Public Policy Update - February 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
Attending Foundations on the Hill Is Easier Than Ever – Here Are Five Reasons Why
Foundations on the Hill – SECF members’ best chance all year to connect with lawmakers in Washington – is going virtual this year. That means it’s never been easier to attend as part of the SECF delegation.
If you’ve never attended FOTH before, here are five reasons why you should make this the year you join us:
- Virtual FOTH is an incredible value. For just $99, you’ll be able to participate in multiple meetings with members of Congress and their staff. You will also be able to learn more about public policy by attending virtual sessions presented by our partners at the United Philanthropy Forum.
- FOTH works with your schedule. Meetings with members of Congress will take place throughout six days spread between two weeks – March 16-18 and 23-25. This flexible approach will make it easier to meet lawmakers without getting in the way of the rest of your work!
- You can attend without leaving your desk. Usually, attending Foundations on the Hill requires leaving town for a few days, flying to Washington and staying in a hotel. This year, all you need to do is join a videoconference from your home or office!
- You’ll be supported every step of the way. Before, during and after your meetings with lawmakers, you’ll benefit from the support of the SECF staff as well as fellow members who have stepped up to serve as state captains. You’ll have everything you need to make your FOTH meetings a success!
- You’ll forge new and valuable relationships. Members of Congress not only write legislation that regulates our sector – they can also facilitate partnerships that help further your foundation’s mission. You’ll also get to connect with other SECF members, especially those in your own state!
You can sign up for FOTH now if you’re already convinced, but if you’d like to learn more, register now for our February 17 webinar, Public Policy 101: Why You Belong at Foundations on the Hill!
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Reconciliation Process Begins for COVID Relief Package
Last week, the House and Senate both passed a budget resolution, marking the first step in Democrats’ efforts to pass a $1.9 trillion COVID relief package that President Biden has called for since taking office.
The votes – including a Senate vote that required Vice President Kamala Harris to break a 50-50 tie – came as a group of 10 Senate Republicans have argued for a smaller, $600 billion package. While bipartisan action is still possible, comments from Biden and Democratic leaders indicate the party is most likely to forge ahead alone and pass a package in line with Biden’s request.
Democrats are using a process known as budget reconciliation – bills passed under reconciliation rules are limited to items affecting revenue and spending but cannot be filibustered on the Senate floor.
The budget resolution provides instructions to several congressional committees responsible for various parts of the full package. It’s been reported that there’s not much direct support for philanthropy in Biden’s proposal, but certain provisions are expected to provide direct relief to nonprofit beneficiaries.
Democrats hope to send a relief package to Biden by mid-March, when current enhanced unemployment benefits are set to expire.
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New Data Released on DAF Payouts, Responses to COVID
Last week, the National Philanthropic Trust (NPT) released its 2020 DAF report, which provides an analysis of donor-advised fund (DAF) use in 2019. The NPT annual DAF report examines data from 993 charities.
For 2019, the report shows a growth in every key metric for DAFs for the tenth consecutive year. Notably, grants from DAFs totaled $27.4 billion in 2019, up 15.4 percent compared to 2018. The average payout from DAFs was 22.4 percent, continuing a longstanding trend of DAFs paying out above 20 percent annually.
The report also details the growth of contributions, charitable assets, and the number of DAF accounts. You can find the full report here.
NPT also released a special survey on DAF responses to COVID in the first half of 2020. The survey, which reflects self-reported data from DAF sponsors, shows an estimated $8.3 billion was disbursed from DAFs in the first half of 2020, representing an almost 30 percent increase from the $6.4 billion disbursed during the same period in 2019. You can find the full survey results here.
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More Scrutiny For Nonprofit Organizations Involved in Capitol Riots
Since the January 6 attack on the Capitol, lawmakers have voiced concerns about 501(c)4 organizations linked to the violence. Last Wednesday, Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) sent a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen arguing that it is time for the Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to regulate and enforce laws around campaign spending by 501(c)4 organizations.
Also this week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) called for a 9/11-type commission to examine the Jan. 6 Capitol siege. While the commission is likely to focus on Capitol security, Pelosi mentioned examining the “causes” in her comments, which could rope in the tax-exempt organizations accused of funding the efforts.
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