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H.R. 6800: HEROES Act
05/15/2020 12:20 AM EDT
The House on May 15 is set to debate and vote on Democrats’ $3 trillion proposal for Congress' fifth coronavirus response package, H.R. 6800 (116), dubbed the HEROES Act.
The sprawling Democratic legislation includes a slew of liberal priorities left out of previous bills — nearly $1 triilion for state and local governments, rent and mortgage relief, hazard pay and paid leave for frontline workers and expanded mail-in voting programs, among other things.
But President Donald Trump and Senate Republicans have already objected to the provisions, saying there hasn’t been enough time since the enactment of the $2 trillion CARES Act, H.R. 748 (116), to determine whether new legislation is necessary.
This Pro Bill Analysis reflects the text as unveiled by House leaders on May 12. For more information on the bill, read the title-by-title summary released the same day by House Democrats. Leaders released an 89-page manager’s amendment May 14 that will be attached to the bill on the House floor.
Coronavirus Recovery Supplemental Appropriations Act, 2020 (Division A)
This division represents the bill’s appropriations package.
Agriculture-FDA (Title I): This title would provide nearly $14.3 billion to the Agriculture Department, FDA and related agencies, including:
Commerce-Justice-Science (Title II): Title II would provide almost $2.5 billion to the Commerce and Justice departments and the National Science Foundation, as well as related agencies. The total includes:
Financial Services (Title III): This title would provide an additional $1.04 trillion to departments and agencies funded by the annual Financial Services spending bill, including the Treasury and Justice departments, as well as the District of Columbia, the Election Assistance Commission and other agencies and programs.
The overwhelming majority of that total would go to state and local coronavirus fiscal relief funds through the Treasury Department to help states and localities pay for unexpected coronavirus expenses and replace lost revenue, with $500 billion going to states and $375 billion directed to local governments.
The state cash would include two $250 billion pots — one to be used now and another for later.
Upon enactment, the first $250 billion would be sent to states and Washington, D.C., within 30 days. Each would receive $1 billion. Another $49 billion would be split up based on each state’s share of confirmed Covid-19 cases. The other $150 billion would be distributed based on population.
By May 3, 2021, states and D.C. would receive another $250 billion, $199 billion of which would be distributed based on the number of unemployed workers. The remaining $51 billion would be divided equally among the states and Washington.
Local governments, like states, would receive $250 billion within 30 days of the legislation being signed into law.
Of that, $125 billion would go to counties based on population, $87.5 billion would target municipalities with populations of at least 50,000, and $37.5 billion would go to non-entitlement municipalities with populations of less than 50,000.
One year after enactment, local governments would receive another $125 billion.
An additional $20 billion would go to territories (not including Washington, D.C., which would be counted as a state under this section) and another $20 billion would go to tribal governments.
The Treasury Department Office of Inspector General would receive $35 million to provide oversight of the state and local relief funds.
The title also would provide:
Homeland Security (Title IV): Among the measure’s DHS provisions, it would provide $1.3 billion to FEMA, including $500 million for Assistance to Firefighter Grants and $500 million for Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response Grants. The bill would waive cost-sharing requirements for both grant programs.
Interior-Environment (Title V): The bill would provide $4.19 billion for departments and programs funded via the annual Interior-Environment spending bill. The title would include:
Labor-HHS-Education (Title VI): The bill would appropriate more than $300 billion to the Labor, Health and Human Services and Education departments, as well as related agencies funded via the annual Labor-HHS-Education spending bill.
It would provide $3.1 billion for DOL, of which $2 billion would go to worker training and $925 million would assist states and federal administration of unemployment insurance benefits. $100 million would be allocated to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to conduct workplace safety enforcement in response to coronavirus.
The HHS language would include $175 billion for the Public Health and Social Services Emergency Fund, of which $100 billion would go, with some new restrictions, to hospitals and health care providers to cover lost revenue and coronavirus-related costs.
