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Apr 12, 2021
Posted Under: Foraker News       Tags: Leadership Transition

We are excited to announce that Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska (BBBSAK) has selected its next chief executive officer. Welcome to Jillian Lush! Jill was chosen from a field of qualified applicants to lead Big Brothers Big Sisters of Alaska in its mission to ignite the power and promise of youth through one-to-one mentoring relationships. Jill comes to BBBSAK after a decade of leading Sprout Family Services in Homer, Alaska, where the core mission is to promote the healthy development of children in partnership with families and the community. We are proud to have supported BBBSAK’s efforts in finding a new leader through our Leadership Transition services.

Apr 8, 2021
Posted Under: President's letter

I have always loved that we have different words for our seasons in Alaska. Our words reflect accuracy but with a touch of humor that lightens the fact that we are experiencing something wholly different from our friends in the Lower 48. For me as a kid, the season of “break-up” was all about hoping my boots had no holes to let the icy water run through as I navigated or sometimes purposely encountered large, melting puddles of standing water on the sidewalks, trails, and streets – all the while savoring the crunch of thin sheets of ice as they buckled beneath my feet. At this time of year, with more than 12 hours of daylight, an energy begins to stir encouraging us to do more, get outside more, and stay up longer. And just as we want to do those things, the snow, cold, and ice remind us that the midnight sun and longer summer days are still a long way off – sometimes too long.

Last year at this time we were talking about new words, too. These were not just Alaska words but pandemic words like “blursday,” “shelter in place,” and “hunker down.” Now that almost 40% of Alaskans have received at least one shot of vaccine and the promise that everyone could (and should) get vaccinated is in our grasp (thanks in large part to our amazing tribal healthcare system), I feel like “break-up” is taking on new meaning.

It isn’t just the ice and snow that is melting and breaking, it is also our stamina to do this “pandemic life” much longer. Our emotions are like those thin ice sheets that with one strong step will crack beneath us. We are collectively and individually tired – deep down to the core tired. And, yes, that new light of hope (those 12 hours) energizes us to hug, travel, and connect. But the true gifts of summer’s bounty feel a long way off – too long.

In my search for ways to describe what will carry us through this season to where the light shines, the flowers grow, and we can stretch our arms and feel true relief, I am also searching for ways to describe the collective stamina we need for what lies ahead. To be sure, what is on our horizon is going to require a new level of intensity to do our work.

Every season has an outfit that goes with it – our extra tuffs for “break-up” comes to mind. In this season we also need to wear proudly, without apology, our grit, our grace, and our gratitude.

As Alaskans we literally know grit – not only the kind that comes in the air when the ice and snow melt but the way in which we live our lives in the darkest of times, often just as a part of an ordinary day. In 2021 and likely into 2022, we will have to dig deeper this time and access all of our grittiness to do it. We used our energy stores to get us through 2020, so now it’s time to refill those stores – with a nap, a breath of fresh air, a hug from another vaccinated person, which may be the best hug you ever really got. As staff and board leaders, we have a job to help our teams here. They were already digging so deeply. It’s up to us to find our grit to keep them and us going – we are not there yet.

And as we dig deeper, we need to remember that we are like that thin ice and our emotions are just below the surface. We are grieving personally and collectively at many levels. This grief is also mixed with excitement, anxiety, relief, and anticipation for what comes next. I invite us all to extend grace to each other when we accidently break through the ice and expose our own emotion or trigger one in someone else. Be gentle with each other as we navigate forward.

And gratitude. We made it to another season. Your mission is helping people and this place we call home. You did what was necessary to meet the needs and protect public health. You are part of our collective road to recovery. Gratitude is also about having an abundance mindset, one that invites us to make decisions not just about ourselves or even our teams but about the larger community and world we live in. 2020 brought much economic strife and hard times, but it also brought us more gratitude and abundance. We showed up for each other in the physical and economic disasters. We showed up for each other through our philanthropic gifts and our kindness. We keep showing up. Of course, this is layered within a context that is the opposite, too. As a self-described optimistic realist, I see the hateful acts against our fellow humans, the acts of systemic oppression powered by lies that weave division in and out of our day. But even in this, I am consciously looking for acts of gratitude and kindness, for the acknowledgement of bigger ideas, and for the steps taken beyond oneself. As you stand up against what is broken, I invite you to see with gratitude how we can work together to make this world safer, healthier, and better positioned to thrive.

