Image for House Democrats Unveil $3 Trillion HEROES Act Sans GOP Support

That new $1.5 trillion coronavirus emergency funding bill has turned into a $3 trillion measure to buttress state and local governments, bolster frontline worker pay, aid health systems and send a second round of larger stimulus checks to middle and lower-income American families.

House Democrats unveiled today the so-called HEROES bill (Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act), which was compiled without GOP input and was immediately rejected by Senate Republican leaders. The House may vote on the sprawling, 1,800-page legislation as early as Friday.

“We must think big for the people now, because if we don’t it will cost more in lives and livelihood later,” Pelosi said at a press conference. “Not acting is the most expensive course.”

“We must think big for the people now, because if we don’t it will cost more in lives and livelihood later.” Speaker Nancy Pelosi

In rejecting the Democratic proposal, GOP Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called it “aspirational” and a “big laundry list of pet priorities.” He noted the nation now has piled up debt equal to the size of the US economy.

Leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus have asked Pelosi to delay Friday’s House vote on the measure, claiming it doesn’t go far enough by omitting some form of paycheck guarantee that would cover up to $100,000 in lost wages per worker.

Topline provisions of the House Democratic proposal include:

  • Approximately $1 trillion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments with more flexibility than the CARES Act in how the money can be used;
  • Creation of a $200 billion Heroes Fund to provide hazard pay for essential workers;
  • A second round of direct stimulus payments, up to $6,000 per qualifying household;
  • Boosting nutrition assistance by 15 percent;
  • Providing $175 billion in housing assistance;
  • Extending the $600 weekly add-on to unemployment benefits through January;
  • Increasing mental health support by $3 billion; and
  • Giving $25 billion to the US Postal Service.

McConnell said he is working on legislation sought by business interests to combat an “epidemic of frivolous lawsuits” by employees forced to work during the pandemic. Pelosi countered that liability immunity is unnecessary if employers follow safety protocols. She said the Democratic proposal would require the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration to promulgate a national standard on implementing workplace infection controls and preventing worker retaliation.

Provisions in the House bill would mandate facial masks for passengers and employees on airlines, Amtrak trains and public transit systems.

With no active negotiations, the House Democratic proposal may serve as a pubic rallying cry in the face of deepening unemployment and rising COVID-19 deaths, and as pressure builds to restart parts of the economy that have been closed for two months, despite warnings by public health experts of reigniting the coronavirus outbreak. The White House also wasn’t involved in developing the legislation.

More Details from the Proposed HEROES Act

Here are more details about the contents of the House Democratic measure that the CFM Federal Affairs team has unearthed.

Tax Provisions

House Democrats included an array of tax cuts for households and businesses, as well as long-sought pension relief for union retirees and others. The centerpiece of the proposals is another round of direct payments to individuals and families worth up to $1,200 per person, an amount that phases out for single filers earning more than $75,000 in adjusted gross income and joint filers earning above $150,000. In one generous tweak for families, dependent children would now qualify for the full credit amount, up from $500 in the March round. The catch is each household’s tax payments would be capped at $6,000, so only the first three children would qualify.

The measure also would nearly triple the maximum earned income tax credit benefit for childless adults in 2020 from $538 to $1,487 primarily benefitting lower-income workers. Upper middle-income to wealthier constituents would benefit from a two-year elimination of the $10,000 cap on state and local tax deductions. The employee retention tax credit would go from a maximum benefit of $5,000 per employee to as much as $36,000 per employee.

Department of Transportation (DOT)

FAA, Operations – $75 million for additional janitorial services at air traffic control towers and other FAA facilities; hazard pay, and overtime pay to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus; and a study on mitigating pathogens in airliner cabin air. 

Airport and Airway Trust Fund Relief (AATF) – The combination of reduced air passenger traffic and the suspension of certain aviation taxes through January 2021 in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) (P.L. 116-136) will significantly reduce aviation-related excise tax revenue remitted to the AATF and may result in the AATF being unable to rely solely on aviation taxes to meet its obligations, such as grants to airports, air traffic control operations, and research in fiscal year 2020. Section 10901 ensures that the AATF can meets its obligations using the General Fund of the Treasury.

Highways – $15 billion for grants to support the ongoing work of State, Tribal, and Territorial Departments of Transportation and certain local governments to mitigate the effects of coronavirus including the salaries of staff and other administrative expenses. 

