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Mar 28, 2020
Posted Under: COVID

Whew! This was the week where every day felt like six all rolled into one – where we adapted and created and shifted and laughed and, yes, even cried. I did all of those things with my family and my team. I bet you did, too. Every day since this crisis elevated itself and asked us to all be home to keep each other safe, I have watched our nonprofit leaders (board, staff and volunteers) step up in remarkable ways to advocate to government, to lead your teams, and to just figure out how to help people. WOW!

We had nearly 100 people a day come to our COVID-19 Response webinars, all looking for the next step and to connect with others. We saw leaders join local government task forces and talk to their elected officials on behalf of nonprofit missions each and every day. We saw so much adaptation by our human service providers so as to not miss a beat – and then do more. And we saw philanthropic organizations ask new questions about how to get money out fast and with few barriers, all in the name of helping Alaskans. And of course our team is updating our resources page for you as fast as we can.

We have said it before, but Alaska nonprofits are essential to Alaska. From our healthcare and human service missions on the front line of this pandemic to our childcare and educational missions that feed our minds, and our arts, culture, and religious missions that feed our hearts. And let us not forget all of our business associations, unions, and trade associations that are ensuring that our Alaska workers and our Alaska industries are going to weather this storm. We are all in this together.

This week we saw a federal economic response from Congress like no other in our nation’s history in its size but also for the first time in those relief packages that specifically cover nonprofits and tribal governments. That is no small moment, and I have never been more proud to be a board member of the National Council of Nonprofits . All of us owe our thanks (and donations) to the small but mighty staff of the National Council and their herculean effort to be sure nonprofits are included in decision making. They were literally “in the room where it happened.” (Shout out to Hamilton fans).

So this Saturday, while you are home, know I am thinking of each of you who lead Alaska’s nonprofits. We see you.

As I reminded us all (and myself) many times before in other disasters, this is a marathon not a sprint.

  • Practice choral breathing so you can take turns taking a break.
  • Practice standing on your door step and looking at our beautiful state from whatever vantage you can see. There is beauty all around us.
  • Practice redefining productivity to be realistic and manageable now that you are also home school teachers and/or taking on more responsibilities inside your house.

And please remember that we can be physically distant and socially connected.  With that thought in mind, I leave us all with a few ideas from my colleague and friend Liz Moore from the Montana Nonprofit Association with a few additions of my own.

  • If you go stock up on groceries before we are really and truly sheltered in place this evening, buy a little extra for the food bank. No one should be hungry or wondering how they are going to get through without food.
  • If you don’t need cleaning supplies – get some for the youth home, the shelter, the senior living place, and drop it by their doorstep. It will save lives.
  • Donate a little bit to the group running the local relief fund (Alaska Community Foundation, United Ways in Anchorage, Tanana Valley, and Southeast). We all know who the people are helping out in our own communities. If you have a little more – whatever that means – follow the lead of Alaska’s philanthropists and give some away now.
  • Buy local and buy gift certificates. Nonprofits are supported by local business. Let’s support them.
  • Put helpline numbers or Alaska 211 out on Facebook so that any friend or neighbor that needs refuge for their kids or themselves from violence can still get help. No judgment. We’re all in it together.
  • Make an extra contribution to the arts, artists, cultural centers, animal groups, childcare centers, religious institutions that you rely on every day but that cannot be open right now. We need them to be with us and a world without them is simply unimaginable. (P.S. if they canceled an event recently – turn your ticket into a donation…really).

As we care for our missions let’s also care for other missions, too, in our communities. We are all in this together. Alaska, we can do this. I know we can. Our nonprofits are the backbone of our lives even when we don’t know it. I know we are resilient and adaptable, and we will weather this together.

With gratitude,

Laurie

Mar 26, 2020
Posted Under: COVID Nonprofit News

Now is the time for all of us to protect the people we serve, our staff, and the community at large. We all have hard decisions to make about what policies we put in place for our employees, how our services may change, and what to do about planned events. Here is a collection of resources to help you to make those decisions. We will continue to keep this page updated as we learn more.

If you missed our COVID-19 response webinars, you can find the recordings here:

HUMAN RESOURCES

  • Families First Coronavirus Response Act – On March 19, the President signed into law, H.R. 6201, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. The bill includes a complex set of temporary paid leave mandates and employer reimbursement provisions, as well as funding for free coronavirus testing, food nutrition security, and Unemployment extension. Here is a helpful analysis from the National Council of Nonprofits regarding what the Act means to nonprofits. To help Alaska nonprofits better understand the provisions of the act, Manley & Brautigam P.C. in Anchorage prepared this material for us. The act takes effect on April 2, 2020. Any activities an organization needs to take to comply with the law should be completed by midnight on April 1, 2020.
  • Be sure to act in accordance with the law when making HR decisions. If you are looking for legal resources, this FAQ will help guide you as an employer.