In this season I am choosing to refill my cup with grit, grace, and gratitude because like you, I am going to need a full cup for what is coming next on top of all that we are still experiencing. We have some big decisions to make – delivering mission in new ways to meet new needs in our communities, returning or not to office spaces, dealing with another wave of virus strains, encouraging everyone to keep each other safe by getting vaccinated, navigating a state budget deficit, experiencing continued political strife, and facing the realities of systemic oppression in every corner of our country. And then there is this…

Alaska is about to receive a lot of money in many streams that could truly do so much good that some of our most ingrained challenges could be solved – forever. If we do it right, there will be safe water in every community, there will be access to broadband for children and elders and the rest of us with equity at the center of that solution. If we do it right, families will come out of poverty and children will have access to safe childcare. If we do it right, fewer people will be hungry. If we do it right, our economies will be stronger because Alaska’s local governments and Alaska’s businesses will be thriving.

We can do this – and nonprofit leaders like you must be at each and every table working across sectors, across politics, across geography, and across turf – and always with abundance. One season will turn to another and another and to navigate them requires our grit, grace, and gratitude to find our way forward together. Now is the time to figure out if you will set the table, be a host, take the lead, or just have a seat – what I know is that we must be there. That is how Alaska will work best – when we work together. That is what it will mean to do it right.

Onward.

-Laurie

Apr 3, 2021
Posted Under: Advocacy

Below is the testimony Laurie Wolf delivered on April 1, 2021, to the House Tribal Affairs Committee, chaired by Representative Tiffany Zulkosky:

For the record, I am Laurie Wolf, President/CEO of The Foraker Group, which serves as the state nonprofit association for Alaska and nonprofit capacity builder across the state. Today I am speaking to you from Dena’ina land. As the voice for the nonprofit sector, I appreciate the opportunity to speak before the committee in support of HB 123.

Foraker is honored to stand with Alaska’s indigenous people and all Alaska tribes. I am driven to be here today as I reflect and live our core values as an organization. Rather than just saying “Alaska” as our value, we specifically call out our value as Urban/Rural/Native/Non-Native to acknowledge the indigenous people of this place, the land where we live, and our commitment to serving nonprofits and tribes in urban and rural Alaska. It is from this core value that we begin our understanding every day and renew our commitment to live and be supportive of tribal governments and Alaska’s first people.

Over the last 20 years, we have been grateful for the opportunity to work side-by-side with tribes, most of which also have nonprofit status – their work is as diverse as the people and cultures they steward. In each instance, we endeavor to listen and learn from each and every partnership, and we are honored to share in return. The result is that we are all stronger and better able to serve the people of Alaska.

Foraker is proud to stand with the many voices you will hear from today in support of state tribal recognition.

Thank you for your service.

The hearing on HB 123 can be found here. Laurie’s testimony is delivered at approximately 1:01.

Information on the legislation is found here.

Mar 25, 2021
Posted Under: Advocacy COVID

On March 11, 2021 President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) into law – it’s the latest federal COVID relief package.  The far-reaching ARPA is packed with financial assistance for nonprofits, individuals, local governments, states, and small businesses.  Thanks to the tireless advocacy of the National Council of Nonprofits for ensuring nonprofits are included in the law. 

We know Alaska nonprofits are wanting to learn more about specific parts of the ARPA that affect their organizations, their staff and volunteers, their clients and customers, their communities. 2020 was a tough year, and 2021 presents even more pressing challenges in responding to the global pandemic, and charting a solid, strategic path to long-term recovery.  The ARPA is a significant part of relief and recovery.

In the summary below we identify what we know right now about specific Alaska allocations, special provisions that impact the nonprofit sector, and a section-by-section analysis of the law.  Special thanks to the National Council of Nonprofits, the Alaska Municipal League, the Alaska Small Business Development Center, and our colleagues at the Nonprofit Association of Oregon for their analysis.

