Amy Klobuchar Column: Goal is keeping nonprofits open, helping when really needed
During times of crisis — whether it’s a natural disaster or a recession — America’s nonprofits have always stepped in to fill the gaps and help those in need. From food shelves to shelters to counseling centers, these charitable organizations work to help families put food on their tables, provide housing assistance, and serve those most in need.
Unfortunately, many of these organizations are struggling financially at the very moment when need is soaring. Charitable giving and other revenue streams for nonprofits have declined dramatically as a result of the pandemic, forcing many nonprofits to lay off workers and cut back on services in their communities.
North St. Louis County Habitat for Humanity used to rely on 100 to 200 volunteers each week to help with its building projects and to staff its donation centers before coronavirus forced the organization to shut down its volunteer operations. As a result, construction on several homes that started last year has been put on hold — and plans for additional projects in 2020 have also been delayed, preventing families in need of affordable housing from moving in just when they need it most.
Many of the owners of the homes built by St. Louis County Habitat for Humanity are the very frontline workers Americans have depended on for months, including grocery store workers, health care workers, and food service workers. And this organization is doing all it can to get them in safe and affordable homes.
In Moorhead, Minnesota, Churches United has been similarly forced to pause volunteer activity for some of its meal services. While the nonprofit has been able to hire some workers in the short term with already distributed relief funding, it is worried about covering payroll in the coming months.
This is happening all over our state — and country. Catholic Charities is facing significantly increased costs as it implements additional cleaning and redesign of its facilities and services to safeguard public health. At the same time, many elderly volunteers have been forced to stay home, resulting in increased workforce needs.
The workforce of charitable nonprofits is one Americans desperately need. So we need to take bold action to help these organizations keep all of their doors open. That’s why I am leading the WORK NOW Act with 13 of my Senate colleagues. Our bill creates a major new grants program to help nonprofit organizations retain their employees, scale their service delivery, and provide unemployed Americans with new jobs helping their fellow Americans.
This legislation — endorsed by the National Council of Nonprofits and groups like the United Way, Boys and Girls Club of America, and the Minnesota Council of Nonprofits — will provide a major mobilization of resources so Americans who recently lost their jobs can get back to work helping our nonprofit organizations meet the massive needs of this moment.
One of my predecessors, Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey, once said, “Life's unfairness is not irrevocable; we can help balance the scales for others, if not always for ourselves.”
That’s exactly what our nation’s charitable organizations do. They help to balance the scales for others. So in these times of uncertainty and hardship, we need to make sure these organizations can continue doing just that.
Sen. Amy Klobuchar represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. She wrote this exclusively for the News Tribune.