Delaware Nonprofits Need to Unite for Change

Photo of Melissa Hopkins

For anyone working in Delaware with the General Assembly, June invokes a lot of feelings. At this point in the year, I find myself reflective with an undercurrent of urgency and anxiety.
It is June and nonprofits have been so down and under pressure for more time than I care to remember. Still in pandemic recovery, rising costs for just about everything relating to serving communities in Delaware, and very little acknowledgment from the state government about the reality of what nonprofits are experiencing. There are still needs that have not been met, and policies that are layering more burden onto Delaware nonprofit organizations with no plan to address funding concerns.

One of the hallmarks of the end of the Legislative Session is the Delaware State Chamber of Commerce End-of-Session Policy Conference where the Senate President Pro-Tem, David Sokola, and Speaker of the House, Peter C. Schwartzkopf provide an overview of what to expect for the last month the legislature is in session. During the question-and-answer session, I thanked them for the efforts of the Joint Finance Committee to fund the McNesby Act to address the pay disparity for Direct Support Professionals providing services to individuals with disabilities.
But I asked how they intend to address similar rate disparity issues across the rest of the nonprofit sector. Their answer was simple and poignant, advocate to the Joint Finance Committee!

DANA is working on three outstanding initiatives on behalf of the Delaware nonprofit sector that need the attention of the Joint Finance Committee. While the JFC has finalized the General Operating Budget for FY 2023, the Grant-in-Aid bill is still being constructed. Therein lies an opportunity for the JFC to meet the needs of our state’s nonprofits with the following additions to the FY 2023 Grant-in-Aid bill:

  1. Provide contracted nonprofit service providers a cost-of-living increase by the rate of the increase in the minimum wage on all contracts with the state. (13.5% for those of you playing at home!)
  2. Add epilogue language to allow nonprofit organizations to access the State Health Insurance Plan:
    “Notwithstanding anything in the Title 29 of the Delaware Code, organizations shall be able to purchase health benefits (health, dental, and vision insurance) through the State Employee plans if: they are a 501(c)(3); receive a Grant-in-Aid appropriation over $50,000 or are contracted with the State to provide services; have at least five staff members, and have an operating budget of less than $10 million.”
  3. While the state is experiencing increasingly profitable revenue projections there should be a significant investment in our state’s nonprofit sector through an increase to the FY2023 Grant-in-Aid bill.

To accomplish this, we ask you to please engage in the following ways:

  • Take a moment to sign on to our request letter to the Joint Finance Committee outlining the needs of the nonprofit sector. Sign on HERE by Thursday, June 6th at noon.
  • Call your legislators and ask them to request the JFC fund our requests. You can find your legislator on the “Who is My Legislator?” tool here.
  • Ask your Board Members to call their legislators and encourage their support.

As we consider our collective path forward, bear in mind that we all need to be in this together. Uniting is the only way this can work. Navigating this terrain and fighting for what we need is certainly not for the faint of heart, but neither is advocacy or nonprofit life. With over 1,200 nonprofit organizations in Delaware, there is no reason that our needs are not being heard except we are not asking.

If you have questions or concerns, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].

You may review the draft letter requesting support for nonprofits here