, we believe Congress can and should do more to ensure that the needs of charitable nonprofits are kept at the forefront,” the letter authors concluded. “We encourage you to include these provisions in the upcoming budget reconciliation package.”