COVID-19 Relief: What’s in the HEROES Act?

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On Tuesday, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., introduced the Democratic Party’s plan to provide Americans with more COVID-19 relief. House Democrats are aiming to bring this legislation package, known as HEROES Act, to a vote as soon as the end of this week. Here’s a summary of the most important portions of the HEROES Act.

A second stimulus check

The stimulus checks that began going out to all qualifying Americans last month have been among the most discussed portions of federal COVID-19 legislation. If the HEROES Act passes, a second set of stimulus checks will soon follow.

As with the CARES Act that led to April’s stimulus checks, all American taxpayers who filed earnings of no more than $75,000 on their most recent tax returns will receive $1,200 payments directly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The HEROES Act, though, goes farther for families. Under the CARES Act, families received an additional $500 each for no more than three dependents, and under the HEROES Act, this amount would increase to $1,200, meaning that a family of total income no greater than $150,000 and three children could receive $6,000.

Hazard pay for essential workers

Although the majority of American businesses have had to close to ensure social distancing, essential businesses such as supermarkets, hardware stores, and pharmacies have remained open. In continuing to provide their services, these businesses at once meet people’s basic needs and increase the chances that their employees could be exposed to COVID-19. Many essential workers have thus demanded hazard pay, a concern that the HEROES Act addresses.

Under the HEROES Act, a $200 billion “heroes fund” would go toward providing essential workers with supplemental hazard pay. The HEROES Act indicates that any business required to stay open could access this fund, which would benefit workers including but not limited to sanitation employees, first responders, and health care professionals.

Postal service relief

The COVID-19 pandemic has further decreased the revenue of the long-struggling United States Postal Service (USPS), and in response, President Trump has attempted to privatize the service. Many critics say that privatizing the USPS would destroy it, and the HEROES Act includes funding that could prolong or prevent the USPS from being privatized. The HEROES Act would provide an additional $25 billion of funding for the USPS and reverse many restrictions on a $10 billion credit line available to the USPS. If the HEROES Act does not pass, the USPS could run out of money by October.

Additional measures

Under the HEROES Act, states, local governments, and Indigenous territories would each receive, respectively, $500 billion, $375 billion, and $40 billion to stabilize public services and tax rates. Supplemental $600 federal unemployment payments set to expire in July would be extended through January 2021. Another $175 billion would go toward helping lower-income people pay rent and mortgages, and an additional $175 billion would go toward improving national COVID-19 testing, contact tracing, and treatment capabilities. Extra funding for state, regional, and local transportation and education departments would be provided too, as would opportunities for people who lose employer-sponsored health insurance to be insured through other plans.

Will the HEROES Act be passed?

Although the Democratic Party intends to bring the HEROES Act to a vote soon, it remains unclear whether the bill will pass. Many prominent Republicans have said that they feel more stimulus checks are unnecessary, a sentiment that potentially sets up the HEROES Act to struggle in the Republican-controlled Senate. Additionally, President Trump, a Republican, must sign all congressional bills into law, so despite the ample provisions of the HEROES Act, the bill may not come to see the light of day.

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