COVID-19 Relief for the Jewish Community
The OU Advocacy Center has played – and continues to play – a leading role in crafting provisions in pandemic relief packages such as the CARES Act (Coronavirus Aid, Relief & Economic Security Act) and other legislation to provide relief to the Jewish community and beyond during the coronavirus pandemic. In conjunction with the White House, the charitable nonprofit sector and congressional leaders, the OU Advocacy Center worked tirelessly to assist in the passing of the first CARES Act on March 27, 2020 and the second CARES Act package on December 27, 2020. A third bill, the American Rescue Plan Act, was signed into law on March 11, 2021. All of the packages contain significant relief for Jewish communal organizations, as well as the faith community overall.
In the most recent coronavirus pandemic legislation, the American Rescue Plan Act, the OU Advocacy Center worked closely with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other congressional leaders to ensure the legislation contains several provisions that will benefit the Jewish community. They include:
- Expanding the availability of forgivable loans under the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to nonprofit charities that employ more than 500 people. When the PPP was first created through the CARES Act, the OU Advocacy Center and other groups worked to ensure these critical funds would be available to all nonprofits (including those that are faith-based) on the same terms as for-profit businesses. This excluded many important charities because the CARES Act didn’t provide the same exception to that limitation that was afforded to some businesses. Under the provisions of the previous relief packages, a for-profit business with 500+ employees but that didn’t employ more than 500 of them at a single physical location was still eligible for a PPP loan. The ARP now extends that exception to nonprofit charities. In addition to Sen. Schumer, the Senate’s Small Business Committee Chairman, Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), played a key role in this expansion.
- Allocating a new $2.75 billion pool to support Jewish and other nonpublic K-12 schools addressing COVID-19-related costs and impact. While the OU Advocacy Center succeeded in pressing Congress to include that support in the second package enacted in December 2020, the U.S. House’s version of the ARP didn’t contain any additional support for nonpublic K-12 schools (even as it appropriated billions more to support public K-12 schools – in addition to funds appropriated in December). With Sen. Schumer’s leadership, the ARP—as modified by the Senate—now contains a second round of $2.75 billion to help Jewish and other nonpublic K-12 schools amid the pandemic.
Other provisions of the American Rescue Plan that will benefit not only the Jewish community, as well as American society at large, include dramatically expanding the federal child tax credit; extending unemployment insurance payments; and providing funding for COVID-19 vaccine distribution.
In the earlier CARES Acts 1 and 2, the OU Advocacy Center successfully worked with the country’s elected leaders so that the Jewish community would be eligible for hundreds of millions of dollars to help them survive the pandemic. Read more about these relief package here: CARES Act 1, CARES Act 2.
To further help the Jewish community during the pandemic, OU Advocacy arranged more than a dozen virtual events for synagogues, day schools and other Jewish organizations to inform them about the latest developments and guidance about COVID-19 relief resources. Twice, OU Advocacy helped arrange for Dr. Anthony Fauci to address Jewish communal leaders live to provide guidance on best practices to keep synagogues and Jewish day schools safe during COVID-19.
Record Funding for the Federal Nonprofit Security Grant Program
The Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, which helped create the Nnonprofit Security Grant Program (NSGP) in 2005 (in partnership with the Jewish Federations of North America and other organizations) successfully advocated to increase funding for the grant program to $180 million for 2021.That’s double the amount allocated for 2020.
Congress’s decision to budget the landmark amount for the NSGP came in the wake of attacks on or near Jewish synagogues and schools including:
- Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Congregation, in which 11 people were killed during Shabbat services in Oct. 2018;
- California’s Chabad of Poway in April, in which one person was killed during Passover in April 2019;
- A shooting Dec. 10 in Jersey City that killed four people–including two Jews and a police officer—during an anti-Semitic rampage that ended in a kosher grocery store attached to a yeshiva, and across the street from a Catholic day school.
In January 2020, the OU Advocacy Center also helped secure the passage of an additional $375 million for the NSGP through the Securing Faith-Based and Nonprofit Organizations from Terrorism Act of 2019 (H.R. 2476, S. 1539– which allocates $75 million annually to the NSGP for each of the next five years (2020-2025).
The NSGP provides grants of up to $150,000 apiece to nonprofits at risk of terrorist attacks so they may improve building security by acquiring and installing items ranging from fences, lighting and video surveillance to metal detectors and blast-resistant doors, locks and windows. Funding may also be used to train staff and pay for contracted security personnel. Since 2005, Congress has allocated $599 million for the grants, which are administered by the Department of Homeland Security.
Of the $180 million in the 2021 NSGP allocation, $90 million was designated for nonprofits in
major urban areas traditionally considered at high risk of terror attacks, and another $90
million was apportioned to nonprofits in other geographic regions.
OU Advocacy’s Wins in U.S. Supreme Court Religious Freedom Cases
During summer 2020, OU Advocacy participated in “friend-of-the-court” (or, amicus) briefs that contributed to two major Supreme Court rulings that helped the Jewish community. In both rulings, the justices cited the OU’s briefs in rendering their opinions. One decision held that religious schools cannot be sued in secular court over the dismissal of a religious teacher. The other held that the application of a “no aid to religion” clause in the Montana State Constitution to exclude the use of state-supported education scholarship funds to attend religious K-12 schools violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Read more about the cases here
Pressing for Passage of the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act
In March 2021, Nathan worked with legislators to get the Nonprofit Energy Efficiency Act re-introduced in the Senate. The bipartisan legislation would reduce energy consumption and increase energy efficiency for houses of worship, religious day schools and other nonprofits ranging from community centers to museums and hospitals. The bill, spearheaded by the OU Advocacy Center and a coalition of nonprofit groups, would establish a new Department of Energy pilot program that would provide $10 million annually for the next five years for nonprofits to upgrade existing infrastructure. Read more here