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Paycheck Protection Program helps Clark County nonprofits stay afloat

But organizations concerned for future as pandemic endures

By , Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith
2 Photos
Carter Campbell, 8 months, from left, joins his mom, Breeanna Campbell, as she creates a colorful tie-dye shirt with the help of Julie Tappan, independent living skills resource specialist, at the YWCA on Tuesday evening. The summer celebration was for young people who are participating in YWCA Clark County's Independent Living Skills program. These youth have all aged out of the foster care system and are learning to live on their own.
Carter Campbell, 8 months, from left, joins his mom, Breeanna Campbell, as she creates a colorful tie-dye shirt with the help of Julie Tappan, independent living skills resource specialist, at the YWCA on Tuesday evening. The summer celebration was for young people who are participating in YWCA Clark County's Independent Living Skills program. These youth have all aged out of the foster care system and are learning to live on their own. (amanda cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Clark County nonprofits using the Paycheck Protection Program say the loans stabilized or even saved their organizations. Yet while the federal funding allowed vital services to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations remain concerned about their future financial health.

Nonprofits received about 4 percent of PPP loans of $150,000 or more disbursed so far in Clark County, according to data from the Small Business Administration.

Among the largest recipients was Lifeline Connections, which operates recovery services across the county as well as in Mount Vernon, Bellingham and Aberdeen; it received a loan in an amount between $2 million and $5 million, retaining an estimated 262 jobs. Educational Opportunities for Children and Families, Kings Way Christian Schools and CDM Caregiving Services each received loans between $1 million and $2 million.

Eric Erickson, executive director at CDM, said the loan, which does not have to be repaid if the recipient meets certain conditions, “really helped.” CDM was able to continue to pay wages and benefits to its employees, including those at the adult day center, which is currently closed.

The nonprofit also received a grant from the Community Foundation for Southwest Washington to buy personal protective equipment such as masks, gloves and touchless thermometers — a boon for caregivers visiting the homes of older adults, who are particularly vulnerable to the virus.

His organization applied for a PPP loan as soon as possible, though the application had to be repeatedly redone because requirements changed. The funding couldn’t be put toward anything already reimbursed through Medicaid.

The organization’s future remains uncertain. With sales tax revenues down, the adult day center on Andresen Road has been discussed as a potential cut.

“I’m not trying to panic yet,” Erickson said.

Sharon Pesut said Partners In Careers was fortunate to have an easy time applying for a PPP loan through Lewis & Clark Bank. Her organization, which helps people with job training and placement, received a little more than $260,000. With the loan, none of the 15 employees were laid off.

“It really made the difference,” Pesut said.

During the pandemic, Partners In Careers shifted its mission from assisting job seekers to helping people navigate unemployment benefits. Helping people who are experiencing social isolation or homelessness is another big piece. The organization has also loaned laptops and distributed maps of public Wi-Fi spots to people who otherwise wouldn’t have access to a computer or the internet.

“We are in a holding pattern in being able to serve new clients fully,” Pesut said.

She wants to hold onto staff so they can prepare for the influx of people seeking employment in the months to come.

Homelessness agencies

Council for the Homeless had a more complicated experience applying for PPP. The nonprofit hub for homeless resources had to switch banks and repeatedly fill out loan documents.

Kate Budd said the banks offering the PPP loans described the process to her as “building the ship as it sailed,” as the government repeatedly revised its rules and forms.

Eventually, the organization was successful and able to use the money toward staffing (retaining 26 positions) and utility payments as well as rent to Share and Vancouver Housing Authority, which own the two buildings Council for the Homeless uses.

What was most significant, Budd said, is the funds helped mitigate the unknown. Staff could keep focusing on supporting people experiencing homelessness without worrying about their own livelihoods.

The organization was even able to hire additional staff to address the growing need. Meanwhile, funds from the Community Foundation went toward direct services, such as rent assistance and motel vouchers.

During the PPP process, she noticed smaller banks and financial organizations were the ones advocating for nonprofits and trying to do everything to make their applications successful.

“I think they just took a much more personal approach,” she said.

Facing frustration

Sherri Falkner said YWCA Clark County had a similar experience. The board member found larger financial institutions were trying to help their larger clients. So, some nonprofits had to diverge from their primary banks.

“That was frustrating across the board,” Falkner said.

YWCA used iQ Credit Union as its lender. According to the SBA data, Riverview Community Bank and Umpqua Bank took on the largest number of nonprofits applying for loans of $150,000 and up.

Falkner works for Heritage Bank, which took on some nonprofits applying for PPP loans. She said a bank committee met daily to talk about the application and loan forgiveness process for its clients.

For the YWCA, the PPP loan served its purpose of keeping people on the payroll. Like other organizations, YWCA is still offering services in a virtual setting and opening the office by appointment only.

“It has saved us,” Diane McWithey, executive director of homeless service provider Share, said of the PPP loan.

During the pandemic the nonprofit was doing more to respond to the need while also facing a decline in donations. About 40 percent of the nonprofit’s $10 million budget comes from fundraising. Fundraising events were canceled due to the pandemic.

Share’s $718,472 PPP loan prevented layoffs and allowed it to shift staff into new roles that arose due to the pandemic. For instance, its shelters are taking in more people and its food programs providing more meals for people in need. With fewer volunteers, the work of assembling meals and food bags falls on employees.

She noted that private philanthropy from the Community Foundation helped just as much as the government funds. While the community has been generous, she said Share is likely to end the year in the red even with the loan and a grant writer working around the clock.

“Our regular donors have dropped off considerably,” McWithey said.

Still, she feels the organization is more stable now compared with a few months ago. Each month brings new changes and funding sources that allow Share to continue its work.

“It’s been a blessing to have that ability to expand the services to meet the need,” she said.

Community Foundation

The Community Foundation for Southwest Washington was in the unusual position of both distributing emergency funds to organizations in need and needing a PPP loan to retain its own staff.

“It was critical for us to get that,” said Jennifer Rhoads, the foundation’s president.

She said like other nonprofits, the Community Foundation saw a decline in revenue. This was due to the stock market falling and the value of its charitable assets falling with it. The Community Foundation charges fees on the charitable funds it manages, so when those funds decline in value — or more money leaves the foundation to address emergent needs than comes in — the foundation earns less. For now, its finances are more stable.

Whether nonprofits are reimbursed for the services they provide or rely more on fundraising, they’re going to have to adapt their business models and the way they deliver programs, Rhoads said. Before the pandemic, many didn’t have the technology to work remotely or do online fundraising events. In-person events were delayed or canceled.

“Our nonprofits need to get a little more nimble,” Rhoads said.

In some cases, nonprofits need to make changes and act faster to take advantage of emerging federal support, such as the Main Street Lending Program. For instance, Rhoads said, some organizations had bylaws saying they couldn’t borrow money, so they had to change that to take advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program. Others waited until the second round of funding to better understand the process and requirements.

Columbian Social Services, Demographics, Faith