On May 12, Democratic leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives unveiled the 1,815-page long Heroes Act to address the coronavirus pandemic. The $3-trillion package would provide additional education funding, state and local aid, the second round of stimulus checks, meal assistance, and Medicaid funding. The proposal addresses multiple requests made by the National Education Association on behalf of its three million members.
The hallmark of the bill is $915 billion in relief for states, localities, territories, and tribes to pay vital workers such as first responders, health workers, and educators who are at risk of pay cuts, furloughs or even losing jobs from massive budget shortfalls. It includes $540 billion for the State Fiscal Relief Fund and $375 billion for the Local Fiscal Relief Fund over the next two fiscal years to respond to, mitigate, cover costs, or replace foregone revenues that were not projected on Jan. 31, 2020 stemming from the public health emergency or its negative economic impacts.
The Heroes Act also provides another $100 billion in direct funding for the Department of Education for K-12 education and higher education.
Here is a breakdown of key education-related proposals in the package, provided by the NEA:
A total of $100 billion for the Department of Education’s Education Stabilization Fund to states:
$90 billion available until Sept. 30, 2022 to prevent, prepare for, and respond to the virus. Approximately $58 billion would be distributed for K-12 education based on the Title I formula, and approximately $27 billion would be used for public postsecondary education, with 75 percent of the higher education funding based on the number of Pell grant recipients not previously enrolled solely in distance education. (The remainder, approximately $5 billion, would be set aside for other related purposes.)
These proposals are part of the more than $3 trillion opening bid for the next coronavirus stimulus package introduced by U.S. House Democrats Tuesday. The bill is designed to bolster state governments, increase widespread testing, extend unemployment insurance, and expand vote-by-mail ahead of the November election.
The latest tranche of funding that House Democrats want, which they’re calling the HEROES Act, is targeted at states and municipalities whose budgets are depleted due to their coronavirus response. Many states such as Hawaii have been hit hard with sudden spending needed to curb the virus, followed by a drain on sources of revenue from lost sales and income taxes.
The House is scheduled to return to Washington and vote on the bill on Friday, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D, Maryland) said Tuesday.
The Republican-controlled Senate could prove to be a major roadblock on this bill, though the legislation helps serve as an important marker of where the Democratic-controlled House stands. By putting out their opening bid now, House lawmakers are going on the offensive in a way they didn’t with the most recent “interim” spending legislation when Republicans sought to take the lead on small-business funding.
Thus far, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R, Kentucky) has begrudgingly conceded that the stimulus will likely include additional funding for states and cities, though he’s repeatedly raised concerns about how more ambitious legislation could increase the national debt. “We’ve added $2.8 trillion to the national debt over the last six weeks. We can’t keep throwing endless amounts of borrowed money at the problem in hope to fix it,” McConnell said during a May 7 appearance on The Daily Briefing with Dana Perino.
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