Jewish leaders say $2.2 trillion stimulus offers community needed assistance

Jewish leaders say $2.2 trillion stimulus offers community needed assistance

The emergency legislation includes relief to nonprofits and charities reeling from the coronavirus pandemic; provisions will apply to Jewish groups, synagogues and schools

Eric Cortellessa covers American politics for The Times of Israel.

US President Donald Trump signs the coronavirus stimulus relief package in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, March 27, 2020. (AP/Evan Vucci)
US President Donald Trump signs the coronavirus stimulus relief package in the Oval Office at the White House in Washington, DC, March 27, 2020. (AP/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON — US President Donald Trump signed into law on Friday emergency legislation to help the nation weather the economic shock of the coronavirus pandemic. The $2.2 trillion stimulus — the largest ever in American history — includes appropriations that will assist an array of Jewish groups and institutions.

The package, called the CARES Act, offers small business loans, employee retention tax credits, and financial aid for nonpublic schools, which would include the nation’s Jewish schools, with a pool of emergency response funds, and other instruments to help nonprofits stay afloat.

In recent weeks, unemployment has skyrocketed and economic activity plummeted as restrictions to stem the spread of the virus force much of the country to a standstill. This week, more than three million Americans filed for unemployment benefits.

US Jewish leaders said the stimulus package will provide needed aid to the Jewish institutions most in need, including synagogues and advocacy groups.

“It’s very significant, and it will benefit the Jewish community in many ways, and we’re very appreciative of the work that the Congress did,” Eric Fingerhut, head of the Jewish Federations of North America, told the Jewish News Service.

US President Donald Trump speaks about the coronavirus in the James Brady Briefing Room, Wednesday, March 25, 2020, in Washington as Vice President Mike Pence and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin listen. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

Several of the bill’s provisions also include relief for nonprofits, which Jewish organizations like the Orthodox Union had been pressing for, such as payroll tax payment deferrals, charitable deduction adjustments and access to FEMA disaster loans.

Mark Bane, president of the Orthodox Union, said the provisions will enable the nonprofit sector to continue stay afloat.

“More attention can and must be focused by Washington on America’s charities, which are already being strained by reduced donations at a time the demand is so great, and will continue to grow as this pandemic worsens,” Bane said in a statement. “The charitable sector can, and will continue to help to those who depend on us – whether for social welfare services, education, health or spiritual sustenance.”

The Orthodox Union was among a handful of Jewish organizations, including the Jewish Federations of North America, JCC, and Hadassah, to join other charities in signing a letter to Congress last week requesting an immediate infusion of $60 billion to maintain charitable nonprofits, which did not make it into the final legislation. The letter also asked for a tax deduction for charitable giving to incentivize Americans to continue donating amid the crisis.

Executive director of the Orthodox Union Advocacy Center, Nathan Diament. (Courtesy OU Advocacy Center)

Orthodox Union Executive Director for Public Policy Nathan Diament said he was “particularly thankful” to Congressional leadership for getting the stimulus bill passed, but added that he was “disappointed” these other provisions were not kept in the final bill.

The historic legislation, signed by Trump less than 48 hours after the Senate unanimously passed it early Thursday morning, will send direct payments of $1,200 to millions of Americans, including those earning up to $75,000, and an additional $500 per child. It will also extend benefits to freelance and gig workers.

The measure also offers $377 billion in federally guaranteed loans to small businesses and establishes a $500 billion government lending program for companies suffering from the fallout.

It will send $100 billion to American hospitals.

“Today we’ve all acknowledged our nation faces an economic and health emergency of historic proportions,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a California Democrat. She said Americans deserve a full-on government response “to address these threats to their lives and their livelihood and they need it now.”

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