by Laura Walling, Senior Director of Government Relations, Goodwill Industries International
Prior to the pandemic, the nonprofit sector employed more than 12 million people, making them the third-largest industry in the country — larger than the construction, financial services and manufacturing industries. In normal times, these organizations are on the frontlines, providing housing, food aid, transportation, childcare, and workforce development and job training services to those who need it most, while also uplifting faith, culture and quality of life in communities throughout the United States.
As the country begins to recover, the demands for these services are growing at a time when organizations must decrease their capacity because charitable giving and other revenue streams for nonprofits have declined as a result of COVID-19. When the pandemic began, organizations were forced to make difficult staffing and resource decisions over how to advance their missions while struggling to remain financially viable. As of March 2021, well more than 800,000 nonprofit jobs have been lost due to the pandemic, creating undue challenges, particularly for women and communities of color disproportionately pushed out of the workforce due to no fault of their own during the pandemic.
Charitable nonprofits need a major infusion of resources to enable them to bring back staff and hire additional employees, so they can deliver essential services for millions of Americans. The Work Opportunities and Resources to Keep Nonprofit Organizations Well (WORK NOW) Act (S. 740 and H.R. 1987) is economic-stimulus legislation that would create a new grant program to help nonprofit organizations retain their employees, scale their service delivery, and provide unemployed people with new jobs serving their communities.
Sponsored by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA), the WORK NOW Act would inject $50 billion into frontline nonprofits — with most of the funds allocated through states, tribal governments and localities — to enable them to pay the wages, salaries and benefits of returning or newly hired employees. About four-fifths of the appropriated funds would be allocated to governments to provide to grants to local nonprofits employing workers in specified activities and program areas. Twenty percent of funds would be reserved for intermediary organizations — primarily charitable nonprofits that serve as the backbone of national or regional networks of nonprofits or operate as a single entity in multiple locations and employing more than 500 employees.