COVID-19 relief package includes state & local aid and direct payments to Americans
On Thursday, Congressman Brian Higgins, D-NY-26, announced the House of Representatives approved updated Heroes Act legislation providing $2.2 trillion to address the urgent needs of the ongoing economic and health crisis, including direct relief to Americans and local municipalities.
Higgins said, “This pandemic is not going away anytime soon and American lives are on the line. The United States continues to have in excess of 40,000 new coronavirus cases each day. We have to take this seriously and address the health and economic needs immediately. Families and businesses are continuing to be hurt. There’s no time to wait.”
The House passed the original Heroes Act – a $3.4 trillion package – in May. However, the Senate refused to consider it. The updated Heroes Act, released this week, is largely based on previous pandemic legislation with provisions that previously received bipartisan support.
Below are highlights of the bill:
Relief for Communities
The legislation includes $436 billion in state and local aid to assist local municipalities dealing with community response and protect jobs. The state of New York would receive an estimated $20.69 billion. In addition, municipalities in Higgins’ district would receive close to $969 million.
√ $5 billion for the Community Development Block Grant program
√ $5 billion Emergency Solutions Grant program, which addresses homelessness
√ $182 billion for K-12 schools & $39 billion for colleges. New York would receive an estimated $388 million for schools
√ $13.5 billion for airports, which will benefit Buffalo Niagara International Airport and the Niagara Falls Airport – not less than 25% of which is for airports to provide assistance to the “restaurants and retailers”
√ $32 billion in transit emergency relief for operating assistance to transit agencies to fully make up funding gaps and support capital improvement projects, which will benefit the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority
√ $15 billion for the U.S. Postal Service
Relief for Americans
√ A new round of direct economic impact payments of $1,200 per taxpayer and $500 per dependent
√ $600 in pandemic unemployment payments retroactive from Sept. 5, 2020, through January 2021
√ $57 billion to support child care for families
√ Includes a bipartisan bill led by Higgins that ensures low-income families impacted by the coronavirus outbreak can use the wages reported in their 2019 tax return to compute the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on their 2020 tax return. The Child Tax Credit is made fully refundable.
√ For 2020, lifts the cap placed on State and Local Tax (SALT) deductions that was implemented by the GOP tax bill passed in 2017
√ Supports food security by increasing the maximum benefits allowed under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program by 15%
√ Allows for unemployed Americans who lost employer-provided health insurance to receive the maximum subsidy for Affordable Care Act coverage through the exchanges
Relief for Business
√ Enhances the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to better help the smallest businesses and nonprofits and extends the PPP program to the airline industry to protect jobs
√ The bill establishes a $120 billion grant program for restaurants, food trucks, bars and similar places of business for the difference between the business's 2019 revenues and estimated 2020 revenues per quarter, for payroll and other eligible expenses, based off of the RESTAURANTS Act, of which Higgins is a cosponsor
√ Includes a $10 billion grant program through the SBA for live music venues, based on the Save Our Stages Act, which Higgins cosponsored
√ Enhances the new employee retention tax credit
Addressing Urgent Health and Safety Measures
√ $75 billion for coronavirus testing and contact tracing with additional focus on racial health disparities
The bill includes language, proposed by Higgins, that would expand current requirements for insurers to cover testing beyond diagnosis and treatment purposes without cost sharing. Higgins spoke out when local insurance companies took advantage of an administrative loophole to deny testing coverage in certain situations.
√ $28 billion for distribution of and education around a safe vaccine
√ Requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue workplace standards and infection control plans to protect workers
√ $500 million for nursing home strike teams to address outbreaks