The Chronicle of Philanthropy

By Dan Parks

Nonprofits and their advocates are lining up behind a bill that would provide $50 billion to help nonprofits boost hiring and weather increased demand for services as the nation continues to grapple with the Covid health and economic crises.

The Work Now Act would provide grants of up to $3 million per nonprofit with the goal of helping them keep their employees on staff. Estimates released last week suggest that the nonprofit work force has shrunk by more than 7 percent in the past year and won’t recover to pre-Covid levels for at least two years. The $50 billion could probably cover at least 17,000 nonprofits nationwide.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota and the author of the bill, along with six other Senate Democrats sent a letter to the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate urging enactment of the legislation due to “decreased charitable giving and extraordinarily high community needs.” Similar legislation was introduced last year but did not advance.

“Nonprofits are on the front lines of this crisis helping millions of Americans in need,” Klobuchar said in a statement. “From food banks to shelters to counseling centers, charitable organizations are doing incredible work to help families put food on their table, provide housing assistance, and serve people with disabilities.”

Nonprofits Cite Pressing Needs

The bill is intended to help nonprofits retain employees, rehire laid off employees, and expand operations where needed to meet demands for services. Most of the money would be for wages of up to $50,000 for each employee, plus benefits. A portion of grants could be used to cover operating expenses such as rent, utilities, and maintenance.

The bill has been endorsed by a long list of the nation’s largest charities and advocacy groups, according to Klobuchar’s office, including Boys & Girls Clubs of America; Child Welfare League of America; Girls Inc.; Goodwill Industries; Habitat for Humanity; Independent Sector; Jewish Federations of North America; Lutheran Services in America; March of Dimes; Muslim Public Affairs Council; and National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.

Christine James-Brown, CEO of the Child Welfare League of America, said lawmakers have routinely overlooked nonprofits when developing legislation to address pandemic-related needs. In particular, Congress has not recognized the importance of nonprofits as major employers.

“We’ve been fighting for resources from the very beginning,” James-Brown said. “The not-for-profit sector is not thought of enough as a key engine of the economy and a key factor in improving communities,” James-Brown said.

Steve Taylor, vice president of United Way Worldwide, said the bill “would have seismic impact on the nonprofit sector” and urged Congress to include it in an infrastructure bill that lawmakers are expected to consider later this year.

“This kind of infusion of capital into charities would have exponential return on investment by creating good jobs and at the same time enabling us to help more children, families, and communities recover from the health and economic crisis caused by Covid,” Taylor said in an emailed statement.

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