Updated: May 22
On Tuesday, May 12, 2020, Congressional House Democrats released The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (Heroes) Act (H.R. 6800 - linked here). The legislation contains provisions intended to provide further federal funding for state, local and tribal governments struggling amid the COVID-19 pandemic. The plan proposes $3 trillion in new federal spending. The legislation was approved by the House on Friday, May 15, 2020. It appears unlikely the Senate will move forward with this particular plan.
CARES Act Revisited
The House Democrats' plan is intended as a follow-up to the $2.2 trillion Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act enacted into law on March 27, 2020. Among its many provisions, the CARES Act provided $150 billion in direct funding to states and local governments with populations of more than 500,000 residents. Illinois received almost $5 billion.
CARES Act funds can be used for specified purposes associated with the pandemic emergency response, but not lost revenue. In Illinois, this provided direct funding for Cook, Dupage, Kane, Lake and Will counties along with the City of Chicago. The state is permitted to sub-allocate a portion of its share to local governments with 500,000 or fewer residents and distribution plans are presently being discussed.
What's in the Heroes Act?
The more than 1,800 page Heroes Act includes a multitude of provisions, many of which do not affect local governments. A full analysis is available via this link, but key highlights for counties are below:
$500 billion in funding to assist state governments with fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus. Distributions would occur as follows:
$250 billion to all states and the District of Columbia within 30 days of enactment
$150 billion based upon a state's population
$51 billion divided equally among 50 states and the District of Columbia
$49 billion based upon a state's share of COVID-19 cases
$250 billion to all states and the District of Columbia by May 3, 2021
$51 billion divided equally among 50 states and the District of Columbia
$199 billion based on a state's share of unemployed individuals
Local Government Funding
$375 billion in funding to assist local governments with the fiscal impacts from the public health emergency caused by the coronavirus distributed as follows:
$250 billion within 30 days of enactment to all counties and municipalities
$125 billion to counties based on population
$125 billion to municipalities using a modified Community Development Blog Grant (CDBG) formula
$125 billion to all counties and municipalities one year after date of enactment
$62.5 billion to counties based upon population
$62.5 billion to municipalities using a modified CDBG formula
$35 million for the Treasury Inspector General for oversight of Coronavirus Fiscal Relief Fund payments to state and local governments.
The local government funding referenced above can be used for lost revenue.
Other Provisions of Relevance to Counties
$1 billion for economic support and recovery in distressed communities by providing financial and technical assistance to Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFI).
$10 billion in grants to small businesses that have suffered financial losses as a result of the coronavirus outbreak.
$400 million for expenses due to delays in the 2020 Decennial Census in response to the Coronavirus.
$300 million for law enforcement hiring grants and for the purchase of personal protective equipment, with waivers of the local match and non-supplanting requirements.
$600 million that includes: (1) $500 million to prevent, detect, and stop the presence of COVID-19 in correctional institutions and for pre-trial citation and release grants; (2) $25 million for Rapid COVID-19 testing at correctional institutions; and (3) $75 million for Juvenile Specific Services.
$1.3 billion to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus, including $200 million for the Emergency Food and Shelter Program; $500 million for Assistance to Firefighter (AFG) grants; $500 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants; and $100 million for Emergency Management Performance (EMPG) grants.
$925 million to assist states in processing unemployment insurance claims.
$7.6 billion to support expanded health care services for underserved populations.
$2.1 billion to support federal, state and local public health agencies to prevent, prepare for and respond to coronavirus.
$100 billion in grants for hospital and health care providers to be reimbursed for health care related expenses or lost revenue directly attributable to the public health emergency resulting from coronavirus.
$75 billion for testing, contact tracing and other activities necessary to effectively monitor and suppress COVID-19.
$3 billion in increased mental health support, to support substance abuse treatment and offer increased outreach.
$15 billion for grants to support the ongoing work of State, Tribal and Territorial Departments of Transportation and certain local governments to mitigate the effects of coronavirus including the salaries of staff and other administrative expenses.
$15.75 billion for operating assistance grants to support the transit agencies that require significant additional assistance to maintain basic transit services. Of these amounts $11.75 billion will be distributed by formula and $4 billion will be available to any grantee or subrecipient by application to the Secretary.
$4 billion to allow public housing agencies (PHAs) to respond to coronavirus and the ability to keep over 2.2 million families stably housed even when facing a loss of income.
$2 billion for PHAs to carry out coronavirus response for the operation and management of almost 1 million public housing units.
$15 million to maintain operations, rental assistance, supportive services and other necessary actions to mitigate the impact of coronavirus on low income persons with HIV/AIDS.
$5 billion in CDBG for coronavirus response and to mitigate the impacts in our communities to be distributed by formula to current grantees.
$11.5 billion for Emergency Solutions Grants to address the impact of coronavirus among individuals and families who are homeless or at risk of homelessness and to support additional homeless assistance, prevention and diversion activities to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic.
$100 billion to provide emergency assistance to help low income renters at risk of homelessness avoid eviction due to the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
$750 million to ensure the continuation of housing assistance for low income individuals and families living in project based rental assistance properties and to ensure housing providers can take the necessary actions to prevent, prepare for and respond to the pandemic.
