House Speaker Nancy Pelosi unveiled a $3 trillion stimulus bill called the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, or HEROES Act. The bill would provide $1,200 in cash aid to individuals, offer more assistance to states, extend the additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits and raise hazard pay wages for essential workers, according to the Associated Press.
In a brief speech, Pelosi described how she wants to “think big” for the people now and said “not acting is the most expensive course.”
“This is a moment when many millions of our fellow Americans are in deep suffering. We must have empathy for our heroes,” she said. “We must also empathize with the pain of families who do not know where their next meal are coming from and how to pay next month’s rent.”
The act is expected to go before a vote of the full House chamber on Friday.
What’s In the HEROES Act?
The 1,800-page document is meant to stimulate the economy and boost the coronavirus prevention response. According to reporting from the Associated Press, the bill would provide $1,200 in cash payments to individuals and extend the additional $600 per week in unemployment benefits until January.
The bill would also provide:
- $1 trillion to states to prevent layoffs, with a focus on $375 billion in suburban and rural areas not included in earlier stimulus packages
- $200 billion in “hazard pay” for essential workers, such as grocery store employees and health care personnel
- $75 billion towards more coronavirus testing
- Send $25 billion to the U.S. Postal Service
- Add $10 billion to the Paycheck Protection Program meant to help businesses and especially underserved businesses and nonprofit organizations
- $3.6 billion for local officials to prepare for pandemic-era voting challenges in November
- $600 million to police departments for salaries and equipment
- $600 million for state and federal prisons
- Provide $100 billion to hospitals and health care providers to cover costs, with a special focus on health care entities in low-income communities
In addition, the bill would increase SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program) benefits by 15%, offer businesses an employee retention tax credit, create a special sign-up period for healthcare.gov and provide subsidies for those recently laid off to be able to pay their health insurance premiums.
The bill would address many loopholes and concerns not addressed by previous stimulus legislation. For example, many essential workers have been calling for an increase in hazard pay as the pandemic has stretched on.
Money for coronavirus testing has also been an ongoing concern. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced it was providing more than $600 million to state and local health agencies for coronavirus testing and contract tracing in late April. And President Donald Trump announced May 11 that he was putting $11 billion and 12 billion swabs towards more coronavirus testing.
The U.S. Postal Service, recently highlighted on Last Week Tonight with John Oliver for its perilous financial position, would also receive support. The criminal justice system has also experienced upheaval, as have federal and local inmates and corrections, parole and police officers charged with protecting the public.
Pelosi Wants A Friday Vote, But McConnell Wants To Wait
The proposed bill comes after three comprehensive legislative packages that were implemented in March as well as the rollout of the Paycheck Protection Program in April.
At a live-streamed campaign event for Trump, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said he wants to proceed slowly, especially given the country’s debt, according to CBS News. “We now have a debt the size of our economy,” he said. “So I’ve said, and the president has said as well, that we have to take a pause here and comes after take a look at what we’ve done.”
Republican Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana has also said Congress should “hit pause for a while.”
Before repeating the words from John Donne, “No man is an island,” Pelosi reiterated the urgency of the situation:
There are those who said let’s just pause. But the families that are suffering know hunger doesn’t take a pause, rent doesn’t take a pause, the bills don’t take a pause — the hardship of losing a job or tragically losing a loved doesn’t take a pause. This is a historical challenge and therefore, a momentous opportunity to meet the needs of the American people.
The Senate is not expected to return to session until after the Memorial Day recess.