Alaska Allocations

As we heard at the White House briefing today, all of the funds allocated to Alaska can be used in partnership with the nonprofit sector either through grants or contracts for services. Here is what we know today about specific allocations headed to Alaska through the ARPA:

  • $1.02 billion to State of Alaska
  • $112.2 million to State of Alaska – infrastructure/capital
  • $45 million to Anchorage – Community Development Block Grant (CDBG)
  • $43.5 million to all other cities – Dept. Commerce, Community and Economic Development (DCCED)
  • $141.8 million to boroughs and census areas
    • Of census allocation, $15 million to cities in the Unorganized Borough – DCCED
  • $358 million to school districts – Dept. of Education and Early Development
  • $400 million to tribes; $1.7 million each
  • $152 million for emergency rental assistance – Alaska Housing Finance Corporation/Anchorage
  • $43 million to LIHEAP – Dept. of Health and Social Services (DHSS)
  • $74 million to CCDBG and Childcare Stabilization Grants – DHSS
  • $11 million to Anchorage and $3.7 million to Fairbanks for transit
  • $2.74 million for rural transit – Dept. of Transportation and Public Facilities (DOTPF)

 

Nonprofit Impacts Summarized

You can find a more detailed chart with this summary from the National Council of Nonprofits here.

Paid Leave Tax Credit for Employers

  • Extends through Sept. 30, 2021 the refundable payroll tax credits for paid sick and family leave originally established in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and voluntarily provided by employers.
  • Increases the amount of wages for which an employer may claim the paid family credit in a year, from $10,000 to $12,000 per employee.
  • Expands leave to cover obtaining vaccinations and any resulting injury or illness related to vaccination.

Nonprofit Unemployment Insurance Reimbursement

  • For self-insured nonprofits, ARPA extends federal coverage of the unemployment costs of reimbursing nonprofits.
    • The current reimbursement rate of 50% continues to March 31, 2001.
    • On April 1, reimbursement increases to 75% and remains at that rate until September 6.
  • The ARPA also continues coverage for self-employed nonprofit workers and staff of religious and smaller nonprofits.

Expanded PPP LOAN

  • Adds $7.25 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program and expands PPP eligibility to charitable nonprofits that operate at multiple locations and employ not more than 500 employees per physical location.
  • Expands PPP eligibility to other types of nonprofits, but with a 300-employee limit per location.
  • No changes to Second Draw PPP loans eligibility
  • PPP application deadline is Mar. 31, 2021 – Congress passed a two month extension. We are now awaiting the President’s signature.

Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG)

  • Performing arts organizations can apply for PPP loans, but they may also want to consider requesting a grant from the new Shuttered Venue Operators Grants (SVOG) program.
    • The Small Business Administration will begin accepting applications for this program on April 8, 2021
  • Repeals prohibition on applying for funds under both the PPP and SVOG.
    • SVOG grant will be reduced by the amount of PPP loan received in 2021

Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL)

  • Includes $15 billion for the Targeted EIDL Advance program
    • Instructs SBA to spend $10 billion in payments to covered entities that did not receive full amounts to which they were entitled – that means applicants who could not get more than the former $150,000 threshold
    • Allocates remaining $5 billion to covered entities that have suffered an economic loss of at least 50% and have 10 or fewer employees

Aid for State, Local, Tribal, and Territorial Governments

  • Provides $350 billion in aid with guardrail limitations on how governments may spend the funds. Permissible uses include:
    • Provides “assistance to households, small businesses, and nonprofits, or aid to impacted industries,”
    • Funds government services that were cut due to declines in revenue brought on by the pandemic, and makes “necessary investments” in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure.
    • Bans use of funds for tax cuts or to pay public pension
  • Other allocations
    • Anchorage is an “entitlement city” so will receive funds directly
    • Boroughs will also receive allocations directly
    • All other will receive theirs through the State
      • Non-entitlement cities
      • Census area allocation to cities

Section by Section Analysis

The ARPA provides for a total of $1.88 trillion in federal investments, with a number of those investments highlighted in the following sectional analysis of the legislation.  Special thanks to the Nonprofit Association of Oregon for their analysis.

Title I – Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry

  • Nutrition: The bill will extend the 15% increase in SNAP benefits through September 30, 2021 to further address the hunger crisis.
  • Pandemic EBT program: The ARPA helps children in need by providing families, who normally would receive school meals in person, with the value of those missed school breakfasts and lunches.
  • WIC modernization: This bill will provide funding for outreach and modernization to make the WIC (Women, Infants, and Children) program more user-friendly, and increases the Cash Value Voucher benefit for purchasing additional fruits and vegetables.
  • Food Supply Chain: The bill provides $4 billion to support the food supply chain through the purchase and distribution of food, the purchase of PPE for farmworkers and other frontline food workers, and financial support for farmers, small and medium sized food processing companies, farmers markets, and others to create more resilient and competitive food supply chains. It also provides funding to monitor COVID-19 in animals and reduce overtime inspection fees for small meat and poultry processors.
  • Farmers of Color: The bill provides debt relief and assistance to socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers who have faced disproportionate impacts from the pandemic.
  • Rural Health Care: ARPA increases vaccine distribution capacity, providing medical supplies and medical surge capacity, and expands access to tele-health in rural America.

