Policy & Advocacy
U.S. Government Affairs
The International Downtown Association (IDA) continues to be a strong advocate for our downtowns and city centers, empowering place management leaders with public policies for creating livable urban places for all.
Every day, lawmakers at the federal, state, county and municipal levels make decisions that affect downtowns and city centers. IDA members have a unique perspective and understanding of the challenges and opportunities our cities face and offer important insights as policy is formed. IDA members’ voices must be heard when elected officials and senior administrators debate issues integral to the wellbeing of our cities.
Local organizations dedicated to encouraging the viability and development of city centers must also take part in policy-making processes. Elected officials cannot weigh your organization’s perspective unless they hear from you. With IDA’s resources and aid, you can capitalize on every opportunity to serve as a committed advocate for your district.
Each year, members of Congress direct federal monies to specific projects in their communities, from transportation enhancements to public safety initiatives. Learn how urban place management organizations (UPMO) can apply for and secure federal funding for projects that make your downtowns vibrant places to live, play and work. IDA’s guide to congressionally directed spending provides step-by-step instructions, including key deadlines and tips on how to make the best case for funding. Download the handbook here.
IDA Advocacy: Support Incentives for Converting Downtown Office Spaces
As downtowns across America confront a post-pandemic world of remote working and reduced demand for office space, IDA is working to help urban place management organizations adapt and foster vibrant city centers.
The centerpiece of this effort is the Revitalizing Downtowns Act, federal legislation to provide a tax credit for the conversion of unused office space into housing and other uses.
Members of Congress need to hear from you about the importance of enacting this bill this year to help downtowns recover and thrive. Use this page for the latest information on the bill and how you can help get the message out.
The Revitalizing Downtowns Act
The Revitalizing Downtowns Act of 2021, introduced by Senators Debbie Stabenow (MI) and Gary Peters (MI), and Representatives Jimmy Gomez (CA), Dan Kildee (MI), and John B. Larson (CT), will help cities convert unused office space into affordable housing and other uses that keep downtowns prosperous.
- View the IDA Issue Brief
- Read the bill text: BILLS-117hr4759ih.pdf (congress.gov)
- IDA Advocacy Handbook | Specific Effort: The Revitalizing Downtowns Act Qualified Office Conversion Tax Credit
- IDA Op-ed: Why Saving Downtown is Key to our COVID-19 Economic Recovery (August 19, 2021)
- Revitalize Our Cities Coalition Press Release: New Coalition Launched to Support Bill
- Stabenow Press Release: News | Press | U.S. Senator Debbie Stabenow of Michigan (senate.gov)
- To hear more interviews about the Revitalizing Downtowns Act, visit IDA in the News.
Ask your Senators and House representative to support the Revitalizing Downtowns Act. Learn how you can build support for this important legislation.
Data and reports from around the country underscore the challenges that downtowns face as demand for office space continues to decline.
- The Downtown Office District Was Vulnerable. Even Before Covid. (The New York Times)
- Survey: 82 percent of Massachusetts companies considering expanding remote/hybrid work opportunities. (Massachusetts Competitive Partnership)
- Nearly a third of North Carolina companies considering reducing office space: Survey (North Carolina Technology Association)
- Turning office buildings into housing will be the next frontier of real estate (Triangle NC Business Journal)
As IDA works to advance Qualified Office Conversion Tax Credit legislation in Congress, one of its most powerful assets is its members. Members of Congress listen most closely to their constituents. IDA members are community leaders in virtually every state and Congressional district in the country, fostering economic activity and vibrant downtowns and city centers. As IDA works in Washington, DC to build support for the bill, IDA members can play a significant role in advancing the bill by contacting their federal elected representatives and expressing their support. There are several easy ways in which IDA members can engage their House and Senate representatives.
If you are not sure which Senators and House members represent your downtown, you can look them up online (see below).
