Every company and nonprofit in America that had a “Vision 20/20” plan for this year was wrong. We’re midway through one of the most tumultuous years in our nation’s history, and there is no way to know what will happen next. But we can be certain that people will need help, and American nonprofits will be the first to step up and meet that need. Whether you care about faith-based initiatives, spiritual or wellness programs, addressing hunger in your community, combatting climate change, or supporting the arts and humanities, there is a nonprofit out there trying to make a difference. But they can’t help others if we don’t help them—with our time and our money.
Nonprofits are one of the three safety nets in our nation along with our families and our government. In order to make sure that those in need are not falling through the cracks, we need each of these entities to be strong and focused on delivering help wherever possible. When people give their time or money to nonprofits, they provide tangible goods and also help secure services like job training, compassionate homeless assistance, food in times of crisis, and spiritual counsel during the best and worst parts of life. These support systems—goods, services, respect, and investment of time—are critical resources for Americans in need across the nation, and we must help support and expand this work however possible.
If these organizations are central to American life in good times, they are nothing less than essential during this pandemic. Now, maybe more than ever, we should ensure that our nation’s nonprofits can access the same government assistance opportunities available to private businesses since charities still must pay their employees, cover utility bills, and pay rent. COVID-19 and its economic impact have amplified the need for our nonprofits to lead and for our government to empower Americans to help our nation’s strong charities and faith-based organizations, if they choose. But, again, they cannot help others if we don’t help them.
Employing more than 12 million Americans, non-profits are one of the largest industries in the US economy when it comes to jobs. Unfortunately, a recent survey by the Independent Sector, a trade association representing non-profit and community-based organizations, found that mid-sized non-profits employing between 500-5,000 employees have been hit particularly hard by the economic downturn and uncertain times. Their data reinforces the urgent need for additional assistance for mid-sized non-profits. The study found that 83 percent of non-profits surveyed reported a decline in revenue, 71 percent reported a reduction in services, and 47 percent reported a decline in employment with most either laying off or furloughing employees.
In March, Congress passed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which notably created a new above-the-line federal tax deduction for charitable giving of $300. That means every American, even if they do not itemize their taxes, can reduce their tax burden by giving up to $300 to a nonprofit. We believe we are all stronger when Americans give to help other Americans.
The $2 trillion relief bill passed overwhelmingly in both houses of Congress and made federal small business loans/grants available under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses, tribal businesses, 501(c)(19) veteran organizations, and 501(c)(3) nonprofits, including religious organizations, if they have 500 full-time employees or fewer. There’s a reason we included these important provisions in the CARES Act. Just as we need our nation’s nonprofits, they need our help now too.
As we continue to consider any additional federal assistance needed to get our nation through the COVID-19 pandemic, we have worked in the Senate to expand nonprofit eligibility to participate in PPP by requesting from Senate leadership that we increase the current 500-employee cap for PPP to cover mid-sized nonprofits and adjust existing requirements to help lenders and applicants process applications as quickly as possible. We were joined in this request by dozens of senators from both sides of the aisle—an important example of how the work of nonprofits transcends partisan politics.
Let’s all find ways to donate time, money, or resources to our nation’s nonprofits to ensure that they can serve people before, during, and after this pandemic. We need strong nonprofits now, and we will need them in the future. But they cannot be strong if we do not strongly support them. Step up, America. Help those who cannot help themselves by giving to the non-profit of your choice this month. Give up to $300 to get a tax deduction. Give to keep ministries and charities alive during this tough season. Give to keep helping those who help others during their worst moment of need. Give.
Lankford is the junior senator from Oklahoma and serves on the Finance Committee. King is the junior senator from Maine.