On May 15, the House narrowly passed, by a vote of 208 to 199, the latest bill designed to provide relief in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic -- the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800).
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have indicated that the HEROES Act as currently written is “dead on arrival” and they have delayed consideration of any further relief legislation until June so they can evaluate the effectiveness of the relief already provided. In the meantime, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell testified on May 19th at a Senate Banking Committee hearing that more stimulus legislation is needed to help our nation recover from the impacts of the coronavirus.
If the HEROES Act is passed, it would provide $3 trillion in additional relief allocated towards stimulus checks and unemployment support, new relief for employees and employers, new health provisions, and support for state, local, territorial and tribal governments. It would also address issues relevant to ABA advocacy efforts on behalf of our members and the legal profession, ten of which are highlighted below:
- $50 million in emergency funding for the Legal Services Corporation (LSC) to address legal needs arising from the pandemic, which our advocates fought for during ABA Day;
- Expansion of the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations, to include all 501(c) organizations;
- Temporary removal of the requirement that qualified individuals filing for Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) be employed in qualifying public service employment positions at the time of forgiveness and changes to loan consolidation rules so borrowers would not have to restart a new ten-year repayment period to qualify for PSLF;
- Inclusion of the Effective Assistance of Counsel in the Digital Era Act, which would prohibit the government from monitoring inmates’ privileged emails with their attorneys sent through the Bureau of Prisons’ email system;
- Authorization of a grant program that distributes funds directly to state and local courts, if they impose a moratorium on the imposition and collection of court-imposed fees and fines during the COVID-19 crisis;
- $3.6 billion in grants to States for contingency planning and preparations for federal elections;
- Over $5.5 billion for rural broadband -- another ABA Day issue – to expand broadband infrastructure and technology for telehealth, access for students and library patrons, and provide emergency home connectivity needs;
- $10 billion for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Program as well as a 15% increase to the maximum SNAP benefit;
- $100 million for Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) programs; and
- $250 million for Second Chance Act grants to help facilitate the reintegration of ex-prisoners back into society and prevent recidivism.
To view the text of the full bill, click here. To view an overview slide deck describing the various relief packages, click here. We will continue to follow the progress of the HEROES Act, in addition to any other coronavirus-related legislation going forward. For the most up-to-date information, follow us on Twitter @ABAGrassroots.