Contacting Your Representatives
There are several ways you can engage your federal elected representatives. In general, direct personal communications (phone calls or meetings) have a greater impact, but any of these methods can be effective. If you have an existing relationship with a member of staff, it is more effective to reach out to them, even if they are not the staff person who handles the issue for the Senator or House member. Even if you do not know anyone on staff, you can still make contact.
- You can use the template email [download PDF or Word] or write your own. If you write your own, it is important to note your connection to the state or Congressional district and make clear what you are asking for (i.e., for the Senator or Representative to cosponsor the bill). Either way, remember to include a link to the IDA Issue Brief. If you know a staff person in the office, send the email directly to them. If you do not know anyone in the office, contact email@example.com to find the appropriate person. (Note that you can send an email through the office’s web portal, but those tend to get lost in the flood of emails each elected representative gets.)
- A letter is a more formal way of expressing your support, but to ensure that the office gets it, it is best to send it by email. (Snail mail to Capitol Hill needs to go through extensive security vetting.) If you would prefer to send a letter, you can use the email template [download PDF or Word] for the core text.
- A phone call to the Senator or House representative’s office can be a more immediate, effective way to get your message across – as long as you call the right person. If you cold call the office, your message may get to the appropriate legislative staff person, but it is not a given. If you prefer to call the office, feel free to use the talking points [download PDF or Word] IDA has developed.
Request a Meeting
- Meeting with a member of the House or Senator or their staff in the district or state can be an effective way to not only gain support for the Revitalizing Downtowns Act, but to begin developing a collaborative relationship between your organization and the policymaker. To schedule a meeting in the state or district, visit the representative’s website; there usually is a link to a page where you can request a meeting. You also can send an email directly to a member of the staff. (Download a sample meeting request [PDF or Word]). If you need assistance in setting up a meeting, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org for assistance.
Final Note: When you do contact your elected representatives, please inform IDA about it at email@example.com so they can keep track of which representatives have been contacted.
Congress and the White House are working to pass not one, but two, massive infrastructure bills that could reshape many parts of the economy, from transportation to education and health care.
Payroll Protection Program December 2020
Due to the efforts of many IDA members writing letters of support to Congress, the new package makes 501(c)(6) nonprofit organizations eligible for Payroll Protection Program funds in 2021 under certain circumstances. Read the full update here.
Payroll Protection Program September 2020
IDA encourages members to join the American Society of Association Executives’ community sign-on letter (link no longer active) by September 25, 2020. The letter from ASAE calls on Congress to expand eligibility under the PPP to include 501(c)(6) organizations. The broader our support, the bigger impact we will make. Get more info about ASAE’s Advocacy Alert here.
Speak Up for 501(c) Entities July 2020
The prospect for a fourth federal stimulus package became real this week as the U.S. Senate released its $1 trillion proposal, a significantly smaller proposal than the U.S. House of Representatives $3 trillion bill passed in May. The good news is both programs thus far expand Payroll Protection Program (PPP) eligibility to 501(c)(6) organizations while unfortunately still leaving 501(c)(4) organizations on the outside.
This is a crucial time for IDA and half of its member organizations that are organized as a 501(c)(6) entity. It is worth remembering that 501(c)(6) entities were originally included in the March CARES Act only to be removed through the negotiation process. We need every U.S. member of IDA to contact their legislators in both the Senate and House to reinforce how important it is for all 501(c) entities to have access to PPP.
It is easy to find your legislators contact information using the House and Senate websites. A sample inquiry from Holly Masek, Executive Director of the Downtown Rochester Alliance in Minnesota, made to the Small Business Administration and her legislators illustrates the value of a direct inquiry. Within a day, Sen. Klobuchar’s office responded to Holly with information about the forth coming stimulus package and a greater appreciation for the work her organization performs.
