Friday, May 15, U.S. Representative Derek Kilmer (WA-06) voted to support the Heroes Act, comprehensive coronavirus relief legislation to deliver assistance to Washington’s frontline workers, provide further direct help to families, invest in the nation’s testing capacity, and support critical operations for state, county, local, and tribal governments.
“Let’s start with what we know. We know that educators and students have had their lives turned upside down – and they need more resources to ensure kids can learn. We know that small businesses on main street are hurting – and they need more help to keep folks on payroll and to weather this storm. We know that workers on the frontlines, in hospitals, in fire and police departments, in grocery stores, and elsewhere, are facing extraordinary strain – and we should have their backs,” said Rep. Kilmer. “And we know that economists across the political spectrum – including the Chairman of the Federal Reserve just this week – agree that, in the absence of further federal action, America faces the real risk of a full-scale depression. They agree that things will get worse without action from the federal government. This is not a perfect bill – I haven’t found much in DC that qualifies as perfect. There are things in this bill that I wish were not – and there are things that aren’t in it that I wish were. But the folks I represent need help. The Heroes Act will undoubtedly take steps to give our communities the support they desperately are seeking. I’ll keep fighting to ensure folks in our region get the help they need to get through this.”
The Heroes Act provides an estimated $18.1 billion for Washington state and local communities on the frontlines of this crisis. The funding will help these communities pay health care workers, police, fire, transportation, EMS, teachers and other vital workers who have been on the frontlines of combating the crisis across the region.
An analysis prepared by the Congressional Research Service estimates that the Heroes Act will provide nearly $10.8 billion in state funding for the people of Washington state, in addition to urgently needed direct funding for communities across the region.
The Heroes Act also includes $1.7 billion for Washington communities to support public education. This funding will help maintain or restore state and local fiscal support for elementary, secondary and public higher education and can be used to meet a wide range of urgent needs, including summer learning, afterschool programs, distance learning, and emergency financial aid for college students as well as coordination with public health departments to mitigate the spread of disease.
In addition to resources for frontline workers, the Heroes Act provides support to protect the lives and livelihoods of the American people.
- Provides support for essential workers: establishes a $200 billion Heroes’ fund to provide hazard pay for essential workers across the country.
- Commits $75 billion for testing, tracing and treatment: builds on previous investments to ensure that every state can support the robust testing and tracing strategies that are necessary to safely begin to re-open local economies at the appropriate time.
- Provides direct payments and extends unemployment benefits: puts money in the pockets of workers with a second round of direct payments to families of up to $6,000 per household, creates new payroll protection measures to keep 60 million workers connected with their jobs, and extends weekly $600 federal unemployment payments through next January.
- Supports small businesses: strengthens the Payroll Protection Program to ensure that it reaches underserved communities, nonprofits of all sizes and types and adds additional relief through a $10 billion increase for COVID-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program.
- Ensures further support for Washingtonians, including:
- Health security – includes COBRA subsidies and a special enrollment period in the Affordable Care Act exchanges for those without insurance. The bill also includes a provision championed by Rep. Kilmer to give families additional flexibility to use 2020 Flexible Spending Account contributions to adjust for delays in accessing non-emergency care caused by the COVID-19 pandemic
- Workplace security – includes $3.1 billion to support workforce training and worker protection activities related to coronavirus and requires the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to ensure that all workplaces develop science-based infection control plans and prevent employers from retaliating against workers who report problems. In a letter last month, Rep. Kilmer pushed for investments in America’s workforce development system to ensure that all workers, particularly those with barriers to employment, have the skills they need for meaningful employment.
- Housing security – provides $175 billion in new support to assist renters and homeowners make monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments and other housing-related costs – including the Emergency Rental Assistance and Rental Market Stabilization Act supported by Rep. Kilmer.
- Food security – includes a 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit and additional funding for nutrition programs that help families put food on the table.
- Protects fundamental government services: provides new resources to ensure safe elections, support the Census, and preserve the Postal Service.
The legislation is supported by National Nurses United, the International Association of Fire Firefighters, AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, Paid Leave for All, Community Change Action, the Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights, the NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice, the U.S. Conference of Mayors, the National League of Cities, and the National Association of Counties, among others.