Title II – Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions

  • Vaccines: In order to ensure vaccines reach every community as quickly as possible, especially communities of color and hard to reach areas, there is $7.5 billion in CDC funding for vaccine distribution. There is also $5.2 billion for Biomedical Advanced Research and Development (BARDA) for vaccine and supplies procurement.
  • Testing: The bill provides $48.3 billion for testing in order to contain the virus and mitigate its effects, hire staff for contact tracing, provide PPE for frontline health workers, and take other steps to combat the virus, such as enabling isolation and quarantine. The bill also provides nearly two billion dollars for enhanced genomic sequencing.
  • Health Workforce: ARPA provides $7.66 billion to bolster the public health workforce and COVID-19 response.
  • Community Health Centers and Health Disparities: The bill delivers immediate relief to frontline providers who serve communities of color and underserved populations hardest hit by pandemic. This includes $7.6 billion for community health centers, $1.44 billion for Older Americans Act programs, $800 million for the National Health Services Corps, and more.
  • Mental Health: The need for accessible mental health and substance use disorder treatment has skyrocketed during the pandemic. ARPA includes $3.88 billion to expand on those investments made in the year-end 2020 COVID relief package to increase availability of treatment.
  • K-12 Schools: ARPA provides over $125 billion for public K-12 schools to safely reopen schools for in-person learning, address learning loss, and support students as they work to recover from the long-term impacts of the pandemic.
  • Higher Ed: ARPA provides $39.6 billion to colleges and universities and their students. At least half of such funding must be spent on emergency financial aid grants to students to help them with college costs and basic needs like food, housing, and health care, with the other half available to institutions of higher education to defray lost revenue and increased costs from declining enrollment, the transition to online learning, closures of revenue-producing services and facilities, and COVID-19 testing, vaccination, PPE, and classroom retrofits.
  • Child Care and Head Start: ARPA includes $39 billion for childcare, including nearly $24 billion for Child Care Stabilization grants and nearly $15 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program. States must use Child Care Stabilization funds to award subgrants to qualified childcare providers that are either open or temporarily closed to help support their operations during the pandemic. Subgrants can be used for expenses such as personnel expenses, rent and mortgage payments, cleaning supplies and personal protective equipment, mental health services for children and staff, and other goods and services necessary to maintain or resume operations of the childcare provider. Subgrant recipients must certify that they will abide by state and local public health guidance, continue to pay their staff full wages, and provide copayment and tuition relief to families, to the extent possible, as a condition of subgrant funding. States may reserve up to 10 percent of grant funds for supply building, administrative, and technical assistance costs. ARPA gives states the authority to expand eligibility for childcare assistance to essential workers, regardless of their income. ARPA also includes $1 billion for Head Start, to ensure Head Start programs have the resources they need to continue safely providing services to children and families throughout the pandemic.
  • Family Violence and Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA): ARPA includes $350 million in funding for programs authorized under CAPTA, as families face increased stressors related to financial hardship and isolation during this pandemic. This includes $250 million in funding for community-based child abuse prevention programs to provide services to strengthen and support families throughout the pandemic. The funding will ensure that child welfare agencies have the necessary supports to safely prevent, investigate, and treat child abuse and neglect. The proposal also includes funding for domestic violence and sexual assault service providers.
  • LIHEAP and Water Utility Bill Assistance: ARPA includes $4.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP), and $500 million for low-income water assistance.
  • Institute of Museum and Library Services: ARPA includes $200 million in funding for libraries through IMLS. These funds will provide emergency relief to over 17,000 public libraries across the country, allowing them safely reopen and implement public health protocols. This emergency relief will enable libraries to provide residents with accessible Wi-Fi, internet hotspots, education resources, expanded digital resources, and workforce development opportunities, which are heavily relied upon services for marginalized individuals.
  • National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) and National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH): ARPA includes $135 million apiece for the NEA and NEH. These funds will support arts and cultural organizations to address layoffs, budget cuts, and implementation of public health protocols to safely reopen.
  • Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS): ARPA includes $1 billion to support CNCS. Additional funding will position AmeriCorps to increase the number of national service participants who are helping communities across the nation address other challenges brought on by the pandemic.
  • Department of Labor (DOL): ARPA provides additional funding of $200 million for DOL worker protection enforcement activities. This includes increases to the Wage and Hour Division, the Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, the Office of the Solicitor, the Mine Safety and Health Administration, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, and the Office of Inspector General.

