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Main Street Lending 2.0: A Proposal to Support Our Most Vital Nonprofits

May 12, 2020

The government distinguishes "large" from "small" organizations in many ways, though the most common is whether they have 500 or more employees. Nonprofits deemed "large" under this definition have been completely shut out of the two most important sources of COVID-19-related financial support: the SBA's Paycheck Protection Program ("PPP") and the Federal Reserve's Main Street Lending Program ("MSLP"). This is unfortunate because, while small nonprofits are collectively important, the large ones do most of the work.

This is true not only in higher education and hospitals, but in other areas that support the well-being of communities including: shelters, emergency food distribution, mental health, hospice, foster care, nursing homes, and caring for the developmentally disabled. These large nonprofits are systemically important partners to state and local governments, and many are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis. However, unless they receive immediate assistance, some will not make it through the next few months; few, if any, will survive without making drastic cuts to services that will be more vital than ever to our collective health, well-being, and safety during the COVID-19 crisis and its aftermath.

Given the pressure on their budgets, and the difficulties that states and cities have in raising immediate funds from taxes or the capital markets, only the federal government has the scale of available resources to help large nonprofits. Fortunately, there is no need to develop an entirely new program; PPP and MSLP can be modified to get the job done.