Senate Democrats introduce bill to boost nonprofit workforce as coronavirus crushes resources

A group of Senate Democrats introduced legislation Friday to provide grants to nonprofits to bolster hiring efforts as their resources dwindle amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

The bill, introduced by Sens. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Brian Schatz of Hawaii, Ron Wyden of Oregon and Sherrod Brown of Ohio, is meant to equip nonprofits with a strong workforce that can continue to provide essential services to vulnerable Americans. 

Nonprofits will be able to apply directly for the grants through the Treasury Department, according to a press release from Klobuchar’s office announcing the bill, which is called WORK NOW, or the Work Opportunities and Resources to Keep Nonprofit Organizations Well Act. The hope is the grants will allow nonprofits to retain their workforce or provide jobs for newly unemployed people. 

Since government lockdowns began, nonprofits and institutions catering to vulnerable populations like domestic violence sheltershomeless shelters and food banks, have seen steep declines in volunteers and revenue. At the same time, these nonprofits are trying to adhere to social distancing guidelines as they grapple with ways to stay afloat. 

In some cases, volunteer shortages have led to higher expenses to maintain the same levels of service.

About 72.5% of nonprofits surveyed said they’ve seen reduced contributions since the pandemic hit, according to a report released Thursday. The survey, conducted by the Charities Aid Foundation of America, asked about 880 nonprofits around the world to weigh in on how the coronavirus has affected them.

“Nonprofits are on the front lines of this crisis helping millions of Americans in need. From food banks, to shelters, to counseling centers, charitable organizations are doing incredible work to help families put food on their table, provide housing assistance, and serve people with disabilities,” Klobuchar said in the release.

“But as demand for their services soars, many of these organizations are struggling financially. At the same time, over 36 million men and women have lost their jobs and are looking for work. We need to help charitable nonprofits keep their doors open, scale their invaluable services, and provide opportunities for unemployed men and women to return to work serving their communities.”

The WORK NOW Act is sponsored by Sens. Tom Carper and Chris Coons of Delaware, Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.

The outbreak has spread to dozens of countries globally, with more than 4.4 million confirmed cases worldwide and over 302,493 deaths so far, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There are at least 1.4 million cases in the United States and at least 85,906 deaths, according to the latest tallies.