The House of Representatives is gearing up for a vote on the latest relief package aimed at addressing the widespread economic and health care impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic despite the bill’s chances of becoming law in its current form being virtually nonexistent. The bill, known as the HEROES Act, is the opening entry from House Democrats in what will certainly be a highly partisan fight over the contents of the 5th piece of federal COVID-19 relief legislation, which emerges at a time when The White House has shifted its focus from the health of US citizens to the health of the US economy, all but abdicating its responsibility for monitoring testing and treatment of the virus to the states.
With a price tag of roughly $3 trillion, the HEROES Act would be the largest COVID-19 relief package to date, but would still fall short of what many progressive members of the Democratic Party were looking to see included. The key provisions of the bill, which was shepherded by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA-12), will be familiar to those who have watched the legislative back and forth over the previous 4 COVID-19 relief bills and represents an attempt by House Democratic leadership to thread the needle between the desires of the moderate and progressive wings of the party. If the HEROES Act is going to pass, it will likely do so without Republican support and will have virtually no chance of making it through the GOP-controlled Senate in its current form.
The HEROES Act does not have much in the way of funding for HIV-specific federal programs at the moment, with only $10 million for the Ryan White HIV/AIDS Program and $15 million for the Housing Opportunities for Persons With AIDS (HOPWA) program allocated in its initial draft. With that being said, there are a significant number of proposals within this legislation that will both directly and indirectly benefit people living with and affected by HIV in the US.
As was the case with the CARES Act that was passed last month, the HEROES Act would distribute $1,200 stimulus checks to adults making less than $75,000 a year. The HEROES Act would also provide much needed support for public health infrastructure across the country by allocating nearly $1 trillion in relief to states, localities, territories and tribal governments that have seen sharp increases in spending due to COVID-19 at the same time that many of their revenue streams are drying up. In an effort to address the rising rate of uninsured and underinsured Americans during the COVID-19 outbreak, the HEROES Act proposes a 2 month special enrollment period for the Affordable Care Act health exchanges, the elimination of cost-sharing and coverage fees for the uninsured concerning COVID-19 treatment, $175 billion to the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund for COVID-related health care reimbursements and testing/contact tracing, and $7.6 billion to health centers for COVID-19 testing and care.
In addition to the more health care-centric proposals mentioned above, the HEROES act would provide more than $11 billion for food security programs like SNAP and WIC, $100 billion for emergency rental assistance, $5.5 billion in Broadband access support, and $3.6 billion to ensure free and fair elections during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Please check back frequently with AIDS United’s Policy Update for all the latest information on the federal response to COVID-19, as well our standard coverage of the annual Congressional budget and appropriations processes.