Decisions, Dollars and Data, Oh My!

by David Thompson

Businesses of all types, take note: Decisions coming out of Washington, DC in the coming months will affect employment practices and business planning decisions for years to come. For-profit and nonprofit organizations have a vested interest in what comes of proposals from the U.S. Department of Labor on overtime pay and the Department of Commerce on the 2020 census. This is an article about what businesses need to know and what they can do about it. Soon.

Paying Overtime

The rules governing overtime pay are in flux once again. A few years ago, employers across the country were scrambling to adjust to the changes to overtime regulations issued by the Labor Department under President Obama. Those rules, which were ultimately blocked by a federal judge, would have doubled the salary threshold for determining who could be considered white-collar employees exempt from time-and-a-half overtime pay. The threshold they sought to put in place reportedly would have made four million American workers entitled to overtime pay regardless of their job duties. 

Now, there’s a new overtime salary threshold on the table (www.regulations.gov/document?D=WHD-2019-0001-0001): $679 per week or $35,308 annually. That amount is halfway between current law and what the Obama Administration proposed. The Labor Department estimates that about 7 percent of nonprofit employees nationally will be affected by the higher salary threshold (compared to 5 percent of for-profit employees). The higher threshold could affect an even larger portion of the nonprofit workforce in Arizona and other parts of the country where average wages and cost of living are below the national average. See the initial analysis from the National Council of Nonprofits (http://bit.ly/overtime-analysis-pdf). 

Nonprofits and employers of all types are encouraged to review the proposed regulations and determine whether and how the draft rules will affect their ability to attract and retain workers and advance their missions. The Labor Department is inviting public comments (RIN 1235-AA20) (www.regulations.gov/document?D=WHD-2019-0001-0001) through approximately May 21, 2019.

Relying on Census Data

The 2020 Census is less than a year away and the stakes couldn’t be higher. Arizona stands to gain one more Representative in Congress if the census is done right. Or lose $900 per person per year in federal dollars for roads, community supports and social services for anyone not included in the official count. And more, the data generated by the census can “help you start or grow a business or understand the business landscape for a region,” the Census Bureau (www.census.gov/data/data-tools/cbb.html) boasts. 

If good census data leads to good decisions, then flawed data should be of concern to all who are planning for the future. The U.S. Supreme Court will decide by ea rly summer whether to allow the addition of a citizenship question (http://bit.ly/supreme-court-18-966 to the 2020 Census, a question proposed by the U.S. Commerce Department. In the view of many — including business groups, a bipartisan group of elected officials and charitable nonprofits (http://bit.ly/bipartisan-official-pdf) — mandating that people declare on their census questionnaire whether they are citizens will cause millions to refuse to be counted and result in an undercount of 5.8 percent, according to one study. 

The ruling of the Supreme Court about the citizenship question may shake faith in the quality of the resulting data, but we all have a part to play in encouraging participation. Recognizing that the value of a fair, accurate and complete census is so great for our economic and social bottom lines, many for-profit and nonprofit businesses are doing their part to raise awareness among the populations they serve. We all benefit when we all are counted. 

David Thompson is vice president of the National Council of Nonprofits.

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