Nonprofits urge Congressional leaders to act quickly on federal assistance

Julie Campbell, assistant director at New Beginnings Sexual Assault Support Services, a member of the Kentucky Nonprofit Network, says the nonprofit is OK for now but is watching expenses and trying to maintain grant funding.

If John Alexander could have a few minutes alone with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Alexander first would thank the statesman for his part in the CARES Act, which helped nonprofits weather the early months of COVID-19.

“It would have been difficult to survive the first few months of COVID without the Paycheck Protection Program,” said Alexander, president and CEO of the Owensboro Family YMCA.

After that, though, Alexander would tell McConnell how the virus continues to batter the local YMCA. Membership fees are down 60%, and program revenue has taken a hit.

Alexander would ask McConnell to act fast and hammer out a bipartisan agreement on the next round of federal assistance because many nonprofits are in similar situations.

The health of the state’s nonprofits is no small matter.

As a group, nonprofits are the state’s fourth-largest employer. In addition, many of them provide essential services free of charge — dental care, hunger relief, emergency housing and sexual assault support services, to name a few — to residents in need.

“Nonprofits are facing layoffs at best and closure at worst,” said Danielle Clore, executive director and CEO of the Kentucky Nonprofit Network.

No one expected the coronavirus to have such staying power. It’s been about six months since Kentucky reported its first COVID-19 case, and the pandemic continues to inflict economic damage across all sectors, including nonprofits.

More relief is needed, Clore said, and it’s needed now.

“We need agreement on the relief package,” she said.

KNN recently put more pressure on Congress to act quickly and to address these issues in the upcoming assistance package: expand the Payroll Protection Program by giving a second round of funding to nonprofits, provide low-cost loans to mid-sized and larger nonprofits that have not been able to access government funding, strengthen tax incentives for charitable contributions and provide full unemployment benefit reimbursement to nonprofits that self-insure those benefits.

Also, KNN is asking all nonprofits across the state to be proactive, to contact congressional leaders and to tell their stories.

Catholic Charities has asked its lobbyist to keep up the pressure, said Susan Montalvo-Gesser, director.

“We see more need now than in the beginning of the pandemic,” Montalvo-Gesser said. “We are desperate for donations to cover the need. We have given out $200,000 in assistance since April, which is more than our total budget for last year.”

David Ross, president and CEO of the United Way of Ohio Valley, said COVID-19 has forced many nonprofits to provide services in different, more costly ways. In addition, some of them have assumed new duties — such as food delivery — during the crisis and have become true lifelines for their clients.

“If this is going to continue, we’ve got to find money to pay for it,” Ross said.

To make matters worse, he is hearing regional nonprofit fundraising is down about 45%, which is a huge hit for organizations that typically don’t keep large cash reserves on hand for emergencies of this magnitude.

The local United Way agency has taken a proactive approach to help the many agencies with which it works. It has conducted Zoom meetings with some congressional leaders in an effort to emphasize how dire the situation is for some nonprofits. Also, the agency has pushed out letters and email requests.

New Beginnings Sexual Assault Support Services is a KNN member and relies on the statewide agency to lobby on its behalf.

New Beginnings’ technology costs increased due to COVID-19, and two key fundraisers were canceled, said Julie Campbell, assistant director.

The nonprofit is financially OK for now, Campbell said. Its leaders are watching expenses and trying to maintain grant funding. However, many of its grants come from state and federal sources, which are taking budget hits, too.

“Our ability to maintain funding is in direct correlation with the economy,” Campbell said.

In addition, families need federal assistance, she said. It’s difficult for sexual assault survivors to concentrate on healing when they are hungry and can’t pay rent or utility bills.

“Everything is at risk right now,” Campbell said. “This is a code red situation. We need (Congress) to act now.”

Clore agrees.

“We urge Kentucky’s congressional delegation to not give up on Kentucky,” the KNN leader said in a press release. “Their good work from the CARES Act must continue, and they must move swiftly to include the bipartisan solutions needed by the nonprofits serving Kentuckians. ... The needs are urgent. Kentucky and our nation simply cannot wait.”

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

Renee Beasley Jones, 270-228-2835, rbeasleyjones@messenger-inquirer.com

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