Winter is coming, and with it, an expected surge in coronavirus cases. We’ve hit records in virus hospitalizations and single-day deaths. It’s shaping up to be a potentially devastating holiday season for many, should lawmakers fail to reach a compromise on assistance for the many American families facing eviction, expiring unemployment benefits, and mounting food insecurity. Charitable organizations have dutifully stepped up, but more must be done — now — to make sure philanthropic dollars are available to those who need them most. (Read more about that below.) In the absence of new federal action, states such as New Mexico, Colorado and Minnesota, as well as cities such as Houston and Albuquerque, are filling the gaps by making new rounds of aid available to their citizens. The need for both speedy access to charitable giving and Congressional action has never been greater.
Show Us the Money
By Adrienne Faraci, Communications Manager
Photos of miles-long stretches of cars waiting in line to receive meals underscore a painful truth: Americans are suffering deeply in the midst of a pandemic and recession, and they need urgent help. It’s not an overstatement to say charitable giving like the kind that supports food banks and social services are critical to the functioning of American society, especially now.
The Problem: More than $1 trillion in funds earmarked to help those in need languishes in private foundations and donor-advised funds (DAFs), where it can sit for years generating tax benefits for wealthy donors. The gap between when donors get a tax deduction and when the money is actually put to philanthropic use is too long, writes AV Co-Founder John Arnold. “This is money that can and should be distributed to charities. The significant upfront tax breaks given to donors who place their money in private foundations and DAFs not only deprive taxpayers of tax revenue, but they operate without rules that assure the sidelined money will eventually be distributed to people in need.”
What’s Being Done: On Giving Tuesday, Arnold Ventures and philanthropic leaders from the Ford Foundation, Hewlett Foundation, Kresge Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and more launched the Initiative to Accelerate Charitable Giving. In partnership with Ray Madoff, professor at Boston College Law School and Director of the Forum on Philanthropy and the Public Good, the project aims to reform tax laws and incentivize institutions to distribute donations more quickly and get money where it’s needed. They propose common-sense policy reforms for private foundations and donor-advised funds and an expansion of the new non-itemizer charitable deduction to speed up the philanthropic process. “These reforms to the philanthropic sector are long overdue, and we need the resources now,” says Arnold.
Every day, around 33 Americans die while waiting for an organ transplant. But new rules aimed at strengthening oversight of the organizations that collect and transport organs are expected to dramatically reduce that number.
What’s Happening: For too long Organ Procurement Organizations, or OPOs, have functioned in a black box of sorts, operating without effective government oversight. They self-report their success data, often manipulating it to hide underperformance. Fraud, waste, and abuse are also rampant. The new rules, fought hard for by AV grantee Organize, will evaluate OPOs using objective data kept by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Government regulators will be able to use the CDC data to fire under-performing OPOs and give their contracts to more effective competitors. By introducing the threat of losing a contract, the rules aim to incentivize OPOs to up their game.
Bottom Line: The reforms, a rare example of a cause that’s been embraced by both sides of the aisle, are projected to lead to an additional 7,300 transplants and a $1 billion savings each year after they go into effect in 2022.
How well do pretrial policies and procedures such as pretrial monitoring, electronic monitoring, drug testing, and court date notifications work? Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR) recently published a series of research summaries documenting key findings about such practices, which aim to maximize community well-being and safety while reducing failure-to-appear rates. However, research increasingly shows that many of these practices aren’t backed by strong evidence.
Why it Matters: Over the past several years counties and states have begun rethinking their pretrial policies and practices. In addition to moving away from cash bail and releasing more people before trial, courts are also expanding alternative policies that can increase appearance rates and reduce incidences of rearrest before trial. Successful criminal justice reform relies on courts finding practices that actually work. Otherwise courts will end up wasting public resources on ineffective or even harmful programs.
What’s Next: Courts need to ensure that they’re following evidence-based practices. Meanwhile, more rigorous research is needed to better understand the nuances of effective implementation.
Related: Advancing Pretrial Policy and Research (APPR) is now accepting applications for its next cohorts of Learning Sites to receive up to 16 months of assistance and coaching on implementing pretrial reforms from a dedicated APPR technical assistance provider. Review the Request for Applications and register for the Dec. 15 webinar.
This New York Times op-ed by Peter Bach of Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center arguing that from the deeply flawed “breakthrough” medical devices rule to a poorly conceived scheme to offer $200 drug cards to seniors, the Trump administration has pushed the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services in the wrong direction — and a reset is needed.
Warnings about the looming crisis for student loan borrowers — who will have to make payments again on Dec. 31 as the moratorium President Trump had put in place expires — and the lack of reassurances from the U.S. Department of Education, via Inside Higher Ed.
Related: A working paper from Becker Friedman Institute on the distributional impacts of student loan forgiveness finds across-the-board forgiveness is economically regressive and provides much lower actual benefits to borrowers of color.
How churches are stepping up to do the work politicians won’t by paying off strangers’ crushing medical debt, via The New York Times.
President-Elect Joe Biden’s plan to emphasize treatment and prevention in addressing the opioid epidemic, which has only gotten more dire during the pandemic, via Politico.
How results from an RCT led by Economic Mobility Corporation and supported by AV show “absolutely stunning" gains in earnings for immigrants who learn English, via The Boston Globe.
An analysis from Urban Institute of how the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession have dramatically changed state economies and budgets — and what might be needed for recovery.
What We're Watching
“Growing Up Poor in America,” a PBS Frontline documentary that puts in stark lightthe impact of the coronavirus on already struggling families — and especially children. While the film premiered in September, its urgency persists as the economic situation for so many across the country has only deteriorated amid a surge in cases and partisan gridlock over emergency federal relief. The film follows three families in Ohio as they navigate school shutdowns and the loss of classroom support, food insecurity, pandemic-related job loss, housing issues, and disconnect notices— a “new normal,” as Fantasy, mom to Laikyen and Miracle, puts it. Food pantries and other forms of assistance — including counseling for 12-year-old Shawn, who struggles after a favorite teacher’s death — are a lifeline. The children also contend, along with the rest of the country, with the death of George Floyd and America’s racial reckoning. But these kids do have hopes for the future. Says the soft-spoken Shawn: “To climb out of poverty, it’s probably a really hard struggle, but I think it is possible, and that I’m going to try my best to.”
As a word nerd who makes daily use of the dictionary (most often while writing this newsletter), I’m not at all surprised that pandemic is Merriam-Webster’s top word of 2020. Runners-up include defund, Kraken (my daughter’s favorite mythical creature), icon, irregardless (a definition is not an endorsement) and...malarkey. If you’re keeping track, 2019’s word of the year was “they.”
An interview with Time’s first “Kid of the Year,” who will make you feel like a slacker.
We're Seeking Proposals
Funding Opportunity: As part of efforts to to better understand how to improve the systems that deliver care to a population of more than 12 million people who are dually eligible for Medicare and Medicaid, we are seeking to fund researchers who are guided by the following principles: policy relevance, rigor and independence, and alignment with our strategy. Learn more here.
Stephanie DiCapua Getman develops and executes Arnold Ventures' digital communications strategy with a focus on multimedia storytelling and audience engagement and oversees daily editorial operations and design.
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