Title III – Committee on Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs

  • Emergency Rental Assistance: The ARPA includes $21.55 billion in Emergency Rental Assistance to augment funds provided to states, localities, and territories in December to help families pay the rent and utilities and stay in their homes.
  • Housing Counseling: Millions of homeowners and renters are behind on monthly payments and will need help navigating assistance and modification and workout options. Housing counselors are on the front lines of providing this advice, yet they have not received funding since the pandemic began. The ARPA provides $100 million for housing counseling, which will be distributed to housing counseling organizations through NeighborWorks. This funding will allow counselors to help both homeowners and renters remain in their homes and avoid being faced with overwhelming debt burdens.
  • Assistance for People Experiencing Homelessness: The ARPA includes $5 billion to help communities provide supportive services and safe, socially distant housing solutions, including purchase of properties like motels for use as non-congregate shelter, to protect the health of these families and individuals, and help control transmission of coronavirus.
  • Emergency Housing Vouchers: Emergency housing vouchers will transition high-need homeless and at-risk families, youth, and individuals, including survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, to stable housing. The $5 billion included in the ARPA bill will provide a more stable platform to access health care, education, and jobs. Emergency housing vouchers will expire after these assisted families no longer need them.
  • Rural Rental Assistance: The bill provides $100 million to support households residing in USDA-subsidized rural properties and who are struggling to pay rent during the coronavirus.
  • Mortgage and Utility Assistance: An estimated 3.3 million homeowners are behind on their payments or in foreclosure, and more homeowners are likely behind on utilities and property taxes. Homeowners of color are disproportionately likely to have fallen behind during the pandemic. There has been no funding dedicated to assist homeowners since the pandemic began; ARPA provides $9.961 billion in funding through the Department of Treasury to states, territories, tribes, and tribally designated housing entities to provide direct assistance to homeowners.
  • Rural Homeowners: Thousands of low-income households who have become homeowners through USDA Direct mortgage programs have fallen behind on their payments during this pandemic. The ARPA provides $39 million for these mortgage programs to allow USDA to help homeowners who have fallen behind get back on track.
  • Fair Housing: Fair housing organizations help renters, homeowners, and housing providers identify and combat housing discrimination and need additional resources to address the sudden increase in housing challenges and need for socially distanced services amid the pandemic. The ARPA provides $20 million to help fair housing organizations meet increased fair housing needs.
  • Public Transportation: Public transportation agencies estimate they face more than tens of billions of additional costs and revenue losses related to the COVID-19 crisis. The ARPA provides $30.4 billion of additional relief funding to transit agencies to prevent layoffs of transit workers and prevent severe cuts to transit services that essential workers and the public rely on.
  • Defense Production Act: To combat COVID-19 and address shortfalls in the medical supply chain, the ARPA provides $10 billion to expand domestic production of PPE, vaccines, and other medical supplies.

Title IV – Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs

  • Disaster Relief Fund & Funeral Assistance: The bill will provide $50 million for the Disaster Relief Fund (DRF) at the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), which assists states, Tribal Nations, and territories, as well as individuals and qualifying private nonprofits, as they respond to the pandemic. This funding can pay for personal protective equipment; vaccine distribution; sanitization of schools, public transit, and courthouses; health care overtime costs; and other needs. This money can also be allocated to extending the funeral assistance program in the last COVID relief package that will reimburse those who have lost a loved one to COVID for many common funeral expenses.
  • FEMA Grant Programs: Emergency managers, firefighters, and governmental and non-governmental organizations such as food pantries and shelters have been on the frontlines of COVID-19 response across the country. These organizations have been strained by surges in need and demand for their help. The pandemic has increased operational costs, reduced capacity, and created shortfalls in many municipal budgets. The bill provides grant funding for the FEMA Emergency Food and Shelter Program; Emergency Management Performance Grants; Assistance to Firefighter Grants; and, Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants. These resources will ensure that these critical frontline organizations will be able to continue to support COVID-19 response locally, provide vital services, deliver humanitarian relief, and maintain capacity to respond to other emergencies in their communities.

