by JL Haynes
This past month the General Assembly was on break while the Joint Finance Committee reviewed the Governor’s Recommended Budget, hearing brief presentations from each state agency. DANA provided testimony in many of them, reminding JFC of the importance of adjusting contract rates and grant levels to reflect rising costs. We were thrilled to see so many nonprofit organizations provide public testimony both in-person and virtually. Comments offered committee members and leadership in state agencies insight into the effect their funding decisions have on nonprofit partners and service implications in the community.
One prevalent theme of the Joint Finance Committee this year was a focus on workforce vacancies within the state agencies and learning how each department intends to address them. State workforce recruitment and retention is one of Governor Carney’s top policy priorities, noted in his State of the State address and amplified by allotting money specifically to increase state employee wages. The Joint Finance Committee asked each Cabinet Secretary to share the vacancy rate and whether that department is appropriately staffed to carry out their missions. It was highlighted multiple times how uncompetitive state jobs are compared to the private sector, and in comparison, to neighboring states, due to the current low wages. Additionally, the subject of inflation came up time and time again as each department indicated they needed additional funds to account for current projects and services.
Many DANA members offered testimony that echoed the same workforce challenges and inflationary concerns. Contracted service providers gave testimony that contract rates need to increase to compensate for the increased service demand and rising cost to provide services. The only agency to request additional money to address their vendor’s needs was a one-time request from the Department of Health and Social Services. DHSS was also some of the most well attended hearings with people from the healthcare community testifying for shorter waitlists, increased wages, and better contractual partnerships.
DANA is taking on this issue of state contractual partnerships by organizing a coalition of service providers to advocate for change. The first meeting of this group is March 3rd! We hope you will join us to seek legislative relief to contracting challenges. To join our coalition, please fill out this interest form and to register for the coalition meeting.
Subsector Advocacy Days Return
While we wait for the final budget to take shape following the JFC’s recommendations, the return of the legislature in March brings further opportunity for nonprofits to advocate for the needs of the sector. March kicks off DANA’s Sub-sector Advocacy series, where we coordinate nonprofit organizations by sub-sectors in Dover to advocate directly to legislators. The first Sub-sector Advocacy day is Wednesday March 8th beginning with the Education and Youth-Serving sub-sector, to register for that event use this link. For a full list of the Advocacy day events click here.
What we are Watching
While the Joint Finance Committee considers the growing needs of operating state government there are external pressures that could impact Delaware finances. The U.S. Supreme Court announced a ruling on Delaware v. Pennsylvania, et.al. that will influence Delaware’s bottom line. Delaware has significant revenue from seizure of unclaimed property which annually provides revenue to the State annually. The U.S. Supreme Court ruled that Delaware has been claiming property to which other states are entitled. Given this Supreme Court decision has just been announced, it is unclear what the next step will be for Delaware, but the state could owe up to $400 million in escheated funds to other states. More information about this issue may be found here.
Senator Coons Champions Charitable Act
This week Senator Lankford (R-OK) and Senator Coons (D-DE) reintroduced their universal charitable (non-itemizer) deduction bill. The Charitable Act (S. 566) is an updated version of the Universal Giving Pandemic Response and Recovery Act (S. 618) considered last year. The new legislation would create an incentive for taxpayers to donate to qualified nonprofits as modeled in the Universal Charitable Deduction, first enacted in the CARES Act of 2020, and renewed through 2021. Unfortunately, this provision sunset at the end of 2021. Senator Coons has been a leader in advocacy for Delaware nonprofits. With support from our partners at the National Council of Nonprofits, we will continue to offer updates as this legislation progresses.