Rep. Peters Helps House Pass Heroes Act Supporting Local, National Efforts To Combat COVID-19 Crisis
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Rep. Scott Peters (CA-52) helped the House pass two historic pieces of legislation: a House Resolution to authorize temporary changes for remote voting and virtual committee proceedings during the coronavirus pandemic, and an urgently needed relief package to protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people from the devastation of the coronavirus crisis.
The latter, known as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act, would provide significant financial relief to workers and businesses across the country and reinforce communities’ health care response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak. The Heroes Act would replenish state and local governments with robust funding to cover coronavirus-related outlays and revenue loss, with $500 billion allocated for state governments, $375 billion for local governments, and $40 billion for tribal and territory relief.
The $3 trillion package:
- Provides support for our heroes, establishing a $200 billion Heroes’ fund to ensure that essential workers across the country receive hazard pay.
- Commits another $75 billion for the testing, tracing and treatment needed to have a science-based path to safely reopen our country and helping ensure that every American can access free coronavirus treatment.
- Puts money in the pockets of workers with a second round of direct payments of $1,200 per individual and up to $6,000 per household, new payroll protection measures to keep 60 million workers connected with their jobs and extending weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through January 2021.
- Supports small businesses, strengthening the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) to reach underserved communities, nonprofits of all sizes and types and responds flexibly to small businesses by providing $10 billion for COVID-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program (EIDL).
- Ensures further support for San Diegans and all Americans, including for:
- Health security – with COBRA subsidies and a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for those without insurance.
- Workplace security – requiring OSHA to ensure that all workplaces develop science-based infection control plans and preventing employers from retaliating against workers who report problems.
- Housing security – with $175 billion in new supports to assist renters and homeowners make monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments and other housing-related costs.
- Food security – with a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit, $1.1 billion for WIC, $150 million for local food banks, $3 billion for child nutrition, and additional funding for nutrition programs that help families put food on the table.
- Protects the life of our democracy, with $3.6 billion in new resources to ensure safe and fair elections, $25 billion to preserve the Postal Service, and additional resources to support a complete count for the 2020 Census.
The Heroes Act also contains language from a bill Rep. Peters introduced with Rep. Angie Craig (MN-02), the Stop Health Premium Spikes Act, which would help mitigate the drastic health care premium increases expected as a result of the unanticipated surge in medical care costs due to COVID-19.
“Our communities, workers and families urgently need more relief to weather the coronavirus pandemic,” said Rep. Peters. “While I firmly believe many of the provisions outlined in the Heroes Act provides us with a good framework, there are critical aspects of this crisis that have yet to be addressed with common-sense, desperately needed legislation.”
One of the lawmaker’s priorities absent from this bill is greater investment in mental health resources and suicide prevention efforts given the unprecedented public health crisis and growing cases of economic insecurity – two stressors linked to mental health challenges and heightened risk of suicide. An article in Tuesday’s New York Times cites that almost half of Americans report the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting their mental health, and a piece out this week by NPR shares how the crisis is hitting one of our country’s most vulnerable populations, children and adolescents, particularly hard. The inclusion of Rep. Peters’ bill, the Suicide Training and Awareness Nationally Delivered for Universal Prevention (STANDUP) Act would provide schools with best practices and technical assistance on student suicide prevention, imperative as the coronavirus pandemic continues to provoke youth anxiety.
Another priority Rep. Peters has fought to include in COVID-19 legislation is automatic stabilizers that would ensure continual relief to millions of families, workers and small businesses until economic cues trigger them off. Since the beginning of the pandemic, Rep. Peters and his colleagues of the New Democrat Coalition have strongly supported applying automatic stabilizers to fund vital COVID-19 relief programs like PPP and enhanced Unemployment Insurance benefits. On Monday, he led a letter to the Speaker, emphasizing automatic stabilizers as an essential inclusion to the Heroes Act. Automatic stabilizers failed to make it into the package voted on tonight.
“On Wednesday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell said that it was going to take a massive step by Congress to properly ease the severe damage coronavirus has wreaked on our country’s economy. Implementing automatic stabilizers is a big, proactive, fiscally-responsible, fail-safe solution that will ensure those struggling receive the financial support they need in a timely manner, unhindered by partisan politics,” continued Rep. Peters.
“There is still much work to be done to ensure aid continues to reach those who need it most for the duration of this epidemic. Conversations are ongoing and I look forward continuing to work closely with House and Senate Leadership to secure essential, proactive provisions that Americans need in imminent response packages.”
The Heroes Act is the fifth vote the House has taken to alleviate the health crisis and financial burdens of COVID-19. Three weeks ago, Congress passed the Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act to replenish funding for fundamental federal assistance programs after they ran out of money. In addition to the first CARES Act, passed in late March, the House wrote and passed the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, which took steps to strengthen Americans’ health care access and boost financial security through paid sick leave and enhanced unemployment insurance. Earlier in March, the House passed an $8.3 billion emergency supplemental bill to help states, communities and federal agencies combat the spread of the virus.