House passes Heroes Act, next step is passage by Senate

May 20, 2020 | G. Michael Dobbs

Congressman Richard Neal speaks outside of his office in Springfield about the new aid bill.
Reminder Publishing photo by G. Michael Dobbs

SPRINGFIELD – Congressman Richard Neal, the chair of the House Ways & Means Committee, said that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has called the new relief legislation a “non-starter.”

Neal explained though at a press conference on May 13 that O’Connell had said similar things before other legislation designed to help citizens and businesses survive through the pandemic.

The Heroes Act was passed by the House on May 15. In a written statement, Neal said, “The Heroes Act is another step forward on our road to recovery from the devastating effects of this virus. It is a necessary investment in the American economy and in science-based strategies to fight the pandemic.

The Ways and Means Committee proudly contributed substantial solutions grounded in our goal to simultaneously combat this public health crisis, support American workers, and keep our economy afloat. As millions of Americans face unthinkable grief and hardship, we are fighting to protect their lives and livelihoods. Ways and Means policies will keep employers and employees connected, put money into the pockets of more Americans, and extend unemployment compensation benefits through early next year... I urge my colleagues in the Senate to swiftly take up this legislation so that we can deliver meaningful relief to the American people together.”

As written the bill would supply Massachusetts an additional $22.5 billion for pandemic relief, Neal said. This funding is vital he said, considering Moody’s has estimated the Commonwealth’s revenues would be decreased by 20 percent.

He noted that a conference call with mayors from around the country showed non-partisan support, as did meetings with governors of both parties.

An additional round of stimulus checks is included in the bill with a family of five receiving $6,000.

Highlights of the bill include:

• Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – Provides $10 billion to support anticipated increases in participation and to cover program cost increases related to flexibilities provided to SNAP by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

• Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) – Provides an additional $1.1 billion to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency.

• The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) – Includes $150 million to help local food banks meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Including funding provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), TEFAP has received a total of $1 billion.

• Child Nutrition Programs – Includes $3 billion in additional funding to provide emergency financial relief to school meal providers and USDA’s Child and Adult Care Food Program.

• Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network program – Provides $20 million to strengthen activities and services that connect farmers and ranchers to stress assistance resources and programs.

• State Fiscal Relief – $500 billion in funding to assist state governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.

• Local Fiscal Relief – $375 billion in funding to assist local governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus.

• Department of Labor – $3.1 billion to support workforce training and worker protection activities related to coronavirus, including: $2 billion to support worker training; $25 million for migrant and seasonal farmworkers, including emergency supportive services; $925 million to assist states in processing unemployment insurance claims; $15 million for the federal administration of unemployment insurance activities.

• $100.15 billion to support the educational needs of States, school districts, and institutions of higher education in response to coronavirus.

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