Title V – Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship

  • Targeted EIDL Grants: The bill will add $15 billion in new funding for Targeted EIDL grants to provide hard-hit, underserved small businesses with increased flexible grant relief. These grants will be particularly helpful for very small businesses and sole proprietors, which include over 90 percent of minority-owned businesses that have been disproportionately impacted by COVID.
  • Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program: ARPA provides $1.25 billion in additional funds for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program because last year’s end-of-year package did not include sufficient funding to ensure all eligible applicants would be covered based on rough estimates. Eligible applicants can now access both the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant and PPP to address SVOG’s delayed start.
  • Expanded PPP Eligibility: ARPA expands PPP eligibility to include additional nonprofits such as 501(c)(5) labor and agricultural organizations and community locations of larger nonprofits and provides $7 billion for that purpose. Nonprofits are a significant sector in the economy and are on the frontlines of providing social services during this crisis. An additional $250 million is also provided to expand PPP eligibility for digital news services that provide local news and lifesaving information about public health guidance during the pandemic.
  • Community Navigator Technical Assistance and Administrative Funding: The bill provides $175 million in new assistance to fund community organizations, SBA resource partners, and community financial institutions with experience working in minority, immigrant, and rural communities to serve as community navigators to help connect small business owners in these communities to critical resources, including small business loans, business licenses, and federal, state, and local business assistance programs. The bill also includes $1.325 billion to support SBA’s mission and to administer the new grants and other relief programs.

Title VI – Committee on Environment and Public Works

  • Economic Development Administration (EDA): Funding provides flexible investment for rebuilding local economies and hard-hit industries, including tourism and travel. The American Rescue Plan provides the Economic Development Administration with $3 billion to aid communities in rebuilding local economies, which includes $750 million for the travel, tourism, and outdoor recreation sectors. This funding will also help EDA fulfill its role as the lead agency under the National Disaster Response Framework to assist communities with economic recovery following a disaster, including the current health pandemic.
  • Broadband for Remote Learning: At least 12 million K-12 public school students live in households without either an internet connection or a device adequate for distance learning at home. And a disproportionate amount of the children that lack Internet connectivity come from communities of color, low-income households, Tribal lands, and rural areas. This bill will provide $7.172 billion to the Federal Communications Commission to help schools and libraries ensure that our nation’s schoolchildren can fully participate in remote learning, even as schools look to reopen safely.
  • Corporation for Public Broadcasting: The $175 million in support for public broadcasting provided by this bill will help public broadcasters around the country weather the economic fallout to their stations from the COVID crisis. This stabilization support is critical for ensuring universal access to public broadcasting and the high-quality, non-commercial content and telecommunications services they provide that educate, inform, and help protect the public.
  • Consumer Product Safety: The pandemic has exposed weaknesses in the nation’s ability to detect and deter unsafe consumer products entering the United States, ranging from a lack of port inspectors to insufficient ability to monitor increases in online sales. This bill provides $50 million in needed funds to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission to help the agency protect the public from unreasonable risks of injury or death associated with consumer products during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • Prevention of COVID-19 Scams: In 2020, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission tracked a record 4.7 million consumer complaints, including over 365,000 reports of fraud, identity theft, and other scams related to the pandemic. The bill appropriates $30.4 million to the FTC to combat the rise in consumer scams during the pandemic. This funding would allow the FTC to employ more personnel and enhance enforcement efforts to root out COVID-19 scams.

Title VIII – Committee on Veterans’ Affairs

  • Copay Waivers: The bill provides funding to waive copays for veterans during the pandemic, and to provide health care services and support to veterans, including COVID-19 vaccine distribution, expanded mental health care, enhanced tele-health capabilities, extended support for veterans who are homeless or in danger of becoming homeless, and PPE and supplies for clinical employees.
  • Retraining: ARPA establishes a new program to provide retraining assistance for veterans who have lost their jobs due to COVID and includes funding for VA to mitigate the pandemic’s impacts on the benefits claims and appeals backlog.
  • State Veterans Homes: Many states have struggled to protect veterans from COVID; this bill provides funding to support COVID-19 response, staff and veteran safety, and preparedness at these facilities through one-time payments to support operations and additional construction grants to support shovel-ready projects.
  • VA Health Care: Millions of veterans have had their health care appointments delayed during the pandemic, and this bill provides critical funding to ensure VA is able to provide the highest quality of care to veterans when they need it.

