House Democrats and Speaker Nancy Pelosi have released their newest bill to address the coronavirus pandemic, proposing ambitious measures to boost the economy, increase COVID-19 testing, and ensure safe elections this fall. Party leaders expect to vote on the bill, dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act, on Friday.
The 1,815-page bill lays out $3 trillion in funding, more than the last four federal relief measures combined. It includes a second round of $1,200 direct payments for individuals; almost $1 trillion in funding for state, territory, local, and tribal governments; $3.6 billion to support safe elections; $175 billion in rent, mortgage, and utility assistance; $25 billion for the Postal Service; an extension of enhanced unemployment insurance benefits; $200 billion for hazard pay for essential workers; and $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing.
Senate Republicans have already rejected the proposal, claiming more funding is not yet necessary. House Democrats plan to push forward with the bill anyway and are set to pass it on Friday. “There are those who said, ‘Let’s just pause,’” said Pelosi, referring to statements made by Republican Senator Mitch McConnell, the majority leader. “The families who are suffering know that hunger doesn’t take a pause. The rent doesn’t take a pause. The bills don’t take a pause. The hardship of losing a job or tragically losing a loved one doesn’t take a pause.”
Though economists have characterized past coronavirus relief bills as barely sufficient to keep businesses and individuals afloat, Republicans and the Trump administration have delayed any additional funding. McConnell has instead advocated for protecting reopening businesses from potential lawsuits from employees who catch COVID-19. Democrats and labor unions have criticized proposed liability protections for endangering workers by allowing companies to cut corners on employee and consumer safety measures.
Sources: CNBC 5/12/20; CNN 5/12/20; The New York Times 5/12/20; The Hill 5/12/20