the U.S. House is expected to vote on the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act. This is the fifth legislative package aimed at addressing the country’s public health and economic needs during the COVID-19 crisis.
SPLC Action Fund President and Chief Executive Officer Margaret Huang issued the following statement:
“The House must pass this urgently needed bill, which takes an important step towards starting to heal the disproportionate harm caused by COVID-19, particularly in the South where many people of color serve on the frontlines in the healthcare and food industries. Now, more than ever, it is clear how crucial the contributions made by immigrant and low-wage workers are to our country.
“Many families continue to struggle to pay their bills and put food on the table. From the number of lives and jobs lost, to unequal access to healthcare and education services, the COVID-19 crisis weighs heaviest on communities of color. The HEROES Act will provide critical funding and protections that address these harms by expanding stimulus payments and unemployment insurance, and requiring companies to comply with safety standards, among other provisions.”
“We urge Congress to pass the HEROES Act in its current form and to continue efforts to ensure hardest-hit communities are provided stability during the pandemic and the tools to fully recover.”
The HEROES Act:
- Provides a second round of stimulus payments to all households — $1,200 per family member, up to $6,000 — and ends discriminatory treatment that previously excluded individuals married to an undocumented person from receiving tax rebates.
- Protects democracy by providing states with crucial funding to ensure safe elections and requires that states create publicly available contingency plans for federal elections during emergencies.
- Protects voting rights by requiring states to remove many of the administrative hurdles that disproportionately impact communities of color by accounting for transportation barriers facing Native American and rural communities, expanding drop-off ballot locations, requiring no-excuse absentee vote-by-mail, requiring a minimum of 15 days of early voting, and same-day voter registration.
- Creates a “Heroes Fund” to provide hazard pay for people working at essential businesses including first responders, healthcare workers, food processing workers, sanitation workers, and others.
- Protects workers by requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue strong, enforceable standards based on expert recommendations that all workplaces must follow. These protections are crucial for frontline workers, including those working in meat and poultry processing plants, grocery stores, and delivery services — many of whom are immigrants and people of color.
- Extends the $600 per week federal supplemental unemployment benefits through January 2021.
- Helps families keep food on their tables by increasing the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent and providing additional funding for nutrition programs.
- Will keep families struggling with job loss in their homes by providing emergency rental assistance to help keep renters stably housed and extending eviction and foreclosure moratoriums nationwide.
- Protects our communities by making sure that everyone, regardless of their immigration status, has access to testing and treatment for COVID-19.
- Provides necessary funding for testing and contact tracing to protect public health.
- Requires the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to provide free soap, hand sanitizer, and other necessary hygiene products to people in immigrant detention during the pandemic, something ICE has consistently refused to do.
- Protects people who have been incarcerated and those who work in the criminal justice system by expanding testing, increasing opportunities for reentry, and promoting alternatives to incarceration for youths to limit exposure and spread of COVID-19.
- Protects immigrants who are working in essential industries, including agriculture and meat processing plants, from deportation — allowing them to continue working to support themselves and their families, and provide much-needed goods and services to the public.
- Provides crucial funding to help state, local, territorial, and tribal governments pay vital workers like teachers, firefighters, and health care providers.
- Provides school districts and universities with additional emergency aid to meet the needs of students during the COVID-19 crisis, and rejects Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ efforts to take emergency funds meant for low-income students in K-12 public schools and send them to wealthier students in private schools.
- Provides dedicated funding to ensure internet connectivity for students who have struggled to continue their learning during school closures.
- Preserves IDEA and civil rights protections for students, and does not grant Secretary DeVos additional authority to waive federal education laws.