WORKING REMOTELY

BUDGET & FINANCES

  • One of the most important things you can be doing right now is scenario planning. There are a lot of unknowns, but if you listen to this webinar and use this Financial Scenario spreadsheet template to guide you, you can make more informed decisions.
  • Small Business Administration Loans: There are disaster loans available for businesses and nonprofits impacted directly by COVID-19. The good news is that there is a lower interest rate for nonprofits receiving loans. Start the loan process here.

PUBLIC POLICY

  • We are closely tracking a number of federal, state, and local issues that will impact nonprofits. You can find the summary here. We are also relying on our partners at the National Council of Nonprofit for their excellent analysis of pending laws.

COMMUNICATION

EQUITY

FUNDRAISING

  • Here is a list of digital fundraising platforms to help you take your event virtual from our friends at Washington Nonprofits:
    • Auctria – online fundraising / auction platform
    • CauseVid – nonprofit stewardship video platform
    • Give Lively– free fundraising platform
    • Funraise– online fundraising platform / donor database
    • GiveSmart– online auction / event software

 

Mar 25, 2020
Posted Under: COVID

***UPDATED MARCH 25***

Thank you to all of you who have contacted us ready to advocate on behalf of your mission and the nonprofit sector. We know you’re keenly interested, as we are, in the implications for nonprofits on COVID-19 public policy.

We hope you will find the summary below helpful. The public policy landscape is changing quickly, and we will do all we can to be sure we are providing up-to-date information. Please don’t hesitate to reach out with specific questions or join us on our Advocating for COVID-19 Relief webinar to get the latest update.

Here is our current focus on behalf of Alaska nonprofits and your employees.

LOCAL LEVEL

We are focused on ensuring nonprofits are considered in all economic policy and recovery decisions

Anchorage Economic Resiliency Task Force: Foraker President/CEO Laurie Wolf was appointed earlier this week to Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s “Economic Resiliency Task Force” where she will able to provide an essential nonprofit perspective to the municipality’s response and recovery.

Local Recovery Efforts: We have asked the Alaska Municipal League to encourage that other local governments considering COVID-19 recovery commissions or task forces include local nonprofit leaders. We anticipate that local governments will start conversations on recovery in the coming days. Please let us know if this is happening in your community – it is important for us to track those efforts to ensure that a strong nonprofit voice is included in decisions.

STATE LEVEL

Letter to Governor: Foraker submitted a letter to Governor Dunleavy this week calling on his administration to include Alaska nonprofits in any policy and economic recovery decisions. Additionally, we requested that all state agencies be flexible with nonprofits on reporting and deliverables on their grants and that the state’s unemployment insurance program be equipped to withstand the significant loss of jobs, furloughs, and reductions in hours Alaskans are experiencing.

Alaska Economic Stabilization Taskforce: Governor Dunleavy established an “Alaska Economic Stabilization Taskforce,” co-chaired by former U.S. Senator Mark Begich and former Governor Sean Parnell. We believe that having a solid nonprofit voice on that panel will be critical for Alaska’s economic recovery.

Connecting with all legislators: We reached out to all Alaska legislators to share the letter we submitted to Governor Dunleavy. We also called for including the nonprofit perspective in any economic recovery legislation.

House Bill 308: The Legislature passed a bill expanding unemployment benefits for Alaskans impacted by COVID-19. The final version of HB 308 now heads to the governor’s desk for final approval. The bill:

    • Allows Alaskans who have lost work, whether from being forced to stay at home and care for children displaced from school or childcare, or those who lost employment when their employer’s business closed, to apply for unemployment benefits from the State of Alaska.
    • Makes the state eligible to receive federal unemployment insurance grants authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
    • Waives the normal one-week waiting period and the requirement that those affected be ready and able to work, as many Alaskans will be forced to remain indoors.
    • Removes the cap on the number of dependents cared for in the bill and increases the allowance for dependents from $24 to $75 per dependent per week.

Governor’s Economic Stabilization Plan: The proposal covers a range of action to combat the impact of COVID-19. You can find more information in the original press release from Governor Dunleavy  and see the six main components of plan.

Connecting with the Commissioner of Revenue: We reached out to Commissioner Mahoney  to request the following from the State:

    1. Create special provisions for nonprofits in the small business loans.
    2. Provide cash assistance directly to nonprofits.
    3. Provide a safety net for nonprofits who need to furlough or dismiss staff because of lost revenue.

 

Federal Level

SBA Loans: The federal Small Business Administration (SBA) announced that it will make disaster loans for businesses and nonprofits impacted directly by COVID-19. The good news is that there is a lower interest rate for nonprofits receiving loans. Go to the SBA’s webpage to begin the loan process.

Families First Coronavirus Response Act signed into law: On March 18, 2020, the President signed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, (FFCRA) into law. The act requires certain employers to provide employees with paid family and medical leave or paid sick leave for specified reasons in response to COVID-19.

