House Democrats Introduce Heroes Act with Levin-Sponsored Funding for States and Small Cities, New Money for Contact Tracing and Workforce Development
House Democrats today introduced the Heroes Act, the fourth COVID-19 relief legislative package and a comprehensive response to the challenges Americans face due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Every day that this pandemic ravages our country, it increases Americans’ suffering, and that means it’s on Congress to continue providing means of relief,” Rep. Levin said. “The Heroes Act is a critical answer to the problems this pandemic is creating, and it targets Americans who are hardest hit by the devastation to our health care system, economy and way of life. I’ve worked tirelessly since the passage of the CARES Act to find legislative solutions to the most pressing problems. That’s why I’m proud that the Heroes Act includes a major investment in a national contact tracing program essential to the reopening of our economy, an infusion of workforce development funds that will help workers back on their feet, and direct assistance to the smaller local governments like the ones I represent in Macomb and Oakland Counties.
“Today, the House took a major step toward greater relief. After we pass this landmark bill on Friday, my hope is that the Senate will approach these problems with the same urgency and seriousness as my House colleagues and me.”
The Heroes Act includes direct stabilization funds for cities and localities with populations under 500,000—which were excluded in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Emergency Response Act (CARES Act). Congressman Levin called for those smaller localities to receive direct stabilization funds in a letter signed by 128 bipartisan House members sent to Speaker Pelosi in early April. Congressman Levin also helped lead the Coronavirus Community Relief Act, a bill to provide $250 billion in coronavirus relief funds for cities, townships and villages with populations under 500,000.
Included in the Heroes Act are $2,696,937 in additional money for the State of Michigan, of which $1,753,009 will go to local education agencies, $809,081 to public higher education institutions and $134,847 to other statewide activities.
Additionally, the Heroes Act provides money to stand up a national contact tracing program that meets the goals of Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) and Rep. Levin’s Coronavirus Containment Corps plan, which they introduced last month. Specifically, the Heroes Act makes a major investment in the recruitment, placement, and training of individuals in COVID-19 contact tracing and related positions with a focus on recruiting from affected local communities and building a culturally competent workforce. The plan also provides support for contact tracers to transition to long-term employment after the COVID-19 pandemic.
Further, the Heroes Act contains the Relaunching America’s Workforce Act, a bill introduced by House Education and Labor Committee Chairman Robert C. “Bobby” Scott (VA-03), Committee Vice Chair Andy Levin (MI-09) and Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-WA) to authorize funding to help workers sharpen their skills and quickly re-enter the workforce as the economy emerges from the deepest decline since the Great Depression.
The Relaunching America’s Workforce Act increases support for layoff aversion strategies that allow employers to receive partial funding to keep workers on the payroll while employees improve their job skills through training. The bill also restarts a grant program supporting partnerships between community colleges and industry, which was implemented during the Great Recession and is geared toward getting workers skills for in-demand jobs.
Finally, the Heroes Act includes the COVID-19 Worker Protection Act of 2020, introduced by Rep. Levin, Chairman Scott and other Education and Labor Committee Democrats to require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard to ensure health care facilities implement comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plans to keep front line health care workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
In total, the bill:
- Honors our heroes, by providing nearly $1 trillion to state, local, territorial and tribal governments who desperately need funds to pay vital workers like first responders, health workers, and teachers who keep us safe and are in danger of losing their jobs
- Establishes a Heroes’ Fund for essential workers, with $200 billion to ensure that essential workers who have risked their lives working during the pandemic receive essential worker pay
- Supports testing, tracing and treatment, by providing another $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and isolation measures, ensuring every American can access free coronavirus treatment, and supporting hospitals and providers
- Provides additional direct payments, cushioning the economic blow of the coronavirus crisis with a second round of more substantial economic impact payments of $1,200 per family member, up to $6,000 per household
- Ensures worker safety, by requiring OSHA to issue a strong, enforceable standard within seven days to require all workplaces to develop and implement infection control plans based on CDC expertise, and prevents employers from retaliating against workers who report infection control problems
- Supports small businesses and nonprofits, by strengthening the Payroll Protection Program to ensure that it reaches underserved communities, nonprofits of all sizes and types and responds flexibly to small businesses by providing $10 billion for COVID-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program
- Preserves health coverage, by protecting Americans losing their employer-provided health insurance with COBRA subsidies to maintain their coverage and creating a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for uninsured Americans
- Extends unemployment benefits, ensuring weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through next January, providing a vital safety net for the record number of Americans who are unemployed
- Bolsters housing assistance, helping struggling families afford a safe place to live with $175 billion in new supports to assist renters and homeowners make monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments and other housing-related costs
- Strengthens food security, addressing rising hunger with a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit and additional funding for nutrition programs that help families put food on the table
- Safeguards our democracy, with new resources to ensure safe elections, an accurate Census, and preserve the Postal Service