Three Month Renewal of Public Health Emergency

Recently, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Xavier Becerra renewed the federal public health emergency for an additional 90 days, effective April 21, 2021. The administration has indicated in the past that they’d like to continue maintaining the public health emergency throughout 2021 and provide ample notice to state and local governments before they let it expire. 

WORK NOW Act Reintroduced

The WORK NOW Act, first introduced last year by Senator Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) and Representative Linda Sanchez (D-CA) was recently reintroduced in Congress. This bill would create a $50 billion grant program to promote the creation of nonprofit jobs. The WORK NOW Act (S.740, H.R.1987) would help nonprofit organizations scale service delivery while providing people who are unemployed with job opportunities. The funds could be used to pay wages, salaries, and benefits of either existing or new employees. Funds would be allocated through state, local, and Tribal governments, with a portion distributed through national and regional intermediary organizations. 

The Alliance/COA is currently encouraging our network to weigh in with Congress and tell them to include the WORK NOW Act in any future infrastructure package that they consider. Make your voice heard now.

Paycheck Protection Program Update

The money available for the Paycheck Protection Program loans is likely to run out in the first week of May, according to some sources at the Small Business Administration. Congress appropriated nearly $300 billion to expand the program in December and March and recently extended the application period through May. Loan applications are likely to be rejected once money is loaned out unless Congress authorizes more funding. Currently there are no discussions around appropriating additional dollars for the program.

New Paid Sick and Family Leave Credits for Employers

Under the American Rescue Plan, employers with less than 500 employees have access to refundable tax credits that will reimburse them for the cost of providing paid sick and family leave to employees for leave taken to receive or recover from COVID-19 vaccinations. Nonprofits are included as eligible employers. The tax credit applies against the employer’s share of the Medicare tax, and is fully refundable, meaning the employer can be refunded above the full amount of their share of the Medicare tax. For paid sick leave, employers can pay up to $511 per day or $5,110 in total per employee at the employee’s regular rate of pay, for up to two weeks, or 80 hours. For paid family leave, employers can pay $200 per day or $12,000 in total per employee, at two-thirds the employee’s regular rate, for up to twelve weeks. These credits are available from April 1, 2021 to Sept. 30, 2021. Employers can claim the credit on Form 941, the Employer’s Quarterly Federal Tax Return. If an employer does not have the cash up front to cover the credit, they can use Form 7200, Advance Payment of Employer Credits Due to COVID-19. For more information, please visit the IRS public announcement on the tax credit.

Extended Flexibilities for School Meal Programs

On April 20, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) extended flexibilities for school meals programs and child care centers to provide free meals to students as schools begin to reopen this fall. Depending on local conditions, providers can continue to serve meals in socially distanced or non-group settings, and parents can choose to pick up meals for their children when programs are not in session. The Seamless Summer Option, typically available only during summer, will continue serving meals until June 30, 2022. This will give schools enhanced meal reimbursements, allowing them to provide highly nutritious meals to vulnerable students. According to the USDA, up to 12 million children reside in households that don’t always have enough to eat.

New Funding for Reemployment Services

The Department of Labor has allocated $146 billion to the states to help boost their Reemployment Services and Eligibility Assessments (RESEA) programs, which is an evidence-based program that state and local workforce agencies use to help unemployed individuals return to work more quickly. RESEA includes individual assessments, referral services, and informed job searches. After the outbreak of COVID-19 last year, many states hollowed out their RESEA services and opted to concentrate funds on processing unemployment claims. As the country comes out of the other end of the pandemic, these funds will help states deliver reemployment services to individuals out of work.

Health Care Providers in Underserved Communities Receive Federal Aid

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has allotted $150 million for community-based health care providers as they work to protect the health of their communities and bolster vaccination programs. These funds will aid around 100 Health Center Program look-alikes (LALs), which are not traditional Health Center Program grantees but provide primary care services in underserved communities. Currently, 89% of LAL patients live at or below 200% of the Federal Poverty Guidelines, and over 63% are racial and ethnic minorities. This support for community-based health centers will help secure equitable vaccination, testing, and treatment as the nation recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic.

State Allocation Announced for Child Care Funding

The Administration for Children and Families has released the state-by-state allocations for the Child Care Stabilization Grants and the Child Care and Development Block Grant. The American Rescue Plan, passed in March, set aside $39 billion for the child care sector, which faces a massive shortage of providers. Please see your state’s expected allocation here.