As laid out in Section 30611 of Division C, the bill would distribute the relief funds each quarter, based on cost reports submitted by providers. Providers would be eligible to receive 60 percent of lost revenues compared to last year, and they could get full reimbursement for pandemic-related costs such as temporary construction, equipment, tests, training and workforce retention.
The other $75 billion for the fund would be set aside for a new national system to detect and contain the coronavirus pandemic. The plan, outlined in Division C, would support expanded coronavirus testing, contact tracing, surveillance, mitigation and containment.
Other HHS funding would include:
The Education Department would receive $100.15 billion, including $90 billion for formula grants to states for elementary and secondary education and $10.15 billion for higher education emergency relief to defray expenses.
The grants to states could be used for a wide range of purposes, including covering the costs associated with making up instructional time, sanitation services, transportation, professional development and education technology.
Colleges would be able to use the money to defray expenses due to lost revenue, provide reimbursements or make payroll. The funding could also support additional emergency financial aid grants to students for things like housing, food, technology, health care and child care.
States that receive some of the $90 billion in funding would have to commit to maintaining support for schools and colleges and the terms of collective bargaining agreements. States would also be required to provide assurances that students with disabilities are guaranteed their full rights under the Individuals With Disabilities Education Act.
Legislative Branch (Title VII): The bill would appropriate $35 million to the legislative branch, including $5 million to the House of Representatives and $30 million to the Government Accountability Office.
State-Foreign Operations (Title VIII): The bill would provide $2 million to the State Department’s Office of the Inspector General for oversight of coronavirus response activities.
Transportation-HUD (Title IX): This title would provide $154.9 billion for programs that fall under the Transportation-HUD annual spending bill — $30.83 billion for Transportation and $124.08 billion for HUD, according to the House Appropriations Committee.
Transportation provisions include:
The bill would also allow the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to dip into Treasury’s general fund to compensate for the Covid-19-triggered dip in aviation tax revenue.
HUD funding would include:
In a win for House Financial Services Chairwoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.), the package would provide $100 billion in emergency rental assistance, authorized in Section 110201, for low-income tenants at risk of eviction because of the crisis. The money would be administered through HUD’s Emergency Solutions Grants, which are more flexible than traditional HUD rental assistance. An additional $11.5 billion in Emergency Solutions Grants, authorized in Section 110301, would be earmarked to help homeless people weather the pandemic.
General provisions (Title X): Among its general provisions, the measure would require that all laborers and mechanics employed by contractors and subcontractors on projects funded by the bill be paid at no less than prevailing wages.
Revenue Provisions (Division B)
Economic stimulus (Title I): H.R. 6800 would provide a second round of payments to U.S. taxpayers, up to $1,200 per person for a family of five. All dependents would be eligible for a $500 payment. The payments currently going out are capped at $2,400 per couple and the dependent payments are limited to children under the age of 17.
Under the bill, stimulus payments could go to potentially millions more Americans, including some undocumented immigrants who pay taxes. It would allow payments to be made to people who can provide an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, rather than a Social Security number, as was required for the first round of payments.
The perennially cash-strapped IRS is already under pressure to process payments for more than 150 million Americans under the CARES Act. The agency reported May 8 that more than $200 billion has gone out to about 130 million Americans so far.
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimated 15 million people were ineligible for the first round of payments because of the Social Security number requirement alone.
The new legislation specifies that payments would automatically go to Social Security recipients, disabled people, some veterans and railroad retirees, if they didn't file taxes in 2018 or 2019. The payments would be based on information provided by the Social Security Administration, the Railroad Retirement Board and the Veterans Benefits Administration.
This title would provide $610 million to the Treasury Department to carry out the direct payments, with $10 million for the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration for oversight of the payment program. The Social Security Administration would receive another $40 million.
