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Higgins releases details on proposed Heroes Act

Wed, May 13th 2020 11:20 am

Congressman outlines coronavirus emergency aid package

Cuomo, Hogan call on Congress to act on state fiscal relief

Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, on Wednesday outlined components of the Heroes Act, the latest emergency package constructed to provide relief to workers, families, small businesses and communities impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

“Unless and until there is an effective treatment or vaccine, coronavirus will continue to cost this country both in terms of widespread economic losses and tragically in lost lives,” he said. “That’s why we fought for and won the inclusion of nearly $5 billion toward coronavirus research. We only truly cure the pain this is causing our families and small business when we effectively treat the root cause of this public health emergency.”

Higgins provided the following summary of the $3 trillion bill highlighting some of the provisions of particular importance to Western New York:

Healthcare:

√ $4.745 billion to the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to expand COVID research. Higgins recently called for $5 billion in coronavirus research.

√ $100 billion in grants to hospitals and health care providers

√ $75 billion for testing & contact tracing

√ $7.6 billion to support expanded services to underserved populations through federally qualified health clinics

√ $125 million in National Science Foundation (NSF) research to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. Higgins recently announced $600,000 in COVID research grants for Hauptman-Woodward Institute.

√ $3 billion to increase mental health support and substance abuse treatment

√ $150 million for states to implement strike teams to deploy to nursing homes within 72-hours of outbreaks (three or more confirmed cases)

√ Includes language making COVID testing free retroactive to the beginning of the public health emergency

√ Allows the state of New York to access full amount of federal Medicaid funding already allocated, and increases Federal Medical Assistance Percentage (FMAP) payments to state Medicaid programs by a total of 14 percentage points, and home and community based services by 10 percentage points, starring July through June 30, 2021

State & Local Funding:

√ $500 billion for states and $375 billion in direct aid to local governments (estimates on funding provided to local governments)

√ $11.5 billion for homeless assistance grants, including the following estimated grants for WNY:

√ $2.1 billion for the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to support federal/state/local public health agency work to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19

Neighborhoods:

√ $5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant Program, including the following estimated allocations for WNY:

Police:

√ $300 million for police agency response through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grant program

Fire:

√ $1.3 billion through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for emergency grants to fire departments and municipalities

Unemployment:

√ $925 million to assist states in processing unemployment claims

Transit:

√ $15.75 billion for public transit agencies

Workers:

√ $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service plus additional protections for postal workers

√ $75 million to protect air traffic control tower workers and provide hazard pay

√ $200 billon “Heroes Fund” toward hazard pay for essential workers

√ Permits National Guard or Reserve members to receive mental health care at vet centers if deployed for more than 14 days in support of the COVID-19 public health emergency, a measure Higgins has pushed for.

√ Extends refundable payroll tax credits to businesses providing employees paid sick and family leave through the end of 2021

Food Security:

√ $150 million to help local food banks

√ $10 billion toward the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and $1.1 billion toward the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program for mothers and children

√ $3 billion for the Child Nutrition Program to support schools providing meals

√ $100 million toward meals on wheels for seniors

√ $500 million to support the production of milk into dairy products to be donated to nonprofit

Families:

√ $1,200 tax credit payment for individuals ($2,400 for joint filers) and $1,200 for dependent children. Credit scales down for individuals earning more than $75,000 and joint filers earning over $150,000.

√ Expands Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) eligibility. Allows families to substitute 2019 earned income for 2020 earned income when calculating the tax credit, an adjustment included in bipartisan legislation recently introduced by Higgins.

√ Retroactively makes all dependents eligible for the $500 in direct payments provided under the CARES Act, including full-time students under age 24 and adult dependents.

√ $100 million toward domestic violence programs

√ $75 billion to states to help struggling homeowners with direct assistance for mortgage payments, property taxes, utilities and other housing related costs.

√ $50 million to investigate coronavirus health outcomes in environmental justice communities

√ $7 billion for child care and development block grants

√ $200 million toward affordable housing for persons with disabilities

√ Continues pandemic unemployment compensation through January 2021

Repeals State and Local Tax (SALT) cap for 2020, 2021

Education:

√ $1.5 billion to close the homework gap with broadband and devise needs for students, and $4 billion for emergency home connectivity needs

√ $100.15 billion for K-12 schools and colleges nationwide including:

  • $4,955,150,000 in total estimated funding for New York state
  • $3,220,847,000 for NYS school districts
  • $1,486,545,000 for NYS higher ed. institutions

Small Business:

√ Funds the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) at $659 billion with the following improvements:

  • Extends the program through 2020 and the coverage period from eight weeks to 24 weeks
  • Requires 25% of PPP set aside for businesses with 10 employees or less
  • 25% set aside for nonprofits
  • Allows local newspapers/stations to qualify

√ Increases the percentage of qualified wages reimbursed through the employee retention credit from 50% to 80%

√ Provides a 90% refundable individual income tax credit for certain self-employed individuals who have experienced a significant loss of income.

√ $1 billion for economic support and recovery in distressed communities through the Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI) program

√ $10 billion in grants to small businesses

The House is expected to vote on the Heroes Act late this week or early next week. It is unclear yet when the Senate will act.

'This Is Not a Red State and Blue State Crisis'

National Governors Association Chairman and Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan and NGA Vice Chairman and New York Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued the following statement:

"As Congress reconvenes, delivering urgent state fiscal relief must be a top priority. Each day that Congress fails to act, states are being forced to make cuts that will devastate the essential services the American people rely on and destroy the economic recovery before it even gets off the ground.

"With widespread bipartisan agreement on the need for this assistance, we cannot afford a partisan process that turns this urgent relief into another political football. This is not a red state and blue state crisis. This is a red, white and blue pandemic. The coronavirus is apolitical. It does not attack Democrats or Republicans. It attacks Americans.

"The nation's governors are counting on our leaders in Washington to come together, put partisanship aside, and to get this done for the American people. This is why the National Governors Association continues to call for the passage of critical priorities that will help states and territories lead us through this pandemic response and get America moving again: $500 billion in fiscal support for state budgetary shortfalls resulting from the pandemic, enhanced FMAP funding to provide health care to our most vulnerable, and 100% federal cost share for FEMA response and recovery efforts."

New York Speaker of the House Carl Heastie said, “During this global pandemic, our state is facing a growing number of extraordinary challenges. As I have continuously said throughout this crisis, assistance from the federal government is critical to maintaining vital programs and ensuring that New Yorkers can return to their everyday lives.

“The Heroes Act, introduced by House Democrats this week, would provide much-needed aid to states and local governments and addresses several inequities that were found in previous relief packages.
New York’s essential workers have been on the front lines of this health care crisis risking their lives to serve their communities, and they deserve to be compensated for their sacrifice. The Heroes Act would protect and promote the American workforce and acknowledge the tremendous sacrifice of these workers.

“This legislation addresses the challenges that so many New Yorkers are facing, including housing instability, loss of income and food insecurity. I commend New York’s delegation to the House of Representatives for fighting to put families first. We cannot afford anything less.”

On Tuesday, New York State Association of Counties President John F. Marren said, “The federal stimulus proposal introduced today includes funding allocations that have been championed by Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer and the entire NY congressional delegation. This essential funding is necessary for essential public employees to provide essential services to stamp out COVID-19 and begin the process of reopening communities.

“County leaders commend House Appropriations Chair Nita Lowey and Speaker Pelosi for beginning the negotiating process by introducing this important legislation. We thank New York’s bipartisan congressional delegation for fighting to help New Yorkers survive and thrive during the pandemic.”

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