$500 million to maintain operations at properties providing affordable housing for low income seniors and to ensure housing providers can take the necessary actions to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
$200 million to maintain operations at properties providing affordable housing for lowincome persons with disabilities and to ensure housing providers can take the necessary actions to prevent, prepare for and respond to the coronavirus pandemic.
Extension of the financial relief provided to reimbursable employers in the CARES Act through January 31, 2021, and make technical corrections to ensure that states can simply waive 50 percent of the amount owed by such employers.
Allow a delay of the publication of apportionment and state redistricting data by 120 days. The delay is necessary due to the postponement of major census operations caused by the coronavirus.
Removes the exclusion disallowing the paid sick and family leave credits enacted in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for Federal, state, and local governments. It makes conforming changes to the definition of qualified wages to align the credit with the intent that the credit cover the leave required by the respective mandates. This provision is effective as if included in FFCRA.
Provides private sector and public sector employees who have been on the job for at least 30 calendar days with the right take up to 12 weeks of job protected paid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act, regardless of the size of their employers.
Sets a mandatory, immediate, interim cap on all rates charged in connection with voice calls and video calls made to or from prisons or jails —both for calls within a state and calls between states — of .04 cents perminute for debit calls and .05 cents perminute for collect calls. It also gives the FCC the authority to set rates in connection with voice calls and video calls in prisons and jails both for calls within a state and calls between states. Finally, it requires the FCC to adopt rules to replace the mandatory interim caps within 18 months of passage and to review those rates every two years. Prohibits prisons or jails from charging site commissions.
Authorizes $2 billion for a temporary expansion of the FCC’s Rural Health Care Program (RHCP) to partially subsidize their health care providers’ broadband service.
Requires at least 15 consecutive days of early voting for federal elections. Goes into effect in the November 2020 election and for each succeeding federal election.
Ensures that every voter can access no excuse absentee vote by mail. Goes into effect in the November 2020 election and for each succeeding federal election.
With respect to the COVID-19 pandemic and all future emergencies declared between 120 days before election day and 30 days before election day, requires states to automatically mail absentee ballots and balloting materials to all registered voters no later than two weeks before election day (and for states that do not register voters, to all voters in the state’s central voter file).
Ensures that notwithstanding the precinct or polling place at which a provisional ballot is cast within the state, the appropriate election official shall count each vote on such ballot for each election in which the individual who cast such ballot is eligible to vote. Goes into effect in the November 2020 election and for each succeeding federal election.
Provides $600 million in funding to address the COVID-19 crisis in state and local prisons and jails, including $500 million to states and local governments that operate correctional facilities to provide testing and treatment of COVID-19 for incarcerated individuals by creating two grant programs—one focused on the release of low risk individuals who are currently incarcerated and another aimed at reducing COVID-19 exposure for those individuals who are arrested; $75 million in funding to a new grant program to encourage states and localities to adopt practices that promote juvenile safety and rehabilitation without unnecessarily exposing youth to incarceration during this crisis; and $25 million for a grant program for state and local governments that operate correctional facilities for rapid testing of inmates who are leaving correctional custody.
Amends the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) to establish a presumption that officers who die or are disabled because of COVID-19 infection are eligible to receive disability and death benefits. Ensures that officers who were injured or disabled during or because of the September 11, 2001 attacks, and whose injuries in combination with a COVID-19 illness result in disability or death, may apply for PSOB disability or death benefits.
Section 6 of the bill authorizes the Attorney General to give grants to local law enforcement agencies to conduct law enforcement activities or crime reduction programs to prevent, address, or otherwise respond to hate crimes, particularly related to reporting hate crimes.
Section 7 requires the Attorney General to collect and analyze information submitted by States and local governments for the purposes of developing policies related to the provision of accurate data. Each calendar year, the Attorney General must publish and submit a report to Congress based on the information collected and analyzed. The report should include (1) an analysis of the number of hate crimes reported and law enforcement activities done to address hate crimes, and (2) an analysis of the number of law enforcement agencies that have (a) adopted a policy on identifying, investigating, and reporting hate crimes, (b) developed a standardized system of collecting analyzing, and reporting the incidence of hate crimes, (c) established a unit specialized in identifying, investigating, and reporting hate crimes, (d) engaged in community relations functions, and (e) conducted hate crime trainings for agency personnel.
The plan also includes a second round of direct payments initially included within the CARES Act of up to $1,200 per individual, or up to $6,000 per household.
Provisions within the Heroes Act represent the priorities of the House Democratic Caucus and will undoubtedly change following negotiations with Senate Republicans. Senate Republicans have their own ideas for additional COVID-19 relief legislation, including provisions providing liability protection for businesses that re-open during the pandemic. The House will likely vote on the plan on Friday, May 15.
ISACo supports additional federal legislation that provides direct funding to counties and the ability to apply this funding toward lost revenues. The additional funding is critical because counties face a quadruple threat of:
Declining local tax revenues.
Higher spending necessary to respond to the health emergency.
Declining state-shared revenues associated with weakening economic trends.
The potential of significant losses for small businesses on our main streets that could threaten jobs and the property tax base over the short to mid-term.
ISACo will continue advocating for direct federal financial support for counties and will keep counties apprised of the negotiations involving the next legislative package.