Transit Emergency Relief – $15.75 billion for operating assistance grants to support the transit agencies that require significant additional assistance to maintain basic transit services. Of these amounts $11.75 billion will be distributed by formula to the top 14 urbanized areas in the country and $4 billion will be available to any grantee or sub-recipient by application to the Secretary.

Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)

Tenant-Based Rental Assistance – $4 billion to allow public housing agencies (PHAs) to respond to coronavirus and the ability to keep over 2.2 million families stably housed even when facing a loss of income, including $1 billion for new, temporary, vouchers for individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of becoming homeless, or fleeing domestic violence. Allows PHAs the flexibility necessary for the safe and effective administration of these funds while maintaining fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and environmental protections. 

Public Housing Operating Fund – $2 billion for PHAs to carry out coronavirus response for the operation and management of almost 1 million public housing units. Allows PHAs the flexibility necessary for the safe and effective administration of these funds while maintaining fair housing, nondiscrimination, labor standards, and environmental protections.

Housing for Persons with AIDS – $15 million to maintain operations, rental assistance, supportive services, and other necessary actions to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on low-income persons with HIV/AIDS.

Community Development Block Grant – $5 billion for coronavirus response and to mitigate the impacts in our communities to be distributed by formula to current grantees. The legislation continues to waive the public services cap to allow communities to respond to the impacts of the pandemic. 

Homeless Assistance Grants – $11.5 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants to address the impact of coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and to support additional homeless assistance, prevention, and diversion activities to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic. 

Emergency Rental Assistance – $100 billion to provide emergency assistance to help low-income renters at risk of homelessness avoid eviction due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.

Project-Based Rental Assistance – $750 million to ensure the continuation of housing assistance for low-income individuals and families living in project-based rental assistance properties, and to ensure housing providers can take the necessary actions to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the pandemic. 

Housing for the Elderly – $500 million to maintain operations at properties providing affordable housing for low-income seniors and to ensure housing providers can take the necessary actions to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus pandemic. To ensure access to supportive services for this vulnerable population, this includes $300 million for service coordinators and the continuation of existing congregate service grants for residents of assisted housing projects.

Commerce, Justice, Science and Related Agencies

Bureau of Prisons – $200 million to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus in Federal prisons, including funding for medical testing and services, personal protective equipment, hygiene supplies and services, and sanitation services 

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs – $100 million, with a waiver of the local match requirement, including $30 million for grants to combat violence against women, $15 million for transitional housing assistance grants, $15 million for sexual assault victims assistance, $10 million for rural domestic violence and child abuse enforcement assistance, $10 million for legal assistance for victims, $4 million for assistance to tribal governments, and $16 million to support families in the justice system. 

Byrne Justice Assistance Grants – $300 million to help prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including for purchasing personal protective equipment and controlling outbreaks of coronavirus at prisons, with waivers of the local match and non-supplanting requirements. Public defender funding is also an authorized use of Byrne-JAG grants. The bill additionally prevents the Department of Justice from preventing these funds from going to sanctuary jurisdictions.

Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) – $300 million for law enforcement hiring grants and for the purchase of personal protective equipment, with waivers of the local match and non-supplanting requirements.

Second Chance Act grants – $250 million for grants to help facilitate the reintegration of ex-prisoners back into society and to prevent recidivism.

Pandemic Justice Response Act Grants – $600 million, including: (1) $500 million to prevent, detect, and stop the presence of COVID-19 in correctional institutions, and for pre-trial citation and release grants, (2) $25 million for Rapid COVID-19 Testing at correctional institutions, and (3) $75 million for Juvenile Specific Services.

Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration and Related Agencies

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Provides $10 billion to support anticipated increases in participation and to cover program cost increases related to flexibilities provided to SNAP by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. 

Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children

(WIC) – Provides an additional $1.1 billion to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency. 

The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – Includes $150 million to help local food banks meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Including funding provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), TEFAP has received a total of $1 billion.

Child Nutrition Programs – Includes $3 billion in additional funding to provide emergency financial relief to school meal providers and USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.

Financial Services and General Government

Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) – $1 billion for economic support and recovery in distressed communities by providing financial and technical assistance to CDFIs.

