The legislative session is in full swing and Common Good VT has been busy advocating for the sector. Read on for updates and ways to weigh in and get involved:
- Common Good Vermont Testifies on Unemployment Insurance
- Government Grants & Contracting
- Other Bills We’re Monitoring
Nonprofit Advocacy Trainings:
Ready to dip your toe into advocacy? Or perhaps you’re in need of a refresher?
Join Common Good VT and Action Circles on February 7th for TWO nonprofit advocacy webinars. All levels of experience are welcome and recordings will be available if you can’t make it live. Learn more and register here!
Common Good Vermont Testifies on Unemployment Insurance
On Thursday, Common Good Vermont and United Way of Northwest Vermont testified in front of the House Committee on Commerce and Economic Development on two bills related to unemployment insurance (UI) impacting nonprofits:
- H. 55 – An act relating to miscellaneous unemployment insurance amendments
This bill would:
- Eliminate the Small Employer UI Exemption: Small nonprofits with three or fewer employers are currently exempt from having to provide unemployment insurance for their employees. This bill would require all nonprofit employers to provide unemployment insurance for their employees.
- Establish a Bonding Requirement for Reimbursable Employers: Reimbursable employers (or “self-insured”) elect to be liable for unemployment insurance claims, rather than pay state unemployment taxes. This bill would require reimbursable employers to execute and file a surety bond or deposit in the amount of two percent of the organization’s wages paid in the previous four quarters, by September 30, 2023.
- H. 92 – An act relating to expanding eligibility for unemployment insurance
This bill would expand unemployment insurance coverage to individuals voluntarily separating from their employer in instances including injury, illness, domestic or sexual violence, or to care for a child.
In our testimony on H. 55 we advocated for an extended timeline for any changes and highlighted the need to provide additional training and information to nonprofits to help them make informed decisions. We agree that all nonprofit employees should be covered by unemployment insurance, so our our primary concern here is that organizations have time to plan for the transition. Gretchen Owens of EDD Adaptive Sports also submitted written testimony on this bill from the perspective of a small nonprofit that would be impacted by this change – thank you!
With regard to the bonding requirement, we don’t see the need for or value of creating one, especially given the existing pressures nonprofits are already experiencing. We instead stressed the need to provide nonprofits with the education and information they need to understand their options and liabilities. Committee Chair Marcotte seemed receptive to this idea. Following our testimony, in consideration of an educational approach, he said that “I think I feel better going down that road first than requiring people to get bonded or to come up with some other type of program. So there’s a good understanding by all the nonprofits of the benefits and not so good things about being reimbursable…We’re maybe working with Common Good and United Way developing maybe a webinar or something to get that word out.”
On both issues we brought up the need for nonprofit employment and economic data to better inform decision making.
H. 92 was not as much of a priority for us as it is not a sector-specific issue, but we did ask for clarification about the impact on reimbursable employers. Later in the afternoon, it was confirmed by the Department of Labor that reimbursable employers would be liable for claims that fall under this carve out (while taxable employers would not have their experience rating impacted). Not only is this an additional expense for reimbursable employers, but those that pay into the UI trust fund would have to do so at a higher rate to cover additional claims.
Find out more:
- Common Good Vermont Testimony
- United Way of Northwest Vermont Testimony
- EDD Adaptive Sports Testimony
- Watch the Committee Meeting
- UI Issue Summary from January 2022
We want to hear from you: Are you a small nonprofit with <4 employees? OR Does your organization choose to reimburse for unemployment insurance rather than pay taxes? Email [email protected] if you want to learn more or weigh in on these issues.
Government Grants & Contracting
Addressing government grant and contracting issues is a priority for Common Good VT this year. We have convened a group of nonprofit stakeholders to collaboratively work towards solutions. At our meeting this week, we identified two primary areas of focus:
- Funding the Full Cost of Services
- Increasing Indirect Cost Rates
As this is a sector-wide issue, we are seeking a united, sector-wide approach – we are stronger together! We’ll be sharing more soon but if your organization is interested in getting involved, or if you are already working on these issues, please reach out to [email protected].
We are also monitoring a couple of bills related to government grants and contracting:
- H.140 – An act relating to requirements for State-funded grants
This bill that would create simplified application and reporting forms for state grants and a “uniform formula and approval process for use in all State-funded grants for nonprofit corporations to use a higher indirect rate than the standard 10 percent de minimis rate.” We met with Representative Williams this week, the lead sponsor for this bill (along with 13 co-sponsors) and the Senior Grants and Contract Manager for the VT Foodbank. This is a good start in addressing the challenges nonprofits are facing and we are excited to have someone with his nonprofit background as a voice for the sector.
Please reach out to your representatives and urge members of the House Committee on Government Operations and Military Affairs to take up this bill. Have questions or feedback? Email [email protected].
- S. 9 An act relating to the authority of the State Auditor to examine the books and records of State contractors / H.24 An act relating to the authority of the State Auditor to examine the books and records of State contractors
These companion bills would allow the State Auditor to “Have discretion to examine the records, accounts, books, papers, reports, and returns in all formats of any contractor that provides services to the State, provided that the examination of records, accounts, books, papers, reports, and returns shall be limited to those that are relevant to the contract with the State.”
While clearly transparency and accountability are important, we do have some reservations about this bill’s broad language and its potential to present an administrative burden for nonprofits. This isn’t a priority for CGVT currently but if we are interested in hearing what nonprofits think about this bill – email [email protected] with any feedback. If you have concerns, you may consider reaching out to State agencies your organization interacts with and urge them to push back.
Other Bills We’re Monitoring
- H. 113 – An act relating to the public, pious, or charitable uses property tax exemption
This bill proposes to clarify that churches and other public, pious, or charitable organizations are not eligible for the State property tax exemption if those organizations engage in any lobbying or other political activity on their property. Churches and nonprofits will also be required under this bill to certify annually to the Vermont Department of Taxes that the organization does not conduct any lobbying or political activity on the property that would disqualify the organization from the exemption.
- H. 157 – An act relating to the Vermont basic needs budget
This bill proposes to create a technical advisory committee to update the methodology used to calculate the Vermont livable wage and to recommend changes to the statute governing the calculation of the Vermont basic needs budget.
- H. 138 – An act relating to business practices for employers and contractors receiving State funds
This bill proposes to require that employers receiving State funds through grants or contracts comply with certain governance, operations, hiring, auditing, and employment practices.
- H. 141 – An act relating to an inventory and needs assessment of organizations supporting Vermont’s immigrant communities
This bill proposes to direct the State Refugee Office to issue a request for proposal to conduct an inventory and assessment of all organizations in the State providing services to Vermont’s immigrant community. The inventory and assessment shall be completed by November 15, 2024.
- H. 124 – An act relating to promoting rural economic development capacity
This bill proposes to provide additional funding and support to rural communities to ensure effective and equitable access to economic development resources.
- H. 109 – An act relating to rate reimbursement for home-delivered meals*
This bill proposes to increase the reimbursement rate to providers for home-delivered meals and requires a report containing recommendations for the sustainability of Meals on Wheels.
*While not a sector-wide issue, we are monitoring as it relates to reimbursement rates.
- Workforce/Housing/Employment Bills:
Have thoughts or questions on these bills? Are we missing something? Email [email protected].