The compromise economic-stimulus package passed today by the House of Representatives would provide $50-million for a new program to strengthen nonprofit groups so they can help people suffering from the economic downturn.
It would also provide $50-million for the National Endowment for the Arts and $200-million for AmeriCorps.
The new bill, which proposes about $787-billion in spending and tax cuts designed to create jobs and lift the country out of recession, restores some cuts to social spending the Senate made in its version of the bill.
But it also leaves out some money that was advocated by social-services charities to help people cope with economic hard times. It includes no money for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (the House had proposed $1-billion, the Senate nothing); nor for Social Services Block Grants, which give money to states to offer social services to vulnerable people (the Senate had proposed $400-million, the House nothing).
The money for the National Endowment for the Arts would go to grants for “arts projects and activities which preserve jobs in the nonprofit arts sector threatened by declines in philanthropic and other support during the current economic downturn.” Forty percent would be distributed to state arts agencies and regional arts organizations and 60 percent to arts projects selected by competition.
The bill also deletes language from a last-minute Senate amendment that would have prevented stimulus money from going to museums, theaters, or arts centers—proposed by Sen. Tom Coburn, Republican of Oklahoma, who according to news reports was upset that the mayor of Las Vegas had suggested using stimulus money to build a museum on the history of organized crime.
The AmeriCorps money would go to the Corporation for National and Community Service, the federal national-service agency. Most — $160-million —- -is allocated for operating expenses to run the program, which places people in part-time or full-time positions with nonprofit groups for 10 or 12 months. The remainder is set aside for the National Service Trust, an account that pays for the education grants that are awarded to people who complete their AmeriCorps service.
The $50-million for nonprofit groups is earmarked for “capacity-building” grants, according to a report by the House-Senate conference committee that drew up the compromise. “The conferees expect that grantees have clear and measurable goals, and must be able to evaluate the success of their program,” they wrote. This money comes in place of $100-million that the House proposed for the Compassion Capital Fund, a program created by President Bush to provide money to religious and other charities.
The bill also deletes a provision adopted by the House to require any organization receiving stimulus money to participate in E-Verify, a federal program designed to screen out illegal immigrants when hiring. Independent Sector, a coalition of charities and foundations, and other nonprofit groups opposed the measure, saying E-Verify provided inaccurate information and caused hiring delays.
The measure, which now goes to the Senate for a vote, also includes:$2-billion for the Neighborhood Stabilization Program, which helps states and nonprofit groups purchase and rehabilitate foreclosed properties (less than the $4.2-billion proposed by the House, but up from zero allocated by the Senate.) $2-billion for community health centers, including $1-billion for construction, renovation, and equipment and $500-million to expand services. (The House proposed a total of $1.5-billion for community health centers, the Senate $1.87-billion.) $120-million to provide community-service jobs to older people (same as proposed by both the House and Senate.) $100-million for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program, an aid program managed by social-services charities (same as proposed by the Senate, down from $200-million in the House bill.) $50-million for the YouthBuild program, which provides money to nonprofit groups to train young people in construction skills (same as proposed by the House, down from $100-million in the Senate bill.)
Several measures proposed by nonprofit and foundation leaders to help the philanthropic world did not make it into the bill, including a $15-billion bridge-loan fund to help tide over charities receiving late payments for services from deficit-plagued states.
The full text of the bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, is available on the House Rules Committee Web site.