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Remarks by the President and Vice President at the Opening Session of the Jobs and Economic Growth Forum
Dec 3, 2009; White House Press Office | Once again, the White House focus on nonprofits is not too strong. In the President’s and Vice President’s introductory comments to the jobs summit, there was nary a mention of the role of nonprofits. We know that nonprofit leaders were invited, but like the mid-summer omission of nonprofit-as-employers from the White House’s thinking about health care reform, we might be concerned that roles of 1.8 million tax-exempt organizations as employers committed to living wages (unlike good chunks of the private sector) and decent working conditions (unlike big chunks of the private sector, see the $40 million settlement that Wal-Mart was compelled to pay today for its treatment of employees) have yet to really make their way into the White House consciousness. In his brief remarks, the president highlighted one area that nonprofits ought to be thinking about: He mentioned increased availability of Small Business Administration loans for small for-profit businesses (plus tax relief for small businesses); what about making SBA loans available to nonprofit employers? The time has come to recognize many nonprofits as the equivalent to small businesses in terms of their role in the economy. We hope that those nonprofit leaders in the White House audience were vocal in making that point.—Rick Cohen
“Foundations shower money”: Great title . . .
Dec 3; The Courier-Journal | . . . but the story is a little more complicated. This article in the Louisville Courier-Journal tells the story of two southern Indiana Foundations, both of which suffered losses in their asset bases during the downturn. One of them, the Horseshoe Foundation, which is connected to a local casino, has slightly increased its giving in recognition of increased need. The other, the local community foundation, has decreased its giving by almost a third and retained more on a percentage basis than usual to build their principle. As they say, if you’ve seen one foundation, you’ve seen one foundation.—Ruth McCambridge
Administration of HUD HOME Monies Raises Questions
Dec 4, 2009; Washington Post | An audit conducted by Prince George County, Maryland revealed that over the years 2004–2008 there were a number of procedural flaws in the way HUD HOME monies, distributed to local nonprofits for the development of affordable housing, were accounted for. The numbers are far from staggering, involving $4 million distributed to 15 nonprofit groups over 4 years and there are no outright indications of malfeasance but county officials are indicating that there is a new day dawning. This new development is part of a larger problem at the County which endangers people’s access to affordable housing. “In October, the agency (Department of Housing and Community Development) nearly lost more than $5 million in HOME funds. The county had two years to designate the funds and inform HUD by the end of October how it planned to use the money, and it almost allowed the money to expire. A report issued by HUD showed that as of June 30, Prince George’s was rated in the bottom third among localities for how they handle HOME funds. The ranking looked at criteria that included what percentage of the more than $44 million the county received since 1992 had been allocated and spent.” County officials seem focused on improving their systems for handling this important money but it does raise concerns in my mind about how administration of federal dollars will be affected by shrinking local government agencies. This situation, of course precedes the downturn and can’t be laid at that door.—Ruth McCambridge
Arkansas Funders Dig Deeper
Dec 3, 2009; Arkansas Times | The situation in Arkansas, as in much of the country, is spelled out simply in this article—more need help when fewer dollars are available. And this article shows how higher unemployment (Arkansas’ unemployment rate has risen from 5% last year to 7.6% this year) has taxed a hard working system of nonprofits providing for people in need. But unlike a lot of other news these days, this article seems hopeful. Foundations in the Arkansas area are bucking the trend reported by the Council on Foundations that foundations nationally will decrease their giving 62% this year by dipping into their principal to continue to fund groups in the area. Sherece West, President of the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Foundation, said that now “wasn’t the right time to cut back.” Despite a 30% decrease in foundation assets at Rockefeller, this funder and others in the area remain more committed than ever. Stay tuned for more stories like these about innovative and committed local funders and their partnerships with the nonprofits they fund.—Kristin Barrali
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