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Nonprofit news roundup for Feb. 19, 2009

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Some nonprofit hospitals see drop in credit ratings

Many nonprofit hospitals have had their credit ratings downgraded as the stock market crumbles, American Medical News reported Feb. 18 (see credit story). The 53 downgrades issued last year for nonprofit hospitals exceeded upgrades by the largest margin in five years, says Moody’s Investors Service. Many of the downgraded hospitals are in poorer neighborhoods with a higher percentage of uninsured patients.

Texas legal-aid foundation turns to state for help

Legal aid for low-income Texans could get the boot without substantial help from the state legislature, says the Texas Access to Justice Foundation, the Associated Press reported Feb. 18. The foundation, which funds 40 legal-aid organizations in Texas, plans to ask the state for a $40 million loan from the federal stimulus package. Because of falling interest rates, the foundation expects financial support from Interest on Lawyers’ Trust Accounts, its primary funder, to fall to $1.5 million this year from $28 million in 2007.

Philadelphia gets flak for proposed tax amendment

Philadelphia is considering changes to a proposed amendment to its tax law after nonprofits voiced concern that the city would be able to tax activities now considered exempt, The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Feb. 19. The proposed amendment would permit the city to tax universities for dorm fees, theaters for concessions and small community groups for fundraising events, nonprofit experts say. Revenue commissioner Keith Richardson argued that the amendment was being “misconstrued,” and that the city intended to tax only those activities that are unrelated to core mission.

Gates Foundation, corporations assist African farmers

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation plans to invest $48 million to help small-scale farmers in Africa boost their output of cocoa and cashews, The Canadian Press reported Feb. 19. Private corporations, including Kraft Foods, Mars and Starbucks, are giving a total of $42 million to the initiative, which aims to lift more than 1.5 million people out of poverty.

In Brief:

* More than four in 10 nonprofits have put “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects on the back burner as a result of the flagging economy, says a survey by the Center for Civil Society Studies at Johns Hopkins University, The New York Times reported Feb. 19.

* Bridgespan Group, a Boston-based nonprofit consultant, plans to move its New York headquarters out of the building it shares with its for-profit sister company, Bain & Co., Crain’s New York Business reported Feb. 17.

* Seattle residents and businesses pinched by the economic crisis can maintain their commitment to philanthropy by volunteering, says Kathy Porterfield, managing partner of the Seattle branch of KPMG, in an opinion column in The Seattle Times Feb. 18.

* David Swensen, the chief investment officer at Yale University who was recently named to President Barack Obama’s economic advisory board, assesses his investment strategy and tells U.S. colleges and universities to brace for a “new reality,” ProPublica reported Feb. 18.

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