Title IX – Committee on Finance

  • Direct Payments: This package includes a $1,400 payment to supplement the $600 already provided in December. These funds are already reaching Alaskans.
  • Unemployment Insurance extension: The bill extends the critical financial lifeline of enhanced unemployment insurance for the 18 million Americans that are currently relying on these benefits until September 6, 2021. This includes an extension of the federal unemployment insurance bump that is added to all unemployment benefits (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation, or FPUC), at the current law amount of $300. It also includes extensions of the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which expands eligibility for the self-employed, gig workers, freelancers and others in non-traditional employment who do not qualify for regular unemployment insurance, as well as the Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) program, which makes additional weeks of benefits available to workers who exhaust their state benefits. All other CARES Act and Families First Act unemployment programs are similarly extended until September 6, 2021.
  • Unemployment Insurance Taxation: The bill creates a $10,200 tax exclusion for unemployment compensation income for tax year 2020 for households with incomes under $150,000.
  • EITC and CTC: The COVID-19 recession has greatly exacerbated income inequality in America. This bill also includes a significant expansion of two of the most powerful and effective anti-poverty tools the U.S. government has the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). It will nearly triple the maximum EITC for childless workers, providing additional relief to more than 17 million of these individuals – most importantly, getting economic help to those working in essential but low-paid jobs on the frontlines of the pandemic. To put more money into the pockets of working families, it will increase the amount of the CTC, from $2,000 to $3,000 (with a more generous $3,600 credit for children under the age of 6). The CTC will also be fully refundable, ensuring this vital resource is available to the lowest-income households. It is estimated that these changes will lift nearly 10 million children across the U.S. above or closer to the poverty line. Additionally, this bill includes an expansion of the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit to help working families afford the cost of childcare during this crisis. This includes increasing the credit so households can receive a total of up to $4,000 for one child or $8,000 for two or more children and making it fully refundable so families who owe little in taxes can still benefit.
  • State and Local Fiscal Aid: The bill includes needed direct aid to state and local governments. It provides $350 billion to States, territories, Tribes, and local governments to be used for responding to the COVID-19 public health emergency, to offset revenue losses, bolster economic recovery and to provide premium pay for essential workers.
  • Health Care Support: The bill includes five main provisions to improve health coverage.
    • First, over the next two years, it invests nearly $35 billion in premium subsidy increases for those who buy coverage on the ACA marketplaces. The bill both increases the generosity of the subsidies for those who currently are eligible for subsidies, as well as removes the 400% federal poverty level limit on subsidy eligibility.
    • Second, given significant income fluctuations in 2020, the bill forgives more than $6 billion in payments that people would need to make if their 2020 advanced premium subsidies did not match their income.
    • Third, the bill provides a major incentive for some states to expand Medicaid, offering them a 5% increase on their base FMAP rate for two years if they expand coverage.
    • Fourth, the bill subsidizes 100 percent of COBRA premiums for six months for individuals who lost employment or had reduced hours.
    • Fifth, for one year, the bill provides premium subsidies of ACA marketplace coverage equivalent to a person earning up to 133% FPL for people who receive unemployment compensation.

The bill also includes numerous investments to reduce health disparities, including an option for states to provide one-year of postpartum Medicaid coverage, support for state home-and community-based Medicaid services, and resources for COVID-19 response in nursing homes. The bill also increases rebates that pharmaceutical companies owe to Medicaid programs, provides $8.5 billion for rural providers, provides additional funding to safety-net hospitals and more.

  • Paid Sick Leave Credit: The bill provides an extension and expansion of the paid sick and FMLA leave tax credits created in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020. It provides payroll tax credits for employers who voluntarily provide paid leave through the end of September 2021. It also expands eligibility to state and local governments that provide this benefit.
  • Employee Retention Tax Credit: The bill extends and expands the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC) through December 31, 2021. The ERTC, originally enacted in the CARES Act, helps struggling businesses retain and rehire workers. The bill expands the ERTC to allow certain severely distressed businesses to claim the credit for a greater share of employee wages. It also expands the credit to cover newly formed businesses, to help spur hiring and recovery.
  • Tax Treatment of Certain SBA Programs: The bill provides for the tax-free treatment of Targeted EIDL Advances and Restaurant Revitalization Grants. It also clarifies that any otherwise-allowable deductions continue to be deductible notwithstanding the tax-free treatment of grant proceeds.
  • Modification of Reporting Requirements for Third Party Network Transactions: The bill lowers and modifies the threshold below which a third-party settlement organization is not required to report payments to participants in its network. For any calendar year beginning after December 31, 2021, a third-party settlement organization is required to report transactions with any participating payee that exceed a minimum threshold of $600 in aggregate payments, regardless of the aggregate number of such transactions.
  • Extension of Excess Business Loss Limitation: The bill extends for one year, through December 31, 2026, the limitation on excess business losses of non-corporate taxpayers.

