Nonprofits Call on Congress to Take Action Now to Help North Carolina Communities

6 minute read

September 16, 2020

Media contact: David Heinen, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy (919-986-9224 – cell)

North Carolina nonprofits call on congressional delegation to act now on bipartisan solutions to meet urgent needs of North Carolinians and organizations serving them 

RALEIGH – Nonprofit leaders from across North Carolina held a press conference yesterday (recording available at calling on North Carolina’s congressional delegation to move swiftly to pass another robust COVID-19 relief package of aid to state and local governments; direct supports for people; and relief for nonprofits working on the frontlines to serve North Carolina communities. The press conference was hosted by the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits with additional speakers from Dorcas Ministries, the North Carolina Alliance of YMCAs, Shaw University, United Arts Council of Raleigh & Wake County, and The Free Clinics.

Nonprofit leaders shared stories about the devastating impact of the pandemic on their communities and organizations and discussed the urgent need for additional federal relief to address food and housing insecurity, health care, childcare, education, the arts, and more, noting that North Carolinians are suffering, and nonprofits’ ability to help meet their basic needs is in jeopardy if Congress fails to act soon. 

Howard Manning, Executive Director of Dorcas Ministries in Cary, talked about the impact of the COVID-19 crisis on his organization and its clients. Dorcas Ministries is a basic human service agency with an annual budget of about $2 million. It provides a wide ranges of services including housing assistance and utilities support, and it operates one of Wake County’s largest food pantry. Its mission is to move its clients out of crisis and into self-sufficiency.

“Our business model is dependent on 80% of our funding coming from revenue generated by the Dorcas Thrift Shop,” Manning said. “Our current projections show a loss of almost $500,000 this year compared to budget.

“Due to the first round of PPP, we were able to keep everyone on the payroll, and have not decreased staff since the beginning of the pandemic. We have hired a new case manager in Client Services to address the increased volume of customers that are under or unemployed and need financial assistance.

“While public support has been great from individuals and churches, we feel that strengthening the charitable giving incentive would certainly encourage more to give.”

Dr. Paulette Dillard, President of Shaw University, described the impact of the pandemic on Shaw students: “Shaw University and the North Carolina Independent Colleges and Universities (NCICU) are grateful for the first round of the Payroll Protection Program,” Dr. Dillard said. “For Shaw, this funding allowed us to keep people employed. However, with funding ending in July, we are forced to make decisions on pay reductions, furloughs, and layoffs.

“Shaw University not only provides a high-quality education to our students, we serve a vulnerable population that depends on us for safe housing and nutritious meals. Because of food insecurities, lack of broadband access, insufficient housing in their home communities, and other issues, 71% of Shaw students asked to return to campus.

Sherée Vodicka, CEO of the North Carolina Alliance of YMCAs noted that the three largest YMCAs in North Carolina had too many employees to be eligible for Paycheck Protection Program loans and have not received federal support for their financial losses due to the pandemic. “North Carolina YMCAs have lost $27 million in operating dollars and have furloughed or cut 65% of our staff,” said Vodicka. “We are looking at total revenues for each YMCA to be down at least 30% from last year, and that number could be even more dire if Congress doesn’t act, and act soon.”

Charles Phaneuf, President of United Arts Council of Raleigh Wake County said: "Communities throughout North Carolina need their nonprofit arts organizations to survive. Both because we're a driver of economic recovery and because the arts help us heal and rebuild."

Judith Long, Executive Director of The Free Clinics in Hendersonville explained challenges facing health care organizations. “I serve a safety net health organization; like all our peers we transitioned to telehealth,” said Long. “But the ability to engage in telehealth is completely dependent upon internet access. And in the case of economically vulnerable persons that means wifi access. In order to continue to serve our clients during the stay at home order, we had to do a campaign to encourage businesses, churches, and town centers to enable guest wifi so that our clients could continue to access the care that they needed.

“Safety net organizations are very, very volunteer dependent. All of us are experiencing significant increase in need because of job loss and economic hardship combined with a tremendous (for us 80%) loss of volunteers. That puts the nexus of care on a very overworked staff. So we’re in the position of desperately needing additional staff to continue caring for our patients and to meet increased need, but we don’t have the funds to hire staff, and while we’re very grateful for the appropriations of funds, they all have an expiration date.  To hire and then lay off would further break the continuity of care for persons who are in a very vulnerable position. We need funding that foresees that this is a long-term issue.

“All of these issues must touch on the tremendous behavioral health concerns we’ve got in our communities… the rise in substance use disorder, the rise in overdoses. I implore our leadership to ensure critical funding for behavioral health concerns.”

David Heinen, Vice President for Public Policy and Advocacy at the North Carolina Center for Nonprofits outlined four sector-wide policy solutions that nonprofits are urging Congress to pass: 

  1. Continue Emergency Funding Programs. Specifically, it is important for Congress to enable a second round of Paycheck Protection Program loans and appropriate funds for federal grant programs to state and local governments that depend on nonprofits to deliver services to the public. A policy solution like the WORK NOW Act, which would provide a grant program to help nonprofits serving critical needs related to the pandemic, would help create new jobs AND maintain critical services in our communities.
  2. Strengthen Charitable Giving Incentive by making meaningful improvements to the above-the-line charitable deduction in the CARES Act from $300 in 2020 to about $4,000 per individual and $8,000 per married couple in 2020 and 2021 so the incentive is universally available to all Americans, not just the wealthy. 
  3. Extend Loan Programs to Mid-Sized and Larger Nonprofits with more than 500 employees, because the CARES Act largely excluded them. 
  4. Provide Full Federal Unemployment Coverage for self-insured nonprofits by increasing the federal unemployment insurance reimbursement from 50% to 100% of costs. This would remove uncertainty from North Carolina nonprofits about their pending financial losses due to unemployment claims.

Heinen noted: “The CARES Act enacted in March on a bipartisan basis was a lifeline for North Carolinians and for the nonprofit and business communities. Back in March, many of us thought the virus would fade in a couple of months. It didn’t. And our lives and economy remain at severe risk. More relief is urgently needed.

“With so much need for relief during the ongoing pandemic, it’s frustrating and disheartening that Congress seems to be prioritizing partisan political interests over the livelihoods of North Carolinians. Nonprofits are calling on North Carolina’s U.S. Senators and Representatives to bring back their cooperative spirit from this Spring and reach an agreement on a relief package.”

Others on the call had similar pleas to North Carolina’s congressional delegation.

“We call on Congress to pass legislation allowing us to care for our student body as we also maintain our ability to employ our faculty and staff,” said Dillard.

“Helping the nonprofit sector helps us all. And we together make sure that North Carolinians are take care of, but we need help in order to do that,” said Long.

Heinen emphasized the urgency of the situation facing nonprofits and North Carolinians and called on North Carolina’s federal delegation to act now. “We urge North Carolina’s congressional delegation to not give up on North Carolinians,” said Heinen. “Please continue your good work from the CARES Act and move swiftly to include the bipartisan solutions needed by the nonprofits serving North Carolinians in comprehensive COVID-19 legislation.  The needs are urgent and we simply cannot wait.”

A recording of the full press conference is available at:

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