Public Policy Update - January 2021

Each month, SECF provides members with monthly updates on the latest public policy developments in Washington and state capitols around the region, analyzing their possible impact on the charitable sector. If you would like to see an issue featured in a future Public Policy Update, contact Jaci Bertrand, SECF's vice president of member engagement, at


SECF’s Response to the Attack on Democracy

Last week, SECF President & CEO Janine Lee, joined by Board Chair Regan Gruber Moffitt and Equity Chair Robert Dortch, issued a response to the January 6 attack on the Capitol and attempts to overturn the results of the presidential election. 

Describing this moment as another call to action for philanthropy, they call on SECF members to “recommit to the belief that a strong America is synonymous with a strong participatory democracy.” You can read the full response on our blog, Engage.

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What New Leadership in Washington Means for Philanthropy

Tomorrow will bring not only the inauguration of Joe Biden as president, but also a major power shift in the U.S. Senate, as Georgia’s new Democratic senators, Jon Ossoff and Rev. Raphael Warnock, will be sworn in following their victories in the January 5 runoff elections. 

With Kamala Harris becoming vice president – and her Senate seat being filled by an appointed Democrat – control of the Senate will officially shift to the Democrats by the slimmest possible margin. Each party will have 50 senators, with Harris serving as the tie-breaking vote.

The Democratic Senate will begin with a packed agenda: Along with confirming Biden’s cabinet nominees, senators are also expected to conduct a second impeachment trial for President Trump, who was impeached by the House last week. While Trump will no longer be president when the trial begins, a conviction would likely forbid him from seeking another term in 2024.

Both the House and Senate, however, will be eager to move on to acting on Biden’s agenda, which may affect philanthropy and the broader charitable sector. Many of the sector’s priorities in the Senate will go through the Finance Committee, where Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR) is set to take over as chairman.

Over the years, Wyden has been a friend to the sector. He helped lead the CHARITY Act in the past three Congresses, which included a handful of sector priorities, including streamlining the private foundation excise tax – which was accomplished in 2019 – and expanding the IRA charitable rollover to include gifts to donor-advised funds. 

Wyden also voiced support for the charitable deduction during the 2017 tax reform negotiations, introducing an amendment with Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) during the Senate Finance Committee markup of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act that would have created a universal charitable deduction. 

Wyden has also focused on oversight of the tax-exempt sector, especially around increasing donor disclosures targeting “dark money.” These efforts, however, have largely targeted non-501(c)3 tax-exempt organizations, as they already have to report donor information on gifts over a certain amount. Some of his colleagues in the Senate, though, have called for further disclosure from (c)3s, so it’s not out of the question that he could target the charitable sector as well.

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Foundations on the Hill Registration Opens This Thursday!

On Thursday, January 21, registration will open for Foundations on the Hill, the year’s best opportunity to connect with lawmakers in Washington and promote policies that will strengthen the charitable sector and its ability to support communities and people throughout the region.

This year’s event will be fully virtual – online meetings with lawmakers and staff will take place March 16-18 and March 23-25. 

Look for more details about this year’s Foundations on the Hill this Thursday in your email, at, and in the SECF Mobile App!

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Year-End COVID Relief Bill Extends Universal Charitable Deduction

The massive COVID relief and appropriations package that became law in the final days of 2020 included several provisions relevant to the charitable sector:

  • Universal Charitable Deduction: The bill includes an extension of the $300 universal charitable deduction for non-itemizers through 2021 and doubles the cap to $600 for joint filers.
  • AGI Limits for Charitable Contributions: The bill extends, through 2021, the temporary AGI limit increase on charitable deductions for cash gifts for both individuals and corporations who itemize their deductions. The limits are set at 100 percent of adjusted gross income for individuals and 25 percent of taxable income for corporations.
  • Rental Assistance: The bill creates the first-ever emergency federal rental assistance program run by the Treasury Department and administered by state and local governments. It includes $25 billion in funding for the program that will provide targeted assistance to renters affected by the pandemic. Eligible renters will be able to use this assistance for past due rent, future rent payments, as well as to pay utility and energy bills, and prevent shutoffs.
  • Eviction Moratorium: The bill extends the nationwide eviction moratorium by one month, through the end of January 2021.
  • Easing Financial Strain on Nonprofit Employers: The bill extends the popular Paycheck Protection Program through March 2021 and provides $284 billion for first and second loans to businesses and nonprofits. The bill also extends and expands the Employee Retention Tax Credit until July 1, 2021. 

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Southeastern Council of Foundations
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