Congresswoman Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, this week voted in favor of the latest iteration of the Democratic coronavirus relief bill, the Heroes Act, intended to address the ongoing needs that have resulted from the COVID-19 public health crisis.
The previous version of the Heroes Act was $3.4 trillion and was rejected by the White House and Republicans as too costly and expansive. The latest version is $2.2 trillion, slimmed down in an attempt to achieve Republican support.
This bill reflects current negotiations between Democrats and Republicans, who have only supported a $1 trillion bill, as well as needs that have risen since the original Heroes Act passed the House of Representatives in May.
Sewell said that another stimulus package would provide $396 million in direct funding for counties and cities in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District
“It is unfortunate that the White House and Senate Republicans have not been willing to compromise to provide additional money for ongoing relief to our communities, workers, and families,” Sewell said. “With passage of the Updated Heroes Act today, House Democrats’ have given the White House and Senate Republicans one more chance to pass another stimulus bill that will continue to provide critical relief for the American people.”
“The provisions in the Updated Heroes Act are essential to avert greater economic and health catastrophe for families, schools, small businesses, essential workers, and health care providers in Alabama’s 7th Congressional District,” Sewell continued. “Not only does this legislation deliver much-needed resources to Alabama counties and cities, it also reflects House Democrats’ willingness to compromise in good faith to ensure our country can weather this ongoing crisis.”
The latest iteration of the Heroes Act would cover coronavirus-related outlays and revenue loss and pay health care workers, library staff, law enforcement, fire, transportation, EMS, teachers and other vital workers in danger of losing their jobs because of plummeting state and local government revenues.
The new Heroes Act maintains key priorities from the original version of the Democratic legislation that passed the House in May. The new bill also provides families with a second round of direct payments of $1,200 for each individual and $500 for each dependent.
The bill would also extend weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through January 2021.
It contains many other provisions:
- A new version of the Paycheck Protection Program that serves the smallest businesses and struggling non-profits, provides hard-hit businesses with second loans and delivers targeted assistance for the restaurant industry and independent live venue operators
- $225 billion in funds for education to bolster education and child care including $182 billion for K-12 schools, nearly $39 billion for post-secondary education and $57 billion to support child care for families
- The bill provides $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing, isolation measures and free COVID-19 treatments
- $28 billion for procurement, distribution and education campaigns for a safe and effective vaccine
- Enhances the new employee retention tax credit that encourages employers to keep employees on their payroll
- Protection for Americans losing their employer-provided health insurance by making unemployed Americans automatically receive the maximum ACA subsidy on the exchanges, as well as a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for uninsured Americans
- Raises the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent and provides additional funding for nutrition programs including targeted support for farmers and producers impacted by the coronavirus crisis
- New resources for safe elections, an accurate Census and the troubled U.S. Postal Service
Republicans, though, point to other provisions as the reason for not supporting the legislation:
- Removing $600 million from the original Heroes Act intended for the COPS Hiring program and state and local law enforcement assistance
- Mandating a blanket release for certain covered federal prisoners and alleged criminals, while imposing a high burden for the government to prove they present a risk of harm to society upon release
- Allowing undocumented immigrants to receive direct stimulus payments by not requiring social security number verification
- Providing “deferred action” and work authorization during the emergency declaration and for 90 days after for immigrants without documented working
- Removing provisions in the Paycheck Protection Program to prevent taxpayer dollars from going to Planned Parenthood
- Allowing the marijuana industry to access banking services and products
- Including early voting, no ID requirement for in-person voting, same-day registration and no excuse vote by mail
Sewell is serving in her fifth term representing Alabama’s 7th Congressional District. She faces no Republican opponent in the Nov. 3 general election.