Last week, the Biden administration announced that starting in October, individuals and families enrolled in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will see the largest increase to benefit levels in the program’s history. This increase will be 25% over pre-pandemic levels. SNAP, which provides low-income families with extra income to use for food purchases, serves 42 million Americans, 43% of whom are children. Under the new rules, a family of four will receive up to $193 per week, compared to $159 per week before the pandemic. After conducting an extensive review of relevant research and literature, the administration decided that the benefit increase reflects modern diets and will help address various challenges facing hungry families, including higher rates of hospital admissions, school suspensions, and lower SAT scores. These benefit changes will be permanent. 

As we continue to grapple with long-term recovery, Alliance-COA is partnering with the Federal Reserve on their COVID-19 Community Impact Survey. The Federal Reserve is seeking our input on the continued impact of the pandemic on both your organization and your community. The survey takes approximately 15 minutes to complete. The deadline to participate is Aug. 27. The data collected in this survey will help inform our advocacy efforts on future federal funding to support your organizations and the communities you serve. We need broad participation to get accurate data that reflects our communities and needs.

We encourage you to take this survey to inform the federal government about the challenges our sector and communities still face.

Affordable Care Act Signups Soar

Experts predict that enrollment on the Affordable Care Act’s health care marketplace will reach 13 million by the end of August. This exceeds the previous record of 11.1 million in 2016 and is due, in large part, to temporary health care provisions in the American Rescue Plan Act, which passed in March. The legislation created a six-month special enrollment period that began in March, allowing more than 2.5 million Americans to enroll, in addition to the 11.3 million who signed up during the regular enrollment season. The American Rescue Plan also reduced deductibles and premiums substantially. The median deductible dropped 90%, from $450 to $50, and one-third of enrollees pay less than $10 per month on their premium. As part of the American Families Plan, which is working its way through Congress, the administration has proposed enhanced premium tax credits and an extended enrollment period.

Source: Bloomberg Government

Infrastructure Bill and Budget Resolution Move to the House of Representatives

On Tuesday, Aug. 10, the Senate passed the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which would pump $550 billion into roads and bridges, airports, public transit, high-speed internet, clean drinking water, and environmental remediation, among other things. This bill had bipartisan support. Shortly thereafter, early Wednesday morning, the Senate passed, along partisan lines, the $3.5 billion budget resolution that President Biden and many congressional democrats have championed for months. The resolution gives broad outlines for spending on human capital programs, such as universal pre-K, the child tax credit, paid parental and medical leave, childcare expansion, and two years of tuition-free community college. The House will return from recess this week to consider the infrastructure bill and the budget resolution. Speaker Nancy Pelosi has long supported a two-track approach, which steers the two bills through the voting process simultaneously. However, moderate Democrats in the House wrote a letter to Pelosi, urging her to bring up the Senate’s infrastructure bill for a vote immediately. Pelosi has, so far, resisted this call. As a compromise, she has floated the option of moving the infrastructure bill forward with a procedural vote, rather than a final vote, alongside a vote on the budget resolution. In the Senate, moderate Democrats are raising alarms about the size of the budget proposal.

After the vote in the House of Representatives, assuming the bills pass, the next step will be for the respective committees in both chambers of Congress to hammer out the details of the budget resolution. The current deadline is Sept. 30, which may be delayed as Congress grapples with this large and politically complex package. We will continue to monitor developments.

1,200 Nonprofit Advocates Ask Congressional Leadership for Additional Financial Relief

More than 1,200 organizations around the country, including Alliance-COA, have signed onto a letter to President Biden and Congressional leadership asking for additional financial relief for the nonprofit sector, as part of the infrastructure and rebuilding efforts. Specifically, the letter recommends the inclusion of the WORK NOW Act (S.740/H.R.1987), which would infuse $50 billion into nonprofits across the country to help get people back to work and help organizations meet demand. Additionally, it asks Congress to extend the Employee Retention Tax Credit that was made available through previous legislation. This helped nonprofit organizations to address additional costs as they worked to expand services and meet local needs in 2020. It also encourages greater incentives for charitable giving, such as increasing the cap on the universal charitable deduction and extending it through 2022. Organizations are still encouraged to sign on, as they will release a future version of this letter with more signatures. Currently, Congress has yet to include any of these proposals in the infrastructure bills they are debating. More advocacy is needed.

Census Bureau Releases Data from 2020 Count

Last week, the Census Bureau released detailed data from the 2020 count, allowing states to move forward with finalizing the new maps for congressional districts. For the first time, the Bureau missed its April 1 statutory deadline to release demographic details, due in part to the public health crisis, but also due to decisions made by the previous administration. Some states have near-term deadlines to complete their maps, including Connecticut, Iowa, and Ohio, and every state needs to complete its maps before primary season next year. In late April, the Census Bureau released apportionment population totals and announced changes in several states, with Texas gaining two seats and Colorado, Florida, North Carolina, Montana, and Orgon each gaining one seat. In contrast, California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia each lost one seat.

Some of the major trends in the data revealed that America is becoming a much less white nation, with the white non-Hispanic population dropping for the first time in absolute numbers and Latino population slightly exceeding the forecast. It also revealed that urban and metropolitan areas were gaining population, while rural communities were losing people. Much of the population growth occurred in the Sun Belt. An increasing number of Americans identified as multiracial on this year’s census as well.

There is concern that the most recent census missed many children and members of minority groups in its 2020 count, which may have directly affected redistricting data. This is concerning as the census results play an important role in determining both new congressional maps, but also the distribution of trillions of dollars in federal spending annually. 

Source: Children’s Budget Coalition

Updates to the Suicide Prevention Hotline

In July 2020, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) designated 988 as the new three-digit number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. This number will have trained staff available to answer calls from people at risk for suicide, as well as those experiencing other behavioral health related emergencies. It will have specialized services for veterans, LGBTQ+ individuals, and other groups. By July 2022, all telecommunications companies must make necessary changes so that individuals can access this line using 988. Earlier this year, the FCC was still taking comments and deciding how to handle text messages and other aspects of implementation. This initiative is a result of suicide rates steadily increasing, especially amongst younger people. 988 will be slightly different from 911, 211, and the current suicide hotline. Mental health crisis calls can result in potentially traumatizing outcomes when police are called, especially in marginalized communities. 988 will be specially designated for mental health crises, and it will be handled by trained counselors. As this process rolls out over the next year, we encourage you to check out the following resources:

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