AF Weekly Tip Sheet: COVID Policy & Advocacy (4/14/20)

As our communities continue to grapple with the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis, lawmakers, staff, and advocates in Washington, D.C. are working to launch and strengthen critical support programs for families, nonprofits, and small businesses. Policy is moving at lightning speed in this environment, and America Forward remains steadfast in its commitment to supporting our Coalition members and the broader social sector, providing timely and accurate information, and advancing our collective policy and advocacy priorities.

Each week, we will be releasing a new “Tip Sheet” with the latest highlights and calls to action related to COVID-19 relief and recovery legislation.

Wins and Updates on Small Business Administration Loan Programs

Last week, the Treasury Department issued additional FAQs on the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), with further details on how small businesses and nonprofits may access forgivable loans from the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The FAQs issued by the Treasury offer new flexibility for nonprofits with over 500 employees. Based on this guidance, these nonprofits will in some instances be able to qualify for PPP forgivable loans based on their annual revenue, if their revenue falls below the SBA “size standard” for their sector. This is a meaningful clarification. It follows a letter America Forward, Results for America, and other partners sent to the SBA Administrator last week, requesting exactly this flexibility.

Also last week, Independent Sector sent a letter – co-signed by America Forward and more than 100 other organizations – to the financial organizations responsible for administering loans under the SBA’s 7(a) program, urging them to “ensure there is equitable access to SBA 7(a) loans for all nonprofits that qualify, consistent with the intent and provisions of the CARES Act.” A copy of the full letter can be found here.

In addition to expanded eligibility for PPP loans, the Federal Reserve announced last week that businesses with under 10,000 employees will also soon be eligible to apply for additional non-forgivable loans through a different program, the Main Street Lending Program, with principal and interest payments deferred for one year. Entities that have applied for PPP loans can still apply for separate Main Street Lending Program loans. Additional details on this new program will be released in the coming weeks.

For more information about nonprofit eligibility for SBA loan programs and how to apply, see America Forward’s recent blog post summarizing “The Stimulus Bill and Nonprofits: Answers to Your Questions,” a webinar hosted by the Chronicle of Philanthropy and featuring America Forward Senior Advisor Lee Foley.

CARES Act Funding for Institutions of Higher Education (IHEs)

In addition to updates on loan programs available to nonprofits and small businesses, last week, the U.S. Department of Education (ED) announced the first steps towards distributing funding appropriated for institutions of higher education (IHEs) through the CARES Act. According to a public letter from Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, more than $12 billion in funding appropriated by the CARES Act “will be distributed to institutions using a formula based on student enrollment. Of the amount allocated to each institution under this formula, at least 50 percent must be reserved to provide students with emergency financial aid grants to help cover expenses related to the disruption of campus operations due to coronavirus.” In order for IHEs to receive this advanced funding, they must sign a Certificate of Agreement, available here. For a list of institutional allocations, click here.

What’s Next

Last week in Washington, Republican leaders tried to move a narrow package in Congress by unanimous consent (meaning that Members would not have to be in Washington to vote) that would expand the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) with an additional $250 billion in federal funding to guarantee Small Business Administration (SBA) lending through the program. Congressional Democrats said they also support a PPP expansion, but Democratic Senators blocked the bill put forward by Republicans, arguing legislation should also include $100 billion in additional funding for hospitals and health providers, $150 billion for state and local governments, and more funding for food security through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Further action on a fourth package to address COVID-19 is pending, as Congressional leaders continue to debate what elements to include. Congress is scheduled to return to Washington at the end of April.

America Forward is continuing to advocate for critical priorities in the implementation of the CARES Act, as well as other potentially forthcoming legislation. Last week, America Forward signed on to a letter led by the First Five Years Fund (FFYF) calling on Federal lawmakers to expand support for families and child care providers in the follow-up to the CARES Act, and to take immediate action to remove procedural barriers facing families and providers seeking to access resources made available through the CARES Act. You can read the letter here.

In addition, we continue to offer our Coalition members and partners tools and resources to help them navigate the ongoing crisis, including the recent “America Forward Briefing: Effective Organizational Communication During The COVID-19 Crisis.” A full recording of the webinar can be found here, or check out our blog post that gives the highlight.





Banner photo by Markus Winkler on Unsplash

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