JFNA End of the Congressional Session Update
December 23, 2019
Last year at this time, Congress and the President had failed to reach agreement on one of their most important obligations – funding operations of the national government. Beginning on December 22, 2018, a significant portion of our government shut down for 35 days.
Last week, in and around the historic impeachment vote, Congress achieved a remarkable bipartisan and bicameral agreement in crafting the huge ($1.4 trillion, multi-thousand page) appropriations legislation to fund our government through September 30, 2020. In typical legislative horse trading, this final package included a huge variety of additional tax and policy issues. Many of these supplemental initiatives advanced JFNA key public policy priorities in security, support for the most vulnerable, and charitable tax policy.
The House passed its bills last Tuesday, the Senate followed suit on Thursday, and the President signed the legislation on Friday, December 20, hours before the government was scheduled to shut down. What a difference a year makes!
We are proud to announce the following highlights of the legislative package that resulted from JFNA-led advocacy efforts, together with our coalition partners:
• Nonprofit Security Grant Program:
- Funding: Provides a 50% increase for the Nonprofit Security Grant Program from $60 million in FY 2019 to $90 million in FY 2020, the highest level of funding since establishment of the program in 2004. This funding brings a total of nearly $420 million resources to bolster the physical security and preparedness of non-profit institutions. Read JFNA’s press release here.
- Authorization: For the first time since the program’s inception, authorizes the NSGP for five years, which will strengthen and add greater certainty to government support for security and preparedness investments within the nonprofit sector, at a time of heightened threats and attacks against Jewish and other faith-based communal institutions.
• Holocaust Survivor Assistance Program: Appropriates $5 million to support Holocaust Survivors for a sixth year of program funding, bringing nearly $23 million total Federal support to advance targeted models of service to Survivors and their care providers.
• SECURE Act: Enacts pension reform via passage of the Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement Act of 2019 (SECURE Act), which includes a provision that will greatly reduce the insurance payments that qualified charitable multiple-employer defined-benefit plans pay each year to the Pension Guaranty Benefits Corporation, saving large federations significant costs.
• Money Follows the Person: Extends the Medicaid Money Follows the Person program at $176 million through May 22, 2020 to assist states with the costs associated with transitioning people out of institutions and back into apartments, homes, and other community-based settings, and helps states develop the infrastructure to promote and enhance access to home and community-based services.
• Emergency Food and Shelter Program: Includes $125 million for the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Emergency Food & Shelter Program (EFSP), constituting a $5 million increase – the first increase in 10 appropriations cycles. This was in addition to the $30 million Congress appropriated to EFSP through emergency legislation earlier this year to help respond to the emergency migration crisis in southern border communities.
• Church Parking Lot Tax: Retroactively repeals a provision in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act colloquially known as the “church parking lot tax,” that imposed a 21% unrelated business income tax on the value of qualified transportation benefits such as transit passes and parking provided by charitable organizations to their employees. This tax had required JFNA and many large federations and partner agencies to make significant tax payments that will now be refunded.
We also helped to advance numerous other priorities within the funding bill including: securing significant increases in funding for the Older Americans Act and elderly and disability housing; enacting other critical money-saving tax provisions; overturning the 20-year-long prohibition on gun violence research and funding it at $25 million while also advocating in favor of a number of bipartisan efforts to reduce gun violence and enhance school safety within the appropriations bills, including towards improving the National Instant Criminal Background Check System, and allocating additional resources to the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives to improve enforcement of existing gun laws and reduce gun trafficking; appropriating $6.7 billion to ensure that everyone is counted in the 2020 Census; reauthorizing the Lautenberg Amendment to continue resettlement of religious minorities; and allocating $3.3 billion in security assistance to Israel and $30 million to support reconciliation programs for Israelis and Palestinians.
Chag sameach and happy 2020. The Jewish Federations of North America’s entire Washington team looks forward to working with you in the New Year.
Stephan O. Kline
Interim Director of the Washington Office &
Associate Vice President for Public Policy
The Jewish Federations of North America