Congressman Responds to High School Student on Nonprofits

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) chats with constituents after a town hall meeting. Photo by Josh Kurtz

U.S. Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-Md.) has responded to an open letter from a school-aged constituent, Linataro Donovan, published Sunday in Maryland Matters, on the importance the federal government protecting nonprofit organizations.

Dear Lintaro,

Thank you for your very thoughtful letter in Maryland Matters raising the urgent need to protect our nonprofits in this difficult period. I am glad you have taken the time to draw our attention to Maryland’s vibrant non-profit sector, which is not only indispensable to our community in ordinary times but will be a critical factor in our ability to withstand and rebound from this crisis.

I was touched by your story about learning to swim at the Y in Silver Spring, where our kids learned to swim too and where I have loved to work out (though never enough) over the years. The nonprofit sector and its community ethos dramatically improve our quality of life on a daily basis, providing essential services like health care for the homeless, childcare for people who could not otherwise afford to go to work, food assistance to the poor, legal representation for people who need it, expanding housing opportunities, after-school tutoring, and counseling and mentoring.

So I’m totally with you on the urgent importance of protecting the nonprofit sector, and I’m fighting for robust increases in federal funding and programmatic assistance for our nonprofits as we craft a third legislative package to address the crisis.

Just as our workers and many of our businesses need direct financial assistance to survive this overwhelming crisis, the nonprofit sector needs immediate and direct financial assistance to make it. Although we successfully included payroll tax credits and expanded Small Business Administration disaster loans for small businesses and nonprofits in our last round of COVID-19 legislation, these measures alone will not keep most nonprofits afloat. With pervasive COVID-19-compelled closures in place, many nonprofits and small businesses simply have little or no revenue coming in and are thus struggling to cover payroll, rent, and other basic operational costs. Congress must help nonprofits cover some of this dramatic shortfall and protect nonprofit institutions from being foreclosed upon or evicted during this period.

Nonprofits play a crucial role in guaranteeing access to good nutrition and making sure that all of our people have sufficient food to feed their families. In the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, which was signed into law last week, we provided $1 billion for states, localities, and nonprofits to provide food and nutrition assistance to low-income families, pregnant women, food banks, and seniors. We relaxed work requirements for SNAP.

I am fighting to make sure that the next round of legislation also includes huge funding for the states and localities, which are increasingly over-stressed and strapped for cash, to meet basic needs at the local level, including for continuing support of the nonprofit sector.

I’m also seeking increased federal funding for the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), which will help food banks and local nonprofits meet need in local communities and survive the crisis. Although some TEFAP funding was included in the Family First Coronavirus Response Act, it is clear to me that additional federal dollars will be needed to match escalating and what is certain to become unprecedented demand.

I’m also working to see the federal government extend flexibility to nonprofits and other groups that may have trouble meeting the strict requirements of their grants, contracts, and federal funding agreements during the crisis. We cannot be short-sighted and cause even greater disruption in the vital services our communities need by holding nonprofits to unrealistic demands during the crisis.

In the months ahead, nonprofits will face sharply increased demands from Americans in need at the same time that they encounter a sharp drop in volunteers (as people stay home consistent with public health orders), declining donations from a cash-strapped population, and rising operating costs associated with shifting service models.

So your point is timely and absolutely correct, and I thank you for composing such an eloquent public statement. Please know that I will continue fighting for our nonprofits, our community, and our country in the tough days ahead.

Stay well and stay in close touch.

Very truly yours,

Jamie Raskin