Title XI – Committee on Indian Affairs

  • The federal government holds trust and treaty obligations to provide essential safety-net programs that serve Native communities, which were historically underfunded prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. These programs have experienced significant strain as they attempt to respond to and mitigate the impacts of the pandemic on Native communities.
  • Health Care: The Indian Health Service (IHS) serves 2.56 million American Indian/Alaska Natives (AIANs) through health care facilities operated by the federal government, Indian Tribes, and Urban Indian Organizations (UIOs). According to the CDC, AIANs are hospitalized for COVID-19 at four times the rate of Non-Hispanic Whites. This Title authorizes direct funding for the Department of Health and Human Services’ Indian Health Service (IHS) to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on operation of essential health and sanitation programs, including increasing mental health and substance use disorder prevention/treatment, improving health IT, addressing Native community sanitation issues, and replacing lost third party medical billing reimbursements (e.g., private insurance, Medicaid, Medicare) to ensure federally-operated IHS facilities, Tribally-operated IHS facilities, and facilities operated by UIOs can continue operations despite estimated budget shortfalls of 30-80%.
  • Public Safety, Child Welfare, Assistance to Tribal Governments, and Essential Infrastructure: The Bureau of Indian Affairs operates essential programs for the benefit of tribes across Indian Country. Many of these programs continue to be impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, including law enforcement, child welfare, general assistance, housing assistance, and certain water infrastructure and delivery programs. This section authorizes direct funding for the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs (BIA) to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on operation of its essential social welfare and public safety programs.
  • Education: The Department of Education and the Bureau of Indian Education (BIE) provide direct support for Native students in fulfillment of the federal trust responsibility. The majority of schools and dormitories serving Native students have critical infrastructure and facilities needs that would make returning to in-person education unsafe for staff and students during the ongoing pandemic. Additionally, many Native students live in highly rural areas without adequate broadband connectivity. Some estimates suggest that roughly 69% BIE students do not have access to virtual learning opportunities because of the digital divide, leaving these students to rely on receiving instruction by mail or risk potential COVID-19 exposure to find internet access points in other parts of their communities. ARPA authorizes direct funding for the Native education programs and school; it specifies that these funds must be used for BIE-funded schools/dormitories and Tribal colleges and universities; and programs that support Tribal Education Agencies, Native Hawaiian education organizations, and Alaska Native education organizations.
  • Housing: Native Americans have historically experienced higher rates of substandard and overcrowded housing compared to other demographics, a situation made even more dire by COVID-19, which spreads more readily in crowded, indoor environments. According to the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Native communities experience overcrowding in their homes at seven times the national average. Native Americans also experience high rates of homelessness. Nationwide, they have the second-highest rate of homelessness. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently published research that linked poor housing conditions to the disproportionately higher COVID-19 infection and death rate among Native Americans. This section authorizes direct funding for the HUD’s Office of Native American Programs to address the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on operation of its Native American housing and community development programs.
  • Native Languages: There are an estimated 150 Native languages still spoken in the U.S. today. But, more than 80% of these languages have fewer than 1,000 speakers – many have fewer than 100. Because of the limited size and age of speaker populations, the COVID-19 pandemic represents an unprecedented threat to the survival of Native languages. This Title authorizes direct funding for the Department of Health and Human Service’s Administration for Native Americans (ANA) to issue emergency Native American language preservation and maintenance grants to Native American language communities to mitigate COVID-19 related disruptions or threats to the survival and continued vitality of their mother tongues.

 

 

Mar 23, 2021
Posted Under: COVID

Earlier this month President Biden signed the American Rescue Plan Act into law. Join Foraker and our nonprofit partners across the country on Thursday, March 25 at 11:00 am AKST – to welcome former Congressman Cedric Richmond, Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, and others to discuss this legislation and what it means for your mission and operations.