How Jewish communities stand to benefit from the new stimulus

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 20, 2020
U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) walks to the senate floor on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC on December 20, 2020. (Tasos Katopodis/Getty Images)

By Jesse Berman and Ron Kampeas | JTA

The new $900 billion pandemic relief includes another round of payroll protection, and the Jewish Federations of North America is set to reprise the role it played earlier this year and explain how nonprofits can get their share.

“We are pulling back together again the team of experts both from within the JFNA and lay leaders who train themselves on the program to offer volunteer support to help fill out forms and connect banks and such,” Eric Fingerhut, the group’s CEO, said on Dec. 21, after news broke of agreement between Republicans and Democrats on the $900 billion stimulus plan. Congress approved the plan, part of a larger $2.3 trillion spending package, on Dec. 22, and after a delay, President Donald Trump signed the bill Sunday evening.

Some $284 billion will be set aside for forgivable payroll protection loans for small businesses, including nonprofits, administered through the Small Business Administration. The money will go to small businesses and nonprofits that missed out during the first round of $349 billion in loans, and to those that did get loans but can show sufficient losses to qualify for additional funds.

In the first round, running from April 3 through Aug. 8, more than 1,000 Jewish organizations received federal coronavirus relief loans totaling approximately $540 million to $1.3 billion, according to an analysis published by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. The analysis was done before the Aug. 8 deadline, so the amount could be larger.

The JFNA helped lead lobbying for the relief and offered webinars and one-on-one advice for Jewish and non-Jewish nonprofits for the first round of loans. The group is planning an initial training for this round, even as the full terms of the new loans are not yet known. The loans will be available through March 31.

What is known, said Elana Broitman, JFNA’s senior vice president for public affairs, is that businesses and nonprofits employing 300 people or fewer qualify, as opposed to 500 or fewer in the previous round. Entities applying for a second loan must show a 25% loss in gross receipts against the same quarter in 2019.

The bill also includes funds for private schools, including religious schools; nonprofit security grants; The Emergency Food and Shelter Program, which will benefit Jewish welfare agencies; and a program to assist Holocaust survivors.

The spending package includes the $3.3 billion in defense assistance and $500 million Israel is guaranteed under a 2016 agreement with the Obama administration. Also included is $250 million over five years for peace-building in the region.

Several local leaders in Baltimore’s Jewish community expressed their general support for the legislation.

Howard Libit of the Baltimore Jewish Council stated that the “stimulus aid package and federal budget approved by the House and Senate provide critical resources for a number of priorities for our community, particularly in the areas of assistance to vulnerable communities, health care, security, care for Holocaust survivors and financial support to individuals and nonprofits struggling in
the pandemic.”

Jewish educators were also pleased to know relief was on its way.

“Many of our parents have been struggling to keep up with their tuition payments, but do so out of a strong commitment to providing their children with a Jewish education,” said Zipora Schorr, director of education at Beth Tfiloh Dahan Community School. “Any assistance they receive translates to increased ability to provide that education, and reduces the burden that causes stress and anxiety in the entire family structure.”

At Jewish Community Services, the legislation was seen as a positive first step that would hopefully be the first of many.

“Any assistance to the individuals in our community is going to be an asset to them,” said Joan Grayson Cohen, executive director of Jewish Community Services. “We’ve seen individuals who are struggling from unemployment, financial needs, mental health issues. This will enable people to bridge the gap, but so much more is needed.”

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