Assistance to Homeowners – $75 billion to states, territories, and tribes to address the ongoing needs of homeowners struggling to afford their housing due directly or indirectly to the impacts of the pandemic by providing direct assistance with mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, utilities, and other housing related costs.

Elections – $3.6 billion for grants to States for contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for Federal office.

Broadband – $1.5 billion to close the homework gap by providing funding for Wi-Fi hotspots and connected devices for students and library patrons, and $4 billion for emergency home connectivity needs.

Assisting Small Businesses – $10 billion in grants to small businesses that have suffered financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.

Homeland Security 

Federal Emergency Management Agency – $1.3 billion to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus, including:

$200 million for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program; 

$500 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants (AFG); 

$500 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants; and

$100 million for Emergency Management Performance Grants (EMPG).

In addition – 

▪ Prohibits the use of funds provided in the bill from being used for other purposes.

▪ For AFG and SAFER, waives cost-sharing requirements for cash-strapped fire departments and waives certain other program requirements to expedite grant awards.

Labor, Health and Human Services, Education and Related Agencies

Department of Labor – $3.1 billion to support workforce training and worker protection activities related to coronavirus, including:

▪ $2 billion to support worker training; 

▪ $25 million for migrant and seasonal farmworkers, including emergency supportive services;

▪ $925 million to assist state processing of unemployment insurance claims;

▪ $15 million for the federal administration of unemployment insurance activities;

▪ $100 million for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration for workplace protection and enforcement activities in response to coronavirus, including $25 million for Susan Harwood training grants that protect and educate workers;

▪ $6.5 million for the Wage and Hour Division to support enforcement and outreach activities for paid leave benefits; and

▪ $5 million for the Office of the Inspector General. 

Health Resources and Services Administration – $7.6 billion to support expanded health care services for underserved populations, including:

• $7.6 billion for Health Centers to expand the capacity to provide testing, triage and care for COVID-19 and other health care services at approximately 1,000 existing health centers across the country; and

• $10 million to Ryan White HIV/AIDS clinics to support extended operational hours, increased staffing hours, additional equipment, and additional home delivered meals and transportation needs of clients, who disproportionately suffer from co-morbidities and underlying immunosuppression that puts them at greater risk for COVID-19 complications.

Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund – $175 billion to reimburse for health care related expenses or lost revenue attributable to the coronavirus, as well as to support testing and contact tracing to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19, including:

▪ $100 billion in grants for hospital and health care providers to be reimbursed health care related expenses or lost revenue directly attributable to the public health emergency resulting from coronavirus; and

▪ $75 billion for testing, contact tracing, and other activities necessary to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19.

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration – $3 billion to increase mental health support during this challenging time, to support substance abuse treatment, and to offer increased outreach, including:

▪ $1.5 billion for the Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment Block Grant;

▪ $1 billion for the Community Mental Health Services Block Grant;

▪ $100 million for services to homeless individuals; 

▪ $100 million for Project AWARE to identify students and connect them with mental health services;

▪ $10 million for the National Child Traumatic Stress Network;

▪ $265 million for emergency response grants to address immediate behavioral health needs as a result of COVID-19;

▪ $25 million for the Suicide Lifeline and Disaster Distress Helpline; and

▪ Not less $150 million for tribes, tribal organizations, urban Indian health organizations or health service providers to tribes across a variety of programs.

Administration for Children and Families – $10.1 billion to provide supportive and social services for families and children through programs including:

▪ $7 billion for Child Care and Development Block Grants; 

▪ $1.5 billion for the Low-Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP);

▪ $1.5 billion to support paying water bills for low income families$50 million for Family Violence Prevention and Services;

▪ $20 million for Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) State Grants; and

▪ $20 million for Community Based-Child Abuse Prevention Grants.

Department of Education – $100.15 billion to support the educational needs of States, school districts, and institutions of higher education in response to coronavirus, including:

▪ $90 billion for a State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for grants to States to support statewide and local funding for elementary and secondary schools and public postsecondary institutions.

▪ $10.15 billion to help alleviate burdens associated with the coronavirus for both colleges and students, including $1.7 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and Minority Serving Institutions, $20 million for Howard University, $11 million for Gallaudet University, $11 million for the National Technical Institute for the Deaf and $8.4 billion for other institutions of higher education.