Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and other House Democrats unveiled a shocking $3 trillion relief bill, nicknamed the “HEROES Act” — the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act — Tuesday, designed to serve as a fourth coronavirus relief package, the Hill reports.
The bill, as expected, is packed with handouts to Democrat constituencies, and features an astounding $375 billion bailout for states and cities — even those whose debt problems predate the novel coronavirus and affiliated lockdowns.
Pelosi and House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) have placed the bill on the House’s schedule for Friday and called the House back into session. The bill is, of course, expected to pass by a slim majority but grind to a halt in the Senate, where Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has vowed to deeply investigate any massive spending bill and hold off on passing a fourth coronavirus relief package until the American economy shows signs of recovery.
The most concerning aspect of the bill is likely the handouts to states and cities, which does carry with it a provision barring states for addressing shortfalls that occurred prior to January 31, 2020, but fails to identify any vehicle by which the Federal government could judge those budget woes as worthy, leaving the door open for states to request billions.
NEW: HEROES Act payments made to state, local and tribal governments CAN be used to address budget shortfalls and revenue losses stemming from COVID-19 pandemic.
$375 billion will be made available to cities, villages and townships to help address these budget issues. pic.twitter.com/vTrYbJvzQ9
— Mark Cavitt (@MarkCavitt) May 12, 2020
It also allocates $25 billion to the United States Postal Service.
— Rep. Joe Neguse (@RepJoeNeguse) May 12, 2020
In addition, the HEROES Act splashes out $1.5 billion on “broadband hotspots,” $175 billion to reimburse public health and social services organizations” for health care related expenses or lost revenue attributable to the coronavirus, as well as to support testing and contact tracing to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19,” and $3.6 billion to states for “contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for Federal office” — likely code for a national vote-by-mail program.
It adds $100 billion for healthcare providers, on top of the billions issued as part of the third coronavirus relief package, the CARES Act. And the bill provides $75 billion to “states, territories, and tribes to address the ongoing needs of homeowners struggling to afford their housing due directly or indirectly to the impacts of the pandemic by providing direct assistance with mortgage payments, property taxes, property insurance, utilities, and other housing related costs.”
In addition to other handouts, the House is giving $5 million to itself to buy “House imaged laptops due to COVID-19. In addition, this funding will support an increase in inventory of satellite phone, Mobile Wi-Fi Hotspots, and updated satellite bandwidth technologies to meet escalating demand of District Offices during COVID-19,” and to outfit Pelosi’s pet Select Committee “that will provide oversight of the funds provided for coronavirus and economic aid.”
In order to make sure average Americans support the bill, it continues the $1,200 monthly payments to individual taxpayers for at least three additional months, though it stops short of the “universal basic income” requested by Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and others. Families can receive up to $6,000 in bailout funds.
Ethanol and alternative fuel producers will do well. Pelosi’s bill gives an estimated $2.5 million to biofuel producers and $250 million to biodiesel.
The House HEROES Act would give cash payments to biofuel producers. Looks like about $2.5 billion would go to ethanol and ~$250 million to biodiesel, based on my very rough math pic.twitter.com/juqwRx1ZKb
— Chris Knight (@chrispknight) May 12, 2020
Buried in the law are a few odd provisions that don’t require earmarks, including the ordered release of thousands of Federal prisoners and a suspension of cash bail requirements for those being held pending trial.
The HEROES Act would also require the release of a lot of prisoners (older than 50, has health problems or up for release w/i a year) into community supervision, and suspend cash bail requirements for pre-trial detainees pic.twitter.com/aF2xvw30qI
— Alice Miranda Ollstein (@AliceOllstein) May 12, 2020
The HEROES Act reportedly also cancels student loan debt for around 16 million borrowers and reduces payments for 9 million more. To buoy the flailing education industry, the bill provides around $90 billion to states for K-12 education and $10 billion to higher education, including public universities, in a fund they can access directly.
Under the HEROES Act, nearly 16 million federal student loan borrowers would see their student loan debt cancelled and another 9 million would see their debt cut at least in half. https://t.co/fW1myuPsiL
— Mark Huelsman (@MarkHuelsman) May 12, 2020
The bill also includes a suspension of the SALT caps, which prohibited high-income taxpayers from deducting large amounts of their state and local taxes from their Federal income tax. Republicans put the SALT cap in place as part of the Trump tax refund deal inked in December of 2017, just after the president first took office, and replaced it with a higher standard deduction so that lower-income and middle class taxpayers could deduct more from their Federal income taxes.
Other provisions are likely to come to light as the full text of bill is revealed. Pelosi is expected to speak on the legislation Tuesday afternoon.
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