August 2020 Public Policy Roundup

August 2020 Public Policy Roundup

Publication date: 
August, 2020

By Hillary Evans, vice president of professional learning & public policy, Philanthropy Southwest

U.S. Senate Republicans Release “Skinny” COVID-19 Relief Package

Republicans of the U.S. Senate released on August 18 a scaled-back COVID-19 stimulus bill, the Delivering Immediate Relief to America’s Families, Schools and Small Businesses (text). This draft bill provides $500 billion in federal spending and loans and is very similar to the HEALS Act, a series of 8 individual bills introduced in late July. The “Skinny” COVID-19 relief bill provides:

  • $300 in enhanced weekly federal unemployment benefits until December 27, 2020;
  • a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans;
  • an additional $10 billion for the U.S. Postal Service and liability protections; and
  • $150 billion in health and education funding to support COVID-19 testing, vaccine development and the reopening of schools

While the bill has not been formally introduced, it could pave the way for the Senate to reach a final COVID-19 relief deal after they return from recess on September 8, following Labor Day.  The House is not scheduled to return until September 14. There are also talks of combining the COVID-19 legislation with a continuing resolution to keep the federal government open as the fiscal year ends September 30.  

Census Bureau & Commerce Department Shorten Census Operations Deadline 

On August 3, the Census Bureau announced plans to accelerate the completion of Census data collection from October 31 to September 30.  With the global pandemic, communities were already stretched thin in responding to the Census and reaching historically undercounted communities.  The deadline shortened by one-month, only adds to these existing challenges which could compromise an accurate count and reduce federal dollars to states. In response to this announcement, more than 500 philanthropic institutions, including Philanthropy Southwest and 20+ foundations in the Southwest, signed a letter of support opposing this shortened deadline.    

This unprecedented effort, organized by the Democracy Funders Collaborative Census Subgroup, FCCP, and the United Philanthropy Forum, included national, state, and community-based funders and philanthropy serving organizations representing 49 states, Washington, DC, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.  Following the release of the letter, the Chronicle of Philanthropy published an opinion piece, A New Move to Limit the Census Will Harm Virtually Every Cause, authored by Gary D. Bass, Bauman Foundation; Antonia Hernández, California Community Foundation; Ann Stern, Houston Endowment; La June Montgomery Tabron, W.K. Kellogg Foundation; and Darren Walker, Ford Foundation.  Additionally, there have been several civil rights groups, civic organizations that have sued the Trump administration to stop the rushed deadline.

Philanthropy Southwest will continue to keep the grantmaking community updated on legislative and other policy developments related to the charitable sector.

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