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Why You Should Care About HEROES Act

The Senate is holding up a bill that would help unite the country

Brian Young's picture
Jun 12, 2020

With the economy in a recession, there has been a lot of debate in Washington about what to do. Stimulus bills were passed to provide Americans with a $1,200 check and businesses both large and small were provided with emergency loans and bailouts to keep them going throughout the pandemic.

While this stimulus helped, there were a lot of groups left out. State and local governments were forced to foot enormous bills to get COVID-19 testing off the ground, help hospitals buy essential equipment like PPE and ventilators, and school districts had to launch distance learning programs. All of this was done just as the economy shut down meaning tax revenue and fees that governments would usually collect dried up. This has led to huge deficits for the states, many of which are considering layoffs to balance their budget.

People also faced the issue of losing their job in the middle of a global health crisis. With many people getting their health insurance through work this meant that millions lost their health insurance. To make matters worse, as the pandemic has continued and a second wave may be coming, millions are still out of work, and without a new stimulus bill passing, they will see their unemployment checks decrease by $600 a week at the end of the month.

To deal with these issues, Congress passed the HEROES Act. Some of the highlights of the bill include creating an emergency workplace infectious disease standard to keep workers who are returning to work safe, giving aid to state and local governments, public schools, the U.S. Postal Service, pension relief, keeping workers on payrolls to avoid mass layoffs, extending unemployment insurance, providing more direct payments to working people, extending health care coverage and help with COBRA payments, as well as providing housing and food benefits. Legislation like this is what the American people need to help them get through the pandemic safely.

While the bill passed through the House of Representatives, it has stalled in the Senate. Although the HEROES Act passed in Mid-May, the Senate is saying that it is unlikely that they would take it up before the July 4th recess, pushing it off until the end of July. That would be right as many of the unemployment benefits from earlier stimulus plans run out and nearly a month after many states will enter into a new fiscal year with severe deficits, which could force a new round of layoffs and furloughs for public employees.  

If there was ever a time for a bill like the HEROES Act to pass it is now. Cities and towns across the nation are seeing people protesting in the streets over racial inequality and some are having so much trouble making ends meet that they are willing to put their health on the line to get a paycheck. People are scared and fed up with the current status quo.  With protests in almost every major city and many small ones, cities and states are spending millions on overtime costs. In the African American community, they are facing higher unemployment and a higher death rates than other communities. These communities need the HEROES Act to ensure survival and to ensure that a vulnerable population doesn’t lose their access to healthcare. Governments are also facing the financial realities that the protests are causing their already tight budgets to get even tighter as they are forced to fork out the money for overtime to their police forces. Without help and leadership from Trump and Senate Majority Leader, Mitch McConnell governments may need to lay off some of those same police officers, teachers, sanitation workers, and transit workers that kept their city moving and educated throughout the pandemic and the protests.

“These things are all really important for working people,” said Vinny Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council. “But most importantly for low income communities of color that have been disproportionately affected by this crisis.”

While the bill seems like a commonsense solution to help the country get through this pandemic and provide relief for communities that are demanding help, there is still partisan opposition to the bill. The following Senators are being targeted as the ones who labor believes can be convinced to come over and support this important bill.

  • Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL)                                           
  • Senator Martha McSally (R-AZ)
  • Senator Thom Tillis (R-NC)
  • Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA)
  • Senator Susan Collins (R-ME)
  • Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS)
  • Senator Mitt Romney (R-UT)
  • Senator Cory Gardner (R-CO)
  • Senator Rob Portman (R-OH)
  • Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD)
  • Senator Steve Daines (R-MT)
  • Senator Roy Blunt (R-MO)
  • Senator Josh Hawley (R-MO)
  • Senator Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV)
  • Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA)
  • Senator Deb Fischer (R-NE)
  • Senator Jerry Moran (R-KS)
  • Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS)
  • Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK)
  • Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK)

With an election just a few months away, some of these are the most vulnerable Republican Senators in the country. They need to know that there is no point in sending them to Washington if they are not going to fight for their constituents. If you live in one of these states or have family/friends in these states, please call your Senators, (202) 224-3121, or email them and tell them about the importance of supporting the HEROES Act.

To find out more check out the interview below with Vinny Alvarez, President of the New York City Central Labor Council.

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