Explain Like I’m 65: "The HEROES Act"
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Some people act like they know it all. Our new series Explain Like I’m 65 is for the rest of us. It will provide clear, digestible summaries to help seniors sort through the noise and get the factual information they need. From political buzzwords to household how-tos, we’re here to provide accessible guides and informative answers.
The HEROES Act
Even as many states begin to lift stay-at-home orders, the COVID-19 crisis continues to wreak economic havoc. More than 35 million Americans have lost their jobs and millions more are contending with reduced hours and lost insurance coverage. The federal government has already responded to these unprecedented times with the historic CARES Act and its economic impact payments. On Friday, May 15th, the House voted to introduce another $3 trillion relief plan.
Over more than 1,800 pages, the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act proposes new COVID-19 response efforts including an additional $900 billion in funding for state and local governments as well as another round of stimulus checks.
The Act passed through the House thanks to a highly partisan 208-199 vote. One Republican, New York’s Peter King, Voted Yes. On the Democratic side, both centrists and staunch progressives voiced their dissent. Washington Representative Pramila Jayapal was one notable left-leaning nay-sayer. “At the core,” she remarked, “our response from Congress must match the true scale of this devastating crisis.” She charged the HEROES Act with failing “to keep workers in their jobs and guarantee the certainty of paychecks.”
More Stimulus Checks
Most taxpayers will be especially interested to learn that the HEROES Act could mean an additional economic impact payment. This round of checks would work much like the first one. Individual taxpayers who earn less than $75,000/year and joint-filing couples who earn less than $150,000/year would each receive a stimulus payment of $1,200. Individuals making more than $99,000/year and couples making more than $198,000 would not receive checks.
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The HEROES Act differs from the CARES Act in its approach to dependents. Families received an additional $500 for each dependent during the first round of economic impact payments. If passed, this new legislation would entitle them to another $1,200 for each of as many as three dependents. Crucially, this would apply to college students and other dependents over 17.
Taxpayers without Social Security numbers were ineligible for the first round of payments. As written, the HEROES Act would broaden eligibility to include taxpayers who file with Tax Identification Numbers. Presumably, the Internal Revenue Service would use direct deposit information to administer payments once again.
Better Care for Seniors
COVID-19 has hit America’s seniors particularly hard. Last week, members of the Senate Special Committee on Aging argued that the HEROES Act could help by devoting additional funds to nursing homes and promoting data collection. The bipartisan Committee is chaired by notable moderate Republican Susan Collins. Collins is up for reelection in November and her actions over the next few months could have huge implications for her campaign.
Pennsylvania Senator Bob Casey noted that poor data visibility has forced lawmakers to fight the virus “with one hand tied behind [their] backs.” The bill would require nursing homes to collect vital data on COVID-19 and its spread. What’s more, it would provide aid to the nearly 1 million seniors who are on waiting lists for at-home or community-based care services. This additional support would help keep vulnerable seniors out of high-risk nursing homes without forcing them to sacrifice care.
“Essential frontline workers,” the Act reads, “are the true heroes of America’s COVID-19 pandemic response.” One of its key provisions would create a “Heroes Fund” to provide them with financial assistance. This fund would entitle all essential workers to additional hazard pay of up to $13/hour. For those making less than $200,000/year, this could amount to an additional $25,000. The Act would also provide a one-time recruitment incentive to Americans who apply to serve as frontline employees.
Will It Pass?
The HEROES Act faces an uphill battle. Since the bill was drawn up without any input from the GOP, it is unlikely to find a warm welcome in a Republican-led Senate. Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has already dismissed the proposal as “a big laundry list of pet priorities” and other Republicans have echoed him.
This new bill is sure to ignite another round of partisan debate in the halls of Congress. Americans may soon receive more relief, but there’s very little chance it will come from the HEROES Act as we know it today.