For those organizations who employ policy staff or a lobbyist —such as Jason Mathis of the St. Petersburg Downtown Partnership in Florida— set up a meeting or call your legislator directly. Jason, along with fellow downtown leaders in Tampa and Jacksonville who recently formed a new Florida Downtown Association, hosted a meeting with Senator Mark Rubio’s office to ensure the senator —who is Chairman of the Senate Committee on Small Business and Entrepreneurship— understood the importance of including 501(c)(6) organizations. Just this week both Sen. Rubio and Sen. Collins introduced the Continuing Small Business Recovery and Paycheck Protection Program Act supporting IDA members. A section by section summary is available for review.
There is a significant amount of negotiation taking place now on many fronts and IDA members are receiving calls to action from a multitude of interests, calling for a host of changes all of which should be considered. But universal to many place management organizations, and IDA itself, is access to PPP. Take this moment and educate your legislators. I want to extend a special thank you to Holly Masek, Jason Mathis and the countless other IDA leaders who have written to their legislators in the past and the many more who will do so this week and next. Thank you all!
HEROES Act May 2020
Email update regarding the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act.
Payroll Protection Program May 2020
Both the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives are advancing bills in response to IDA’s prior campaign to make 501(c)(6) not for profits eligible for the Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP). Currently Reps. Pappas, Fitzpatrick, Cisneros and Steube have introduced the Local Chamber, Tourism, and 501(c)(6) Protection Act (HR 6697), which would make many IDA district organizations eligible for PPP under the following parameters:
- 501 c 6 organizations and DMOs with 300 or fewer employees would be eligible; and
- Loans could not be used to pay salaries for registered lobbyists
Many of you sent letters previously and we want to thank you for your support. We are now sending this alert and asking you to contact your Representative and ask them to:
- Support HR 6697, and
- Add their name as a cosponsor if not already done so. You can direct them to this sign-on form.
If you need to identify your representative or get their contact information, visit usa.gov for a directory. Thank you for your continued support.
CARES Act May 2020
Please advocate for increased federal funding and more specifically to make 501 (c)(6) and 501 (c)(4) organizations eligible for federal stimulus support. The recent CARES Act provisions provide for districts organized as 501 (c)(3) organizations, however, a majority of our districts are organized under other 501 (c) sections. We need everyone’s collective support today to ensure all districts can survive COVID-19. Rules for the existing stimulus package are being refined and a fourth stimulus bill is already underway. District management organizations are vital to recovery efforts and without your support, many may find themselves with limited or no capacity in the months ahead. Our members, as well as IDA, need everyone to advocate for all 501 (c) designations.
There are several requests, so please review them all and take action today.
- This letter (on IDA letterhead) is being sent today, April 2, 2020 on behalf of the entire industry to Secretary Mnuchin and congressional leaders. You may reference this letter or attach it to your own if you wish.
- This sample letter, from Downtown Austin, can be customized for your organization and sent to your own legislators. We suggest you also call your legislators to emphasize the importance of including all 501 (c) organizations in the stimulus package.
- The American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) has been leading a campaign on behalf of all associations, particularly 501(c)(6) organizations like IDA which were included in the original draft bills and later stripped out. Please sign onto the ASAE letter using this link. ASAE’s website has more resources here.
Thank you in advance for supporting all district management organizations. While some organizations may be able to withstand the hardships all of us are feeling, not all of our districts have been able to sustain their full operations and teams. I am truly confident we will emerge stronger and help each of our districts recover quickly just as we did following the 2008 recession. Until this event subsides, however, federal assistance may be needed and most importantly, should be available for all.
Need assistance finding your federal, state and local representatives? Visit usa.gov for a directory.
Do You Know Your Federal Elected Officials?
If you are not sure which Senators and House members represent your downtown, you can look them up online.
- For the Senate: Go to senate.gov and click on the “Find Your Senators” drop-down menu at the top.
- For the House: Go to house.gov and enter a zip code at the top, under “Find Your Representative.” Note that it is possible that more than one Congressional district covers your downtown or city center. To see a map of all Congressional districts that cover your metropolitan region, visit 117th Congressional District Wall Maps (census.gov) and use the “117th Congressional District State-Based Maps” drop-down menu.