This title would also create or expand numerous tax breaks, including:
It would also give more flexibility to individuals using certain employee benefits by:
Additional relief for workers (Title II): This title would build on the tax break expansion in Title I by expanding or creating new tax breaks for certain workers, including:
The title would expand or create tax breaks intended to help employers keep their employees on payroll by:
It would also create or expand tax breaks intended to help employers provide their employees with paid leave, including by:
This title would, in addition:
Net operating losses (Title III): This title would claw back breaks Congress gave businesses in H.R. 748, which allow them to claim tax refunds by applying recent losses to the previous year’s taxes. It would permanently restore the limitation on excess business losses of non-corporate taxpayers and would limit net operating loss carrybacks in 2019 and 2020.
Health Provisions (Division C)
This division would subsidize workplace health insurance for the newly jobless, significantly raise Medicaid funding and reopen HealthCare.gov for enrollment, among other things.
Medicaid provisions (Title I): This title would expand a temporary increase in federal Medicaid payments to 14 percentage points through June 2021 as millions of jobless Americans are expected to enroll in the program. Congress already approved a 6 percentage point bump in a previous relief package.
Among other provisions, it would increase federal payments to state Medicaid programs by an additional 10 percent.
Medicare provisions (Title II): This title would, among other things:
Private insurance provisions (Title III): This title would relaunch the federal health exchange for a two-month special enrollment period, with additional outreach from the federal government. The Trump administration seriously considered extending Affordable Care Act enrollment as Covid-19 began to spread in the country, but the idea was quashed by the White House in late March.
While people who lose workplace insurance already qualify for an Obamacare special enrollment period, a broader reopening of the federal marketplace would eliminate red tape people encounter as they try to switch from the employer market. And it would allow millions of uninsured Americans who entered the health crisis without insurance to sign up before the next enrollment season starts in November.
Democrats also revived a previously proposed mandate that all insurers cover treatment for the coronavirus without patients paying any money out of pocket, which some health plans have done in a piecemeal fashion.
This title would also provide full health premium subsidies through January 2021 to allow workers to maintain their employer-sponsored coverage if they are eligible for COBRA or if they have been furloughed.
Application to other health programs (Title IV): H.R. 6800 would ensure there are no out-of-pocket costs for patients treated for the coronavirus covered under TRICARE, the Federal Employees Health Benefit Program or the Department of Veterans Affairs’ health plans.
Public health policies (Title V): Title V would attempt to improve the medical supply chain by, among other things:
The title would also create a pilot project aimed at improving the availability of personal protective equipment for the Strategic National Stockpile by attempting to “enhance medical supply chain elasticity and establish and maintain domestic reserves of critical medical supplies,” according to the bill text.
This title would establish a new $75 billion national system, funded through Division A of the bill, to detect and contain the coronavirus pandemic by supporting expanded coronavirus testing, contact tracing, surveillance, mitigation and containment.
It would require laboratories across the country to send daily reports to HHS on the number of coronavirus tests they conduct and what those tests find. The department would be required to make full testing data publicly available. CDC now posts limited testing data on its website, warning that the summary “does not capture all tests performed in the United States.”
Public health labs are already reporting daily test data to HHS, and many commercial labs are reporting data to CDC on a daily basis.
The bill would require manufacturers of diagnostic tests to tell HHS how many coronavirus tests they are distributing on a weekly basis and where they are going. The legislation would direct FDA to post the data after redacting any trade secrets or confidential information.
HHS Secretary Alex Azar would also be required to spell out how many coronavirus tests, and which types, are needed to track the U.S. outbreak and help bring it under control. The information would be a mandated part of the department's strategic plan, due June 15.
The title would also aim to improve demographic and other data on the coronavirus, including by requiring the HHS secretary to create an online portal for health entities to track data and by authorizing grants to state, local and territorial health departments to modernize their health data collection.
Public health assistance (Title VI): This title would codify the relief fund for health care providers, which would receive $100 billion under Division A of this bill, and place some restrictions on its use.
The new plan would distribute relief funds each quarter, based on cost reports submitted by providers. Providers would be eligible to receive 60 percent of lost revenues compared to last year, and they could get full reimbursement for pandemic-related costs such as temporary construction, equipment, tests, training and workforce retention.
