House Dems release modified Heroes Act with nutrition, ag provisions
House Democrats late today released an updated version of the Heroes Act it passed in May, reducing the price tag from more than $3 trillion to $2.2 trillion, but including an increase in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and farm aid provisions.
Passage of another coronavirus aid package before Congress leaves town this weekend for the campaign trail has not been given much of a chance.
But The Washington Post reported that this evening the White House and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., resumed discussions over a possible economic relief bill as Democrats offered a $2.2 trillion package and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin immediately engaged in talks.
The updated Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act or Heroes Act is sponsored by House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and cosponsored by other committee chairs.
In a summary of the bill, Lowey said, it “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 as well as targeted support for farmers and producers impacted by the crisis.”
A summary of the bill said Title I includes the following provisions:
▪ Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — Provides $10 billion to support anticipated increases in participation and to cover program cost increases related to flexibilities provided to SNAP by other acts addressing COVID-19.
▪ Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) — Provides an additional $400 million to provide access to nutritious foods to low-income pregnant women or mothers with young children who lose their jobs or are laid off due to the COVID-19 emergency.
▪ The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) — Includes $450 million to help local food banks meet increased demand for low-income Americans during the emergency. Including funding provided by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), TEFAP has received a total of $1.30 billion.
▪ Nutrition assistance programs — Provides $1.236 billion to Puerto Rico, $14 million to the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and $9.1 million to American Samoa for additional nutritional assistance.
▪ Agricultural Quarantine Inspection Program — Provides $350 million to the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service to ensure continued inspections of agricultural products in order to keep pests and diseases from entering the United States.
▪ Rural electric cooperatives — Provides $2.6 billion for grants to rural electric coops that are Rural Utilities Service electric borrowers to mitigate the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic to support continued or expanded delivery of critical services.
▪ Rental assistance program — Provides $309 million to the Rural Housing Service to assist rural tenants who lost income during the pandemic.
▪ Food and Drug Administration — Provides $1.5 million for FDA to hold one or more advisory committee meetings on coronavirus vaccine applications.
▪ USDA Office of Inspector General — Provides $2.5 million to increase monitoring and oversight activities.
▪ Farm and Ranch Stress Assistance Network program — Provides $20 million to strengthen activities and services that connect farmers and ranchers to stress assistance resources and programs.
In a letter to House Democrats, Pelosi said, “This evening, Democrats are unveiling an updated Heroes Act that serves as our proffer to Republicans to come to negotiations to address the health and economic catastrophe in our country.”
“This $2.2 trillion Heroes Act provides the absolutely needed resources to protect lives, livelihoods and the life of our democracy over the coming months. It includes new funding needed to avert catastrophe for schools, small businesses, restaurants, performance spaces, airline workers and others.”
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, D-Md., said in a statement, “I am disappointed that we have been unable to reach agreement with Republicans since the end of April on additional assistance to help the American people during this pandemic.”
“Since mid-August, I have urged House Democrats to put a compromise measure on the table to show Americans that we are continuing to negotiate in good faith,” Hoyer said.
“I am pleased that, working with Speaker Pelosi, we have fashioned a proposal that will provide relief to workers and small businesses, ensure state and local governments can keep essential workers on the job, and increase the testing that is necessary to bring this pandemic under control, among many important provisions. I believe this legislation represents a reasonable compromise that meets the needs we identified in the Heroes Act that passed the House in May.”
American Federation of Teachers President Randi Weingarten said in a statement, “While the Senate is focused solely on a Supreme Court power grab, the House is stepping up, once again introducing a comprehensive bill that provides desperately needed relief for millions of American workers slammed by the pandemic and its economic fallout.
“With COVID-19 cases on the rise again, communities are bearing the brunt. Schools are burning through cash to deliver kids a safe education environment. States and localities desperately need help: In Schenectady, N.Y., hundreds of educators were laid off when funding evaporated,” Weingarten said.
“Meanwhile, 90% of our members are spending their own money on personal protective equipment and 16 million kids lack internet connectivity.
“But this new bill is not just about helping schools, it also extends unemployment insurance and funds healthcare — a top concern for most Americans that would be gutted by the far-right Supreme Court the Senate seems so eager to achieve. It’s well past time to confront the grim reality on the ground. And the House, unlike the Senate, is taking its responsibility seriously.”