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Maine Nonprofits Call on Congress to Pass Coronavirus Relief Package

by Sarah Skillin Woodard

This morning, MANP and fellow nonprofit colleagues held a virtual press conference to highlight how crucial more federal relief dollars are to our sector and to urge federal and state lawmakers to enact legislation that will support our work. A recording of the press conference, the text of my opening remarks, and information for the press can be found below.

Livestream Recording

Text of Opening Remarks

Good morning, My name is Sarah Skillin Woodard, Advocacy and Public Affairs Director of the Maine Association of Nonprofits. I’d like to welcome you all on behalf of our speakers today and the nearly 6,000 nonprofits from across Maine. 

We thank you for joining us as we call on Maine’s Congressional Delegation to act on urgent relief needed by Maine citizens and nonprofit organizations. Our organizations are on the front lines in every part of the state working to assist fellow residents with food and housing insecurities, health care, education, childcare and more. They also help drive our economy. We’re here to tell you, we need help so we can continue serving and improving the lives of others.

The bipartisan CARES Act enacted in March was a lifeline for Mainers and our nonprofit and business communities.  At that time, everyone thought the virus would fade in a couple of months, but it did not. And our lives and economy remain at severe risk. More help is urgently needed.

Many nonprofits were saved by the Paycheck Protection Program; it was a real lifeline. But now that the program has closed, these organizations are again facing layoffs at best and closures at worst.

“Performing arts organizations were the first to close and we’re going to be among the last to fully reopen. The first PPP loan functioned like the WPA during the Great Depression. As I look to the future, if there’s no additional support from the government, I anticipate the need for extended layoffs.” -Anita Stewart, Portland Stage Company

So, this is the situation: we’ve got sky high unemployment costs for those nonprofits that self-insure, increased demand for services, which then bring increased expenses, lost fundraising and programmatic revenue, looming cuts to state and local budgets…all of this is putting nonprofits–which are truly the backbone of our communities–at real risk.

You know, when a business closes, jobs are lost, life savings are lost, dreams are lost. But the impact on customers or consumers…well, our favorite local restaurant may have closed. We then have to find another favorite restaurant to give our business to. 

“The first round of PPP helped to serve about 500 families to navigate the COVID-19 crisis that included work on food security, housing security, education support in addition to coordinating a public health campaign in five languages. We urge that you send a second round of relief to the state.” -Abdulkerim Said, New Mainers Public Health Initiative

It’s important to note that nonprofits are businesses, too.  When a nonprofit is forced to close, jobs are lost, livelihoods are lost, dreams are lost. But the impact on our consumers–and this is the important distinction–vital services and programs disappear. There may not be another nonprofit down the road to “get our business.” When nonprofits can’t meet the needs of their communities, people suffer.  In some circumstances, it can even mean the difference between life and death.

We need agreement on a relief package and we need Congress to return to the cooperative spirit that put the public good ahead of political gain like we saw this past spring. We ask them to exemplify that cooperative spirit one more time.

Today, our speakers will highlight the needs facing Mainers and outline 4 asks of Maine’s nonprofit community necessary to meeting these critical needs.  Nonprofits are the largest employment sector in our state, we employ 1 in 6 workers or nearly 100,000 Mainers and we generate over $12 billion to the economy. We are often on the front lines of COVID-19 as well as leading the call to address racial injustice.  Our asks are also echoed by the 1.3 million nonprofits across the nation. Before the pandemic struck, over 12 million people were employed by a nonprofit and they generated $826 billion in wages a year.

 So, these are asks of the nonprofit community:

  1. Enable a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans and appropriate funds for federal grant programs to state and local governments that depend on nonprofits to deliver services to the public. 
  2. Extend Loan Programs to Mid-Sized and Larger Nonprofits with more than 500 employees, because the CARES Act largely excluded them. 
  3. Strengthen Charitable Giving Incentive by expanding the charitable deduction in the CARES Act from $300 in 2020 to $4,000 per individual in 2020 and 2021 so the incentive is universally available to all Americans, not just the wealthy. 

Provide Full Federal Unemployment Coverage for self-insured nonprofits by increasing the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement from 50 percent to 100 percent of costs.

For More Information

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