To help Alaska nonprofits better understand the provisions of the act, Manley & Brautigam P.C. in Anchorage prepared this material for us. The act takes effect on April 2, 2020. Any activities an organization needs to take to comply with the law should be completed by midnight on April 1, 2020. You can also find helpful information in this posting from the National Council of Nonprofits.

If you have further questions, please contact Foraker’s Director of Human Resources Rebecca Savidis at rsavidis@forakergroup.org.

Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act): The Senate and House hope to pass the $2 trillion legislation in the coming days. Below are key nonprofit sector-wide issues on which advocates have been most active – you can find details on each of these points here.  (Thanks to the National Council of Nonprofits for their analysis):

    • Emergency Small Business Loans
    • Economic Injury Disaster Loans
    • Charitable Giving Incentive
    • Employee Retention Payroll Tax Credit

Other significant provisions include:

  • Direct Payments to adults of $1,200 or less and $500 per child ($3,400 for a family of four) to be sent out in weeks. The amount of the payments phases out based on earnings of between $75,000 and $99,000 ($150,000 / $198,000 for couples).
  • Expanded Unemployment Insurance: Includes coverage for workers who are furloughed, gig workers, and freelancers. Increases payments by $600 per week for four months on top of what state unemployment programs pay.
  • Amendments to the New Paid Leave Mandates: Lowers the amounts that employers must pay for paid sick and family leave under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act* (enacted March 19) to the amounts covered by the refundable payroll tax credit – i.e., $511 per day for employee sick leave or $200 per day for family leave.
  • Significant Spending: The bill also calls for large infusions of cash to the following sectors:
    • $150 billion for a state, tribal, and local Coronavirus Relief fund
    • $130 billion for hospitals
    • $30 billion for education
    • $25 billion for transit systems

Federal grants flexibility: The Office of Management and Budget has posted instructions allowing federal agencies to issue exceptions to the grants rules in the OMB Uniform Guidance to remove administrative impediments on services necessary to carry out the emergency response related to COVID-19. Those include:

    • No-cost extensions on expiring grant awards
    • Abbreviated non-competitive continuation requests
    • Allowing expenditure of award funds related to the public health emergency, including resumption of activity in the future and the appropriateness of future funding
    • Waivers from prior approval requirements
    • Exemption of certain procurement requirements

We will continue to update developments as they occur. And we will hold frequent COVID-19 policy updates. Again, if you have questions, call us.

Mar 24, 2020
Posted Under: COVID

Update: Foraker staff will be canceling all sessions requiring travel until April 21 in accordance with the Governor’s mandate to limit interstate travel. 

Dear Nonprofit Leaders:

Starting today, Foraker staff will be working remotely.  Our plan is to keep the office closed until April 15, at which time we will reevaluate the situation to see what is necessary for public health.

I do not make this decision lightly. I am concerned not only for the health of our staff and consultant team but for the public’s health.  The more we self-quarantine and practice social distancing the better off we will all be as a community.

We are staying ready and able to serve the nonprofit sector.  While we are working to reschedule all in-person meetings, we are still available to work with you virtually.  Our goal is uninterrupted service as much as possible. 

All of our communication channels – phone, email, website, social media are active.  Feel free to contact us. And be sure to let us know how your nonprofit is doing by filling out this survey.

While many of you have chosen to cancel your board and staff retreats, know that there are other ways we can support you.  We are planning to ramp up opportunities for online connection through classes and forums.  Watch your email and our social media pages for more updates in the coming weeks. 

We are also updating our COVID-19 resources page with useful information.  Please let us know if there is a resource you can’t find.  Many of our partners like the National Council of Nonprofits are also collecting information that can help you.

We know that many of our nonprofits are on the front lines of this pandemic.  We see you.  We appreciate you.  We are here to support you.

Be safe.  Keep your family safe.  Keep your community safe.

Laurie

Mar 16, 2020
Posted Under: COVID

Update: The survey will close tomorrow – March 24 – at 12:00 pm.  

Dear Alaska Nonprofit Leader:

We care deeply about you, the people and communities you serve, and about the overall welfare of every Alaskan. We know these are unprecedented times and that you are each doing your best to navigate with every new piece of information on COVID-19. We are monitoring the impact of this virus on our sector closely, and we need to hear from you to understand what you need and what questions you have as we move forward together.

Please take just a few moments to complete a brief survey and talk among your team so that only one person answers this survey for each organization.

The responses will be used to help Foraker provide additional support to you and will be shared with the Alaska funding community as they determine what emergency assistance they can offer. We share a common goal—ensuring all Alaskans are well cared for during this epidemic.

We will be scheduling a series of check-in calls in the coming weeks to share results and hear more from you.  Also be sure to check out the resources on our blog to help you navigate the decisions you are making today.

We will be back in touch soon with more information and resources.

Laurie Wolf, President/CEO
The Foraker Group