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  • Omer Erez

HEROES Act Stalls in Senate

Americans are struggling. Over 20 million people are fighting every day to keep up with the monetary demands to pay for essentials, like groceries or rent. Once July concluded, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act expired. This act was first put into play on Jan. 24, 2019, specifically for the purpose of providing emergency assistance and health care response for individuals, families, and businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Ever since, Congress has been deliberating with the president about the next stimulus bill, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act.

The next stimulus bill outlines a plan to provide individuals with a second round of $1,200 stimulus checks and $600 unemployment enhancements through January 31, 2021. The size of the stimulus package has been on range from $500 billion dollars to $2.2 trillion, with the House last passing the bill for $2.2 trillion on Oct. 1. This is likely to cause increased turmoil between the two chambers of Congress and the White House. On Sept. 8, Senate Leader Mitch McConnell tweeted, “Republicans have spent months fighting for more COVID-19 relief. We proposed a major $1T bill. Speaker Pelosi & Leader Schumer said no. We suggested smaller bipartisan deals. They said no again. Today we put forward yet another proposal. They attacked it before even reading it.” There has been much back and forth, specifically on Oct. 22, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in her weekly briefing, “We wouldn’t take less of a bill to get it sooner. We want the best bill.”

Senate Republicans are proposing a “skinny” bill, worth only $500 billion, but have made it clear that they are only willing to sign a bill of $1 trillion or less. Meanwhile, the White House presented a package for $1.8 trillion dollars, an offer to cover the HEROES Act provisions. Considering two out of the three parties’ proposals are on the upper ends, Senate Republicans will probably be coerced to sign a larger bill than initially planned.

The newly updated Oct. 1 House bill sets the basis for the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES Act). Under this version of the bill, individuals will receive a $1,200 stimulus check, in addition to $500 per dependent. Unemployed Americans will continue to receive $600 federal payments through January 2021. However, there are limitations, like self-employed individuals, those who are engaging in paid leave, unemployed not looking for work, and those who are fired for misconduct. Moreover, small businesses and airlines will see refunds for payroll protection.

Lastly, the bill will review aid toward renters and homeowners for their mortgage and rental payments. This is an urgency with the federal eviction moratorium set to end Dec. 31, which will leave many households at a loss of how to pay back what they owe. Many are unable to pay rent due to unemployment, and the eviction moratorium prevents landlords from forcing people to move out of their homes. Despite this, renters are still required to pay back any late payments when the moratorium expires at the end of 2020.

The White House’s $1.8 trillion stimulus package proposal covers the same provisions as the House bill, but in different budgetary scales. In accordance with the stimulus checks, Americans will receive a one-time check in the amount of $1,200, but instead of $500 per dependent like in the CARES Act, they will receive $1,000. The bill also proposes an increase of $300 billion in state and local funding. This is partly targeted to subsidize first responder’s paychecks. Instead of a raise, like in other allocations, unemployment benefits are lowered from $600 to $400, which would have profound implications on the survival of thousands of Americans.

In efforts to compromise with Congress, there are talks of a smaller and more targeted standalone bill to move things along and give Americans support even though Congress has not reached consensus on other provisions of the bill. Specifically, the standalone bill pushes for funds to support small businesses, their employers, and airlines.

On Oct. 6, Trump announced he will sign a bill for the $1,200 stimulus checks immediately. Claims for these unemployment checks number more than 800,000, evidencing the need for legislative action. Trump also spoke of immediately signing a bill for paycheck protection, hoisting up small businesses in a way similar to the CARES Act.

Additionally, the two major parties and both chambers of Congress have acknowledged their agreement on providing assistance to airline companies and their workers — about $30 billion worth of new funding are in talks. Lastly, funding for the U.S. Postal Service is becoming increasingly urgent. The House passed their version of the HEROES Act, but the Senate did not sign onto it.

As for the politics, discussions have stopped and started on Trump’s call. The president pushed the Senate to turn their focus to approving his nominee for the Supreme Court, Amy Coney Barrett. Congress probably will not end negotiations for the HEROES Act before the election because of the consistent pauses Trump has enforced in order to push forward his nominee for the Supreme Court.

He mentioned that post-election, he will work with Congress to pass a major stimulus bill. However, he took his remarks back soon after claiming this, posting on Twitter for Congress to pass a couple standalone bills for him to sign immediately. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi responded to this by sharing with reporters that she does not support Trump’s call for immediate standalone bills unless he agrees to a bigger stimulus package. On Oct. 8 at her weekly conference she states, “I have been very open to having a single standalone bill for the airlines or part of a bigger bill. But there is no standalone bill without a bigger bill.”

Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell prepared this statement for his speech to the National Association for Business Economics: “Too little support would lead to a weak recovery, creating unnecessary hardship for households and businesses … By contrast, the risks of overdoing it seem, for now, to be smaller. Even if policy actions ultimately prove to be greater than needed, they will not go to waste.”

He urges for a stimulus package deal soon, agreeing with Pelosi about the immediate need for the bigger bill. Instead, many public institutions, like schools, and privately-owned small businesses are sinking due to the delayed funding from the soon-to-be HEROES Act.


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