Washington offered several updates in the last week. First, the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was announced to be running out of funds late last week. As of Sunday night, Congress has been debating a $370 billion deal that includes an additional $310 billion for the PPP, with a set aside of $60 billion for rural and minority organizations, and another $60 billion for the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. The Department of the Treasury also put out a new FAQ on the Paycheck Protection Program. While many Alliance members have received confirmation of PPP loans, others are still waiting in the queue. The Alliance is advocating to ensure more resources are added and that nonprofits are treated equitably in the next round.
Meanwhile, we are still awaiting guidance from the Treasury on a loan program for mid-sized nonprofits under the CARES Act (organizations with over 500 employees). The Alliance and our larger member organizations did some advocacy last week to influence better loan terms for larger nonprofits. We will share news of guidance when we receive it.
As all of this unfolds, we are also promoting priorities for the next economic relief package, which seems to be delayed by a few weeks. Last week, Congress announced that members will delay their return to D.C. until May 4, adding another two weeks to the timeline. The Alliance continues to work to ensure priorities for community-based human services nonprofits are known on Capitol Hill. The Alliance helped to lead this letter with over 275 national organizations to request a nonprofit track in the next stimulus with $60 billion in relief funds. On Friday, Alliance CEO Susan Dreyfus and Senior Director of Government Relations Ilana Levinson, co-authored this op-ed in The Hill, asking that Congress include hazard pay for human services essential workers in the next stimulus. We also continue to advocate for several other priorities, from child welfare to increased federal Medicaid FMAP dollars, and more. We encourage you to take action immediately to let your members of Congress know you support these key priorities.
Unemployment Insurance Clarifications
At the beginning of April, the Department of Labor released a series of guidance letters that seek to clarify the unemployment insurance provisions from the CARES Act. The letters cover three new programs: The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC), and Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC) programs. Under PUA, state unemployment insurance programs become available to workers who are not traditionally eligible including individuals who are self-employed, independent contractors, gig workers, and those lacking sufficient work history. These payments last for 39 weeks and are retroactive for individuals who started receiving benefits on or after Jan. 27, 2020. Under the PEUC program, those who exhaust regular unemployment benefits receive up to 13 additional weeks of benefits. Finally, the FPUC program allows individuals who collect state unemployment insurance to also receive an additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits until July 31, 2020. As of March 28, 2020, all states had signed agreements with the DOL, allowing these additional payments to be disbursed.
The Administration for Children and Families Releases FAQ on Use of FVPSA Funds During COVID-19
Recently, the Administration for Children and Families released a new FAQ sheet for grantees of the Family Violence Prevention and Services (FVPSA) Act. It explains details on new flexibilities and creative uses of funding during the public health emergency.
Children’s Bureau Letter on Criminal Background Checks and Monthly Caseworker Visit Requirements
Last week, the Children’s Bureau released a new letter that offers flexibility regarding fingerprint background check requirements for foster, adoptive, and guardianship homes as well as child care institutions. Under the Stafford Act, the Children’s Bureau has determined that Title IV-E agencies can proceed with name-based criminal background checks during the public health crisis and then complete background checks when it is safe. The letter also addresses requirements that 50% of all caseworker visits must occur in the child’s residents. It clarifies that during the disaster period, visits that occur via video conference can count toward this requirement. Several weeks ago, the Alliance sent a letter about this to Associate Commissioner Jerry Milner, and we were pleased to see this resolved last week.
Source: Children’s Defense Fund
Poverty Threshold Updates
The Office of Management and Budget (OMB) is considering several alternative ways to measure poverty in the U.S., which could have devastating consequences for low-income children, individuals, and families. The current measure, the Official Poverty Measure (OPM), is used by state and federal agencies to determine eligibility for a host of government benefits programs including food stamps, Medicaid, and housing subsidies. There is widespread agreement that the OPM understates the level of poverty that families experience. In other words, many families that could easily be considered as living in poverty are not counted below the official poverty line. However, the OMB is currently considering alternative measures that would understate poverty even more.
The OMB’s team is considering ideas like incorporating employer-sponsored health care into a family’s income or inhibiting the OPM from keeping up with inflation. These ideas, if implemented, could potentially make many families ineligible for benefits, without having any real change in income or lived experience. The OMB opened a public comment period on the work it had done so far, which ended April 14. Anti-poverty advocates argued that the middle of a global pandemic is not the right time to accept comments on such an integral issue. As of this writing, the comment portal is still closed and no extension has been granted.
Emergency Paid Family Leave for Low-Income Families
The Department of Health and Human Services wrote an official brief that offers suggestions on how to ensure low-income families take advantage of the paid family leave provisions of the Family First Coronavirus Response Act. Under this law, the federal government will reimburse organizations with less than 500 employees for providing 12 weeks of two-thirds pay (up to a $200 per day cap) for employees who take leave for COVID-19-related reasons. The brief, from the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation (ASPE), discusses several obstacles that low-income families faced with other family leave programs, such as the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. For example, low-income parents, especially fathers, are unaware they are eligible for leave or confused by the eligibility requirements. Furthermore, many small businesses are intimidated by the administrative complexity of leave programs, which further discourages employees from asking employers for leave. To overcome these barriers, ASPE strongly encourages community-based organizations to engage with both employees and employers. By educating them on the intricacies of the new leave program, more low-income families will take much-needed leave during the national crisis.
Protecting the Rights of Students with Disabilities
The Alliance signed onto a national advocacy letter to oppose the Department of Education’s ability to issue waivers to states regarding the Individuals with Disabilities in Education Act (IDEA). Allowing this to happen may result in students with disabilities losing protection under federal law to a Free Appropriate Public Education (FAPE). The four advocacy demands are:
- LEAs must continue to provide FAPE to students with disabilities
- Teams responsible for student Individualized Education Programs (IEPs) must involve parents in all decisions
- Parents’ due process rights must remain intact
- Use of federal education funds must adhere to the IDEA, the Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and other civil rights laws.
Take action! This week the National Center for Learning Disabilities launched a campaign with the hashtag #MyIDEAmatters to help spread awareness about this issue. Help get the word out by:
- Telling your members of Congress to oppose IDEA waivers
- Use your social media to show others why #MyIDEAmatters to you
- Engage with this hashtag on Facebook and Twitter to make this a trending topic
Federal Policy Updates on Early Care and Education
The Administration for Children and Families Office of Child Care is reporting that Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBC) funding will be available sometime this week in a lump sum for states to draw down as needed. While ACF has not finalized each lead agency’s allocation, states can estimate what their share will be by following the two-step directions and using this allocation table. View additional COVID-19 resources from ACF and this summary of child care relief details in the CARES Act from the Frist Five Years Fund. This article provides a summary of immediate implications for state Child Care and Development Fund lead agencies including state policy recommendations, guidance about Head Start funds, and reminders about unemployment pay and paid sick leave.
Much more federal financial relief and guidance is needed to stabilize the early child care education ecosystem in our country and ensure its survival. We know this from on-the-ground feedback from members and recommendations from national experts (e.g., Zero to Three; UC Berkeley’s Center for the Study of Child Care Employment). The Alliance is signing on to letters like this one to advocate on behalf of our members and the children, families, and communities you serve. Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Tina Smith (D-Minn.) this week introduced a $50 billion child care bailout so that when the time comes for parents to resume work, their children can be looked after at daycare centers. Here is how they propose to spend that money:
- Emergency funding to keep child care available to frontline and essential workers
- Aid to keep providers in business and all workers on payroll
- Long-term investments to prepare the child care market for when Americans can get back to work
View more public policy news and sign up for the weekly Alliance Policy Radar online.
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