Policy Update: Data on Labor Shortage, Government Contracting, ARPA Funding, Small Employer Emergency Safety Grant Program

Laura Pierce
February 14, 2022

Thank you to everyone who responded to our recent survey invitations. It really helps us present data on the current state of nonprofits in Washington. Before we report back on that below, we want to share one additional survey request:

Nonprofit Finance Fund Survey

The Nonprofit Finance Fund State of the Nonprofit Sector Survey is open and will run through Feb. 28, 2022. This is a vital national survey on the financial health of nonprofits. In the past, we have had a great response from Washington State organizations and used the data to advocate for funding and COVID relief.

Nonprofit Labor Shortage Data

A national report and Washington state-level results are available from the National Council of Nonprofits Nonprofit Labor Shortage Survey. Highlights in Washington State:

  • 38% of nonprofits reported a vacancy rate of 20% or more.
  • Salary competition is the top factor affecting recruitment and retention.
  • Labor costs are rising quickly, due to economic factors and new state mandates.
  • The labor shortage has real consequences for communities, impacting quality and quantity of services.
  • Funding levels are not keeping pace with increasing costs of doing business, especially labor costs.

Government Contracting Reform Survey Results

We are analyzing the results of our survey regarding government contracting. A full report will be forthcoming next month. It will disaggregate the experience of Black, Indigenous, and/or People of Color-led and rural organizations and offer recommendations.

Difficulties are widespread:

  • 72% report difficult application procedures or timelines.
  • 64% have experienced overly complicated or restrictive budgeting or invoicing requirements.
  • 64% have dealt with burdensome reporting requirements.
  • 30% report late payments.

Top priorities for change:

  • contract rates that do not rise with cost increases over time,
  • contracts that do not cover administrative costs, and
  • burdensome reporting and invoicing requirements.

American Rescue Plan Act Update

We continue to work to monitor ARPA spending in Washington State, but it has not been easy! County and city governments are continuing their deliberations about how to spend their ARPA funds, and everyone is using different processes and timelines. The money can be used in the following areas: public health/COVID-19 response, negative economic impact response, public sector capacity, premium pay for essential workers, infrastructure (water, sewage, broadband), and revenue replacement.

In many cases, local governments are allocating funds to shore up their own finances or cover the cost of public projects. Public sector spending appears to be focused on shifting to virtual services and operations and addressing court backlogs by funding prosecutor’s offices and indigent defense programs. One trend we are noticing is increased investment in police equipment (body cameras in particular) and vehicles.

Direct assistance has been provided to households in the form of mortgage or rent relief and utility assistance. In some cases, the funding is being allocated toward general community purposes that need additional definition prior to being distributed. There appears to be a good deal of interest in investing in the following areas where services are often provided by nonprofit partners: affordable housing, childcare, public health, and pandemic response (PPE, testing, vaccinations). We expect to see more and more funding opportunities announced throughout 2022.

Some cities and counties are accepting proposals for spending that are very general: City of Spokane, City of Edmonds, Pacific County, etc. These are unusual opportunities for nonprofits to put forward their priorities for spending, and we encourage you to take advantage of these opportunities if they are available in your community.

Tracking what is going on with every local jurisdiction is beyond our capability right now, but we will continue to add new funding opportunities that we hear about to our ARPA Funding Opportunities spreadsheet.

We are also happy to report that the Southeast Advancement Project has been pulling together known allocations by cities in Washington State and just published an ARPA Toolkit for Washington State. Their data currently covers 40 cities in Washington, and they plan to add data for additional cities at a later date.

Small Employer Emergency Safety Grant Program will include Nonprofits

Good news! Here’s an update on a small policy win for nonprofits: the guidelines for Washington State’s new Small Employer Emergency Safety Grant Program are inclusive of nonprofits in their eligibility definition for “small employer.”

Washington Nonprofits attended a stakeholder meeting and submitted written comments lobbying for explicit inclusion of nonprofits. Hurray! This is a great example of the small things that Washington Nonprofits is paying attention to so that nonprofits are considered in the policymaking process, including rulemaking by agencies. If there is a state of emergency declared in the future, this grant program could be activated to help small employers more quickly than the legislature could act. Until then, no funding is available.

For more policy news at the federal level, read last week’s National Council of Nonprofits Nonprofit Advocacy Update.

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