The funding could not be used for executive compensation, and providers receiving funds would be barred from balance billing or charging uninsured Covid-19 patients during the public health emergency. That would extend protections provided by the Trump administration, which is barring surprise bills from providers who receive hospital bailout funds to treat uninsured patients.
Aid that providers already received from the relief fund would be subtracted from the quarterly amounts given under the new process.
This title would also:
Retirement Provisions (Division D)
Relief for multiemployer pension plans (Title I): H.R. 6800 would aim to fix insolvent multiemployer pension plans, which have faced greater financial pressure under a coronavirus-induced bear market.
Even before the pandemic, the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation, the agency that insures multiemployer pensions, was projected to be insolvent by 2025 absent congressional intervention.
The bill would allow the PBGC to "partition" these multiemployer pensions and take control of a part of the plan’s responsibilities for 30 years, if that will prevent the plan from going insolvent.
Pension plans would be able to apply for a partition through 2024 and would face no cuts to the benefit payments of participants and beneficiaries. According to Democrats' proposal, in exchange for the financial assistance, "each plan would have to comply with certain conditions," and would be required to file regular reports to PBGC and to Congress.
Relief for single employer pension plans (Title II): This title would aim to stabilize single-employer pension plans by, among other things:
Other retirement related provisions (Title III): Title III would:
Continued Assistance to Unemployed Workers (Division E)
H.R. 6800 would extend the federally funded pandemic unemployment compensation enacted via the CARES Act, including the $600 per week supplement, through Jan. 31, 2021. It would extend unemployment benefits to states enacted via the second coronavirus package, H.R. 6201 (116), through June 30, 2021.
Assistance to Agricultural Producers and Other Matters Related to Agriculture (Division F)
Livestock (Title I): This title would:
Dairy (Title II): This title would:
Specialty crops and other commodities (Title III): This title would:
It would also offer direct assistance to biofuels producers that have been severely hurt by the drastic pullback in driving. Over half of all biofuel production capacity has gone offline in the past five months.
The bill offers to pay producers 45 cents for each gallon an affected biofuel plant produced between Jan. 1 and May 1 of this year.
The Agriculture secretary can also pay plants that produced no fuel in a given month at a rate of 45 cents a gallon for half the amount of fuel the plant produced in the corresponding month last year. The bill does not appropriate any additional money for this section, but it does authorize the Treasury Department to pay it out of unobligated funds.
Commodity Credit Corporation (Title IV): The legislation would require the Agriculture secretary to notify Congress before sending direct payments to producers under the Commodity Credit Corporation, a Depression-era financial institution set up to stabilize the farm economy. Processing facilities shut down from coronavirus outbreaks would qualify for CCC payments.
Conservation (Title V): The bill would expand the Conservation Reserve Program Soil Health Incentive Pilot Program to 5 million acres.
Nutrition (Title VI): H.R. 6800 would boost nutrition programs as a record number of Americans have filed for unemployment, leading to an influx of food assistance applications.
While Division A of the bill would provide USDA with an additional $10 billion to cover the cost of increases in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, this title would make changes to the program.
SNAP benefits would be increased by 15 percent, raising the minimum payment by $30 per month. The legislation would waive all work requirements, which the Trump administration has tried to institute. It would also block money from being used to adopt new rules to remove millions of Americans from the program, formerly known as food stamps.
Hot foods from approved retailers would be allowed to be purchased with SNAP benefits, removing a restriction on spending.
Accountability and Government Operations (Division G)
Accountability (Title I): Title I would:
Census matters (Title II): Among its provisions, this title would push back the deadlines for the publication of Census apportionment and state redistricting data by 120 days, as requested by the administration. This could delay the whole process of redrawing the country’s districts.
The measure would clarify that colleges and universities are allowed to provide information about students living on their campuses directly to the 2020 Census, so long as college students have an opportunity to opt out.
Federal workforce (Title III): H.R. 6800 would require all federal agencies to allow their eligible employees to telework during the pandemic. It would allow federal first responders to stay in their current retirement plans even if they are moved to a civil service job as a result of exposure to the coronavirus.
