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Sewell urges Senate to take up $3 trillion coronavirus relief bill

Office of Rep. Terri Sewell

U.S. Rep. Terri Sewell urged Republican leadership in the U.S. Senate to immediately take up the House’s $3 trillion coronavirus relief package, the Heroes Act, and pass it without delay.

The package, which passed the House Friday with hardly any Republican support, includes nearly $1 trillion in aid to struggling state and local governments and another round of $1,200 payments to individual taxpayers and up to $6,000 per family.

“The Heroes Act is a bold, ambitious piece of legislation,” Sewell said. “And while some are saying it goes too far, I know that I speak for my people of Alabama’s 7th Congressional District in saying that they’re worth it.”

The package also expands and extends paid sick days, family and medical leave, unemployment compensation, food assistance programs, housing assistance and payments to farmers. About $200 billion in hazard pay for essential workers is included in the bill.

Federal Pandemic Unemployment assistance payments, the $600 weekly payment currently set to expire in July, would be extended through January if the bill were to pass, though that looks unlikely in the GOP-controlled Senate.

The Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans and grants to small businesses and nonprofit organizations, gets additional funding in the Heroes Act.

“I opposed the misnamed HEROES Act today because it constitutes a real threat to our national security,” U.S. Rep. Gary Palmer said earlier this week. “If this $3 trillion left-wing-dream-come-true bill were to become law, it could likely move our debt-to-GDP to nearly 120 percent by the end of this fiscal year. Debt levels of this magnitude are not sustainable and threaten Social Security, Medicare, household income and most critically threaten our national security.”

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President Donald Trump has threatened to veto the legislation, and House and Senate Republicans have decried the legislation as too expansive. Republican members of Alabama’s congressional delegation have called it Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s “wish list” and U.S. Rep. Mo Brooks called it “socialist.”

“You can’t put a price tag on human life, and you can’t put a price tag on human dignity,” Sewell said Tuesday. “And we cannot wait. Mitch McConnell has said that we should wait and see as the economy reopens. And I’ve heard so many people in my district, small business owners, essential workers on the front lines, and they’re all struggling now. They don’t have time to wait.”

Alabama has received about $1.8 billion in federal funding to respond to COVID-19 so far, from the federal CARES Act. Alabama and its cities and counties could get billions more if the Heroes Act passes.

The legislation also provides $75 billion for COVID-19 testing and contact tracing, which public health experts say are essential for reopening the economy safely and avoiding a second wave of the virus in the fall.

The 1,800-page bill also includes $175 billion in housing support, student loan forgiveness and a new employee retention tax credit.

Republicans have particularly opposed provisions in the bill that would require all voters to be able to vote by mail beginning in November and another that would temporarily repeal a provision of the 2017 Republican tax law that limited federal deductions for state and local taxes.

Trump has also opposed a provision in the bill that would provide $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, which has struggled amid the COVID-19 crisis and could become insolvent without support.

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“I know that my colleagues will agree with me that we believe that we must act now, with the fierce urgency of now,” Sewell said. “We cannot wait, and we call upon the Senate to pass the Heroes Act without delay — to protect the paychecks of our health care workers, our firefighters, our police officers, our grocery clerks, and our frontline workers, as well as to ensure that our Postal Service is strong and endures throughout this crisis.”

Chip Brownlee is a former political reporter, online content manager and webmaster at the Alabama Political Reporter. He is now a reporter at The Trace, a non-profit newsroom covering guns in America.

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