Not long ago, Congress approved a $2 trillion aid package full of direct payments to citizens, a boost to unemployment insurance, and funding for small business loans.
Today, the House convened to vote on a sequel — dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act — to that bill to the tune of $3 trillion. They approved it with 209 votes for and 199 votes against, but it will likely be dead-on-arrival in the Senate.
It was primarily a party-line vote, though 14 Democrats voted nay and one Republican voted aye.
The package is a massive 1,800-plus page spending bill full of funding for some items found in the first version and others that were excluded.
Some of its provisions include:
- Extension of the $600 per week boost to unemployment benefits to January 2021
- A total of $915 billion to lower levels of government
- $500 billion for states
- $375 billion for local governments
- $20 billion to tribal governments
- $20 billion for U.S. territories
- $200 billion for frontline workers’ hazard pay, which would come to $13 per hour in additional wages
- Extension of privately held student loan debt payments that were not addressed in the CARES Act
- Over $50 billion for agriculture in various routes
- $75 billion for COVID-19 testing capabilities
- $100 billion for low-income renters to stave off eviction
- A second round of $1,200 direct payments to citizens
- $25 billion for the Post Office
- $75 billion to homeowners to help with “mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, utilities, and other housing related costs”
- $3.6 billion to states for “election security”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) suspended the rules to prohibit amendments, circumvent committee procedure, and expedite debate on the floor. She said during the limited debate that this was the time to allocate the money because “interest rates are never going to be cheaper.”
House members were called to the floor to vote in 10-minute increments in order to follow social distancing protocols.
The bill also allocates $50 million to the Environmental Protection Agency for “environmental justice grants” and $20 million for the National Endowment for the Arts & Humanities.
State and local governments were not included as beneficiaries of the CARES Act, and Democrats believe they should receive funding as their tax revenues have taken a hit, too.
Recently, 15 Texas mayors sent a letter to Congress requesting just this. Those cities, however, have financial problems on their own not related to the pandemic as they collectively have a total of $13.7 billion in unfunded pension liabilities.
It’s not just operations and pandemic-related tax losses that would be aided by federal funding.
Another bill, coauthored by Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX-21), would specifically address the Paycheck Protection Program and problems he sees within it but doesn’t call for massive expenditures.
The national debt currently sits at $25.2 trillion.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell called the bill a “totally unserious effort.”
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Brad Johnson is an Ohio native who graduated from the University of Cincinnati in 2017. He is an avid sports fan who most enjoys watching his favorite teams continue their title drought throughout his cognizant lifetime. In his free time, you may find Brad quoting Monty Python productions and trying to calculate the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow.