Financial fallout of coronavirus has hit nonprofits hard. Here's how Congress can help.

Due to the infectious nature of COVID-19, the public fundraising events on which nonprofit organizations rely have dried up completely.

Rogers Hoyt Jr.
Opinion contributor

The COVID-19 pandemic has taken an unprecedented toll on every American's way of life. Sports seasons have been canceled or postponed indefinitely, and main streets across America now resemble ghost towns more than the bustling hubs of commerce they once were.

When Congress rightly passed the CARES Act to provide a financial lifeline to individuals and small businesses, there was one significant omission. Despite facing many of the same challenges as other businesses, mid-size charitable organizations were left with few options to sufficiently address their unique challenges.

Nonprofits employ a workforce of 12.3 million people nationwide who have dedicated their lives to achieving their mission and giving back to their communities. Many have become institutions of American life — practically synonymous with the causes they represent.

Ducks Unlimited, recognized internationally as the leader in wetlands and waterfowl habitat conservation, has been expanding its mission to protect and restore landscapes since its founding in 1937.

With active projects in 335 counties in 39 different states, the widespread influence of Ducks Unlimited and impact of its mission is evident. Since July 2019, Ducks Unlimited has employed more than 1,500 local contractors and small businesses while injecting more than $81 million into those economies. In doing so, our organization has provided greater opportunities to enjoy nature, a vital resource during the current shelter-in-place guidelines across the country. In addition, the organization's projects have made water and air cleaner, providing a more sustainable and enjoyable future in the communities where we work.

Thousands of events canceled

Unfortunately, due to the infectious nature of COVID-19, the public fundraising events on which nonprofit organizations heavily rely have dried up completely. With many Americans unable to work and focused on keeping their families safe, charitable contributions have dramatically declined.

Ducks Unlimited has already canceled or postponed more than 2,000 events across the country, resulting in an estimated loss of nearly $21 million in revenue. When our communities need them the most, furloughs, drastic budget cuts and layoffs are sadly becoming a growing part of the new reality for most nonprofit organizations around the country.

In this new and unavoidable reality, nonprofit organizations are in a fight for survival. If we’re to continue to rely on the many services charitable organizations provide to our communities, we need to help them win this fight.

Bipartisan proposal offers lifeline

Fortunately, Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Mass., and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Penn., are offering one bipartisan solution — the Save our Organizations that Serve Act. This bill provides the same relief to many nonprofits that other businesses are already receiving by expanding eligibility for nonprofits to receive forgivable loans to help make payroll and pay operating expenses.

This measure could enable many nonprofits to retain hundreds of hardworking and knowledgeable employees whose jobs are severely threatened during this crisis. These employees are on the front lines providing critical infrastructure for agriculture and caring for the most vulnerable among us. More effective relief for nonprofits must be included in any future stimulus package negotiated by congressional leaders in Washington.

A wood duck in a lake in Odessa, Florida, on April8, 2020.

Every member of Congress should show their support for America’s nonprofit organizations and the millions of people they represent.

Promisingly, Sen. Angus King, I-Maine, and Sen. James Lankford, R-Okla., are leading a similar effort to build support for nonprofits among their colleagues in the Senate.

Nonprofit organizations like Ducks Unlimited, Goodwill, the YMCA and the American Cancer Society are a vital component to a healthy American economy. As we continue to weather this unforeseen storm of financial and economic hardship and uncertainty, we must ensure that these important charitable organizations remain part of our new reality — whatever that may be.

Rogers Hoyt Jr. is president of Ducks Unlimited, Inc.