Congress is Holding Hearings, But Are They Listening?

By Laura Walling, Senior Director of Government Affairs, Goodwill Industries International

Since shortly after the pandemic began, a group of charitable nonprofits (including Goodwill®), recognized that many organizations will be in need of various forms of federal relief as they continue to provide critical services at a time when they had to cancel fundraisers, close businesses that provide mission revenue, and face delays in contract payments among other struggles. Hundreds of organizations have since joined the effort seeking #Relief4Charities.

While we continue to be grateful for the favorable provisions that were enacted in the CARES Act and included in the House-passed HEROES Act, negotiations around another relief package do not appear to be underway. Various committees in the House and Senate held hearings this week covering a number of issues of interest to local Goodwill organizations. We were pleased that the Joint Economic Committee held a hearing on Supporting Charitable Giving During the COVID-19 Crisis. Members discussed the need to expand the temporary universal charitable deduction included in the CARES Act. A bipartisan group of Senators are expected to introduce legislation to increase the $300 limit on the charitable giving deduction Congress approved as part of the coronavirus relief package to one-third of the standard deduction. The plan would boost the deduction to $4,000 for an individual and $8,000 for married couples for 2019 and 2020 tax returns.

The House Small Business Committee gathered small business owners for a virtual hearing to examine issues within the Small Business Administration’s (SBA’s) COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program. Majority Committee members also sent a letter to SBA Administrator Jovita Carranza raising concerns with how the EIDL program has been administered, including the SBA’s decision to reduce the maximum amount of the EIDL loans from $2 million to $150,000 per business.

Administrator Carranza testified alongside Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin before the Senate Small Business Committee during a hearing on the Implementation of Title I of the CARES Act. Much of this hearing focused on the Paycheck Protection Program. While many nonprofits have benefited from this fund, implementation has been rocky for nonprofits, and larger nonprofits that greatly exceed 500 employees have been left without similar relief. Lawmakers did not raise this issue during the hearing, although a press release from the Federal Reserve notes that they are working with the U.S. Treasury to create a lending facility for nonprofits soon.

Finally, a Senate Finance Committee’s hearing on unemployment insurance did not include a mention of the concerns related to unemployment insurance that many self-insured nonprofits have encountered — specifically, large payments that are due to states upfront and then the wait time to be reimbursed because of guidance provided to states by the U.S. Department of Labor. While there is bipartisan support in Congress to legislate a fix, the Secretary of Labor who testified during the hearing could fix this unilaterally with new guidance immediately.

While all of these hearings are important to have lawmakers and the administration on record, nonprofits are experiencing a sense of urgency for Congress to act. Join us in our advocacy by vising GII’s Legislative Action Center and asking Congress to take action.