By Gloria Zuurveen, Founder/CEO
Nonprofits are facing threats on multiple fronts. In addition to responding to the COVID-19 pandemic and disruption, they are also having to deal with an insurance crisis.
Across the greater Los Angeles area, nonprofits provide care for the elderly, group homes for children, shelter and adoption for rescued pets, food banks for families, art and theater programs, environmental stewardship, services for the homeless, and many other critical services. In order to operate, these organizations require appropriate insurance coverage.
Like any business, nonprofit organizations need commercial insurance to protect their volunteers, vehicles, events, board of directors, and property. Without access to commercial insurance, nonprofit organizations risk losing everything from a loss that they are not covered for. It helps to think of insurance like electricity: you need it to be there consistently and reliably, and you only notice when it is gone. Stable insurance coverage is necessary for nonprofits to operate and fulfill their missions.
As the founder and CEO of Parent Action Coalition for Education (PACE), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, I started Journalism Education Enrichment Program called JEEP to motivate, inspire, and to drive youth to careers in journalism. I also started the Glory Thrift Store, a nonprofit social enterprise of PACE, to give homeless youth on-the-job training. While we have been providing these multifaceted services to the Los Angeles and surrounding community for quite some time, it has been difficult to reach our fullest potential as a nonprofit organization because of not having adequate liability insurance for our programs and especially the thrift store. My attempt to find general liability coverage was a challenge and commercial carriers would not return my calls after learning of my nonprofit status. I had to make the decision to operate the thrift store with no coverage.
After months of operating with no coverage, I finally decided to ask a friend who also runs a local nonprofit about our needs for some insurance to get a contract from a State of California service provider and she informed me about calling an insurance carrier for nonprofits. With a stable general liability insurance policy in place, I now have peace of mind knowing that my nonprofit will not risk losing everything from a single incident.
I can now focus on expanding my reach in the community. With a certificate of insurance, I can work on collaboration with local and state government, other nonprofit organizations, or the LA Unified School District. Having an affordable general liability policy in place will allow my nonprofit to expand its efforts to fulfill its mission.
I am not alone. Having been fully immersed in the local community as founder and CEO of a newspaper that focus on the many issues the African American community faces and reaches tens of thousands every week, I am aware of other organizations that have faced similar challenges. For example, one women’s shelter in the area is paying $38,000 per month for liability insurance. Many of these nonprofits are small, operating with two or three people. These small organizations provide critical support to the community, like feeding the homeless or supporting victims of sex trafficking in Los Angeles. Nonprofits see the need and are working from their hearts but need affordable insurance to safeguard their ability to operate.
There is a solution to this crisis. H.R. 4523 is a bill introduced in Congress by Rep. Green from Texas that would enable market-driven solutions to this insurance crisis. This legislation would increase market options for property and casualty insurance for small and mid-size nonprofits. This is the kind of innovation we need to protect Los Angeles nonprofits. With more insurance options available, nonprofits can grow, reaching their fullest potential because they will be safeguarded from failure. A strong, safe, and secure nonprofit sector is absolutely critical, especially during a global pandemic such as what we are experiencing today. Nonprofits need to continue doing what they already do, serving the most vulnerable members of our community. H.R. 4523 will directly benefit these organizations by creating more options for nonprofits to find insurance they need.
I strongly encourage support from everyone who are concerned with helping in meeting the needs of nonprofits like PACE and its mission to serve others with programs like JEEP and its social enterprise, Glory Thrift Store, but more importantly, I call on Congresswoman Maxine Waters to support H.R. 4523. As Chairwoman on the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services and as a representative of some of the most vulnerable and needy in the Los Angeles area, Congresswoman Waters, I seek your ear to hear what many of your constituents are in need of to help them in their work to improve the health and wealth of the community. Nonprofit organizations have always sought to solve issues in the community, and with this bill, they will be able to continue doing so without further obstacles.