Seth Moulton

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton

BEVERLY — The YMCA of the North Shore's locations may not be open for its members to workout or attend programs, but the nonprofit is doing some heavy lifting.

It has pivoted to providing, among other things, emergency child care for essential employees who are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis.

The YMCA of the North Shore is like many other nonprofits struggling to make ends meet amid a drop in revenue. Their doors are closed to members and donations are drying up as many people worry about where their next paycheck might come from with nonessential businesses closed.

"We are the front line of the front line," said Chris Lovasco, president and CEO of the YMCA of the North Shore.

He's a supporter of a bill co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton, D-Salem, and U.S. Rep Brian Fitzpatrick, R-Pennsylvania, called the Save Organizations that Serve America Act, or SOS America Act. It is a bill that has drawn support from nonprofit leaders not only on the North Shore but nationwide, Moulton said.

"I think we all understand why this is important for nonprofits because of the work they do every day," said Moulton. "But, they are also big employers ... so this is relief not just for essential services, but for people in our community who serve at these nonprofits and are worried about losing their paychecks — or already have."

Moulton said nonprofits are doing more work than ever before because of the essential services they provide, and are doing so at a time when their revenues are drying up.

"And because of the stock market crash, a lot of their higher-end donors aren't contributing in a way that they usually do," Moulton said. "So, they have two revenue streams drying up right at the time that their services are needed the most by the community."

The bill, if passed, would be to provide $60 billion in emergency funding to nonprofits.

Moulton said the bill would allow taxpayers to donate to nonprofits now and deduct that donation off of their 2019 taxes, "which will hopefully stop the bleeding for nonprofits who are counting on these donations and make sure that donors who want that tax deduction will get it right away."

The bill would also ensure that all nonprofits, not just smaller ones, can qualify for Small Business Administration job retention loans created under the $2 trillion CARES Act. That act passed last week to provide economic relief during the coronavirus crisis. What makes the loans critical is they can forgiven if employees are kept on the payroll. The loans can also be used for other expenses.

Moulton's bill would allow larger nonprofits like the YMCA of the North Shore to qualify for these small business loans, which under the CARES Act capped the employee count at 500. That means larger nonprofits would not be eligible for them.

Among its various YMCAs in Salem, Gloucester (Cape Ann), Beverly, Haverhill, Ipswich, Marblehead and Plaistow, N.H., the YMCA of the North Shore employs 1,400 people.

And the need for such assistance is there.

The YMCA of the North Shore is running four emergency child care centers, one each in Beverly and Salem, and two in Haverhill, for 160 children of workers dealing with the COVID-19 crisis.

The state is providing support to run the centers, "which independently operate at a financial loss," a statement from the Y said, adding the "state has been generous to continue to provide contracted funds to augment the centers direct costs with additional staff."

Other work includes food distribution to those in need, including to 500 residents in YMCA affordable housing.

The YMCA of the North Shore is also partnering with Action Inc. of Gloucester to provide temporary shelter at the Cape Ann Y for 30 homeless adults so they can maintain proper physical distancing. It's also created an employee relief fund to support furloughed staff. 

The organization is doing all this "with two hands tied behind our back," with 70 percent less income and 1,100 of its 1,400 employees who are without hours because they work part time. All of the YMCAs are closed amid the need for social distancing.

And while the YMCA of the North Shore is confident the federal and state government will support its workers, as a nonprofit that is self-insured for unemployment, the organization may be facing more than $1 million for thousands of state repayments for furloughed staff without legislative help, Lovasco said. That's why the SOS America Act is so important.

As it turns out, Gloucester-based The Open Door, which operates the Gloucester Food Pantry and the Ipswich Community Food Pantry, is providing food to eight organizations such as housing authorities and senior centers, including the combined shelter at the Cape Ann Y in Gloucester that Lovasco mentioned.

Julie LaFontaine, The Open Door's president and CEO, said she supports the SOS America Act.

"In times like this, nonprofit organizations are going to need unprecedented intervention to sustain services," LaFontaine said.

The Open Door has had to turn on a dime to change how it operates. It is now providing curbside food distribution in Gloucester and Ipswich, and home food deliveries to those who are homebound, have underlying conditions, or who may be quarantined due to the coronavirus. The community meals program in Gloucester has become curbside takeout. 

Last week, as nonessential workplaces were closed, The Open Door saw a 40 percent increase in the number of households they serve in both communities, from 700-800 normally, to 1,100 families last week.

"We'll get through this — and the only way we will get through this is together," LaFontaine said.

Jo Ann Simons, the CEO of Northeast Arc that provides services to those with intellectual and other disabilities, has 1,100 employees, so the ability to get those small business loans would be critical.

"You had to have under 500 employees," Simons said. "Why are you punishing nonprofits because they are larger?" she asked.

The organization she runs would be able to qualify for small business loans with the passage of Moulton's bill, she said.

The organization has had to furlough 100 employees while continuing to pay its portion of its contribution to these employees' health insurance plans.

Northeast Arc is also facing increased costs for personal protective equipment, she said. The organization has had to transition into a mobile workforce so staff could provide such services as early intervention remotely. The organization's Zoom license alone cost $3,400.

They also had to buy additional laptops and equipment so employees could work from home. They have added labor costs to staff group homes around the clock.

"We are thrilled Seth Moulton is coming to our rescue," Simons said.  

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