Title III would also provide workers’ compensation to federal employees who have significant contact with the public and contract the coronavirus.
Federal contracting provisions (Title IV): The measure would require all federal contractors to allow their employees to telework when possible. It would also require OMB to issue guidance within 15 days on the CARES Act requirement that agencies reimburse contractors to keep their employees in a “ready state,” and ensure that contractors are not impacted by negative performance ratings incurred as a result of a disruption in services due to the coronavirus.
District of Columbia (Title V): The bill would override the District Home Rule Act to allow D.C. to participate in the Federal Reserve’s Municipal Liquidity Facility, which offers $500 million in lending to states, cities, and counties in response to the coronavirus.
Other matters (Title VI): This title would, among other things, repeal restrictions on the $10 billion in borrowing authority granted to the U.S. Postal Service by the CARES Act.
Veterans and Servicemembers Provisions (Division H)
Among this division’s 16 sections on veteran and service member pay and benefits is language that would:
Small Business Provisions (Division I)
H.R. 6800 would make major changes to small business loan programs that Washington is using to help prop up employers during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The bill would make several adjustments to the Paycheck Protection Program, which offers low-interest loans that can be forgiven if borrowers agree to maintain their payrolls, that was established in H.R. 748 (116). The revisions would expand the universe of organizations able to receive the loans, limit the Trump administration's ability to restrict how the loans are used and extend the covered period through the end of the year.
The House Small Business Committee circulated a summary of the changes.
Among the provisions is one that would allow nonprofits of any kind to apply for PPP loans. While the idea has bipartisan support, it will likely create controversy because it would open up the program to 501(c)(6)s, which include business trade associations that lobby on behalf of corporate interests.
The legislation would also make loans available to local broadcast news outlets and to hospitals in bankruptcy.
Another provision would prevent the SBA, which runs the program, from limiting the portion of the loans that can be spent on non-payroll costs if borrowers want the loans forgiven.
The SBA and the Treasury Department decided at the outset of the program that businesses could spend no more than 75 percent of the forgivable amount of the loans on expenses outside of payroll. Businesses have complained that the cap is too onerous. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin has refused to ease the requirement on his own but says he's open to working with Congress on that.
Addressing another major complaint from businesses, the bill would give borrowers 24 weeks to spend loan funds, an increase from eight weeks now.
The bill would not appropriate new funding for the program, but it would include carve-outs for nonprofits and small businesses with fewer than 10 employees, as well as a set-aside for community financial institutions.
Support For Essential Workers, At-Risk Individuals, Families and Communities (Division J)
Family care for essential workers (Title I): This title would increase the overall authorization for Social Services Block Grants and provide $850 million to fund child and family care for essential workers, which would be defined as: health sector employees; emergency response workers; sanitation workers; employees at businesses that state or local officials have determined must stay open during the emergency; and any other worker who cannot telework and who a state or local government deems to be essential during the coronavirus pandemic.
Pandemic emergency assistance and services (Title II): The bill would provide $9.6 billion for SSBGs to provide emergency aid and services to disadvantaged children, families and households, to be distributed within 45 days, and $400 million to tribes for emergency aid and services to disadvantaged individuals and families.
Program flexibility during the pandemic (Title III): This title would grant certain flexibilities through January 2021 for requirements within child welfare programs, child support programs and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program.
Covid–19 HERO Act (Division K)
Providing medical equipment for first responders and essential workers (Title I): This title would declare several materials, including diagnostic tests, personal protective equipment and ventilators, “scarce and critical” under the Defense Production Act and expand authorities to increase their production and supply.
Protecting renters and homeowners from evictions and foreclosures (Title II): Title II would authorize $100 billion provided in Division A for emergency rental assistance.
It would also establish the Homeowner Assistance Fund at the Treasury Department funded in Division A to provide state housing agencies with funds to prevent homeowner mortgage defaults, foreclosures and displacements of individuals and families experiencing financial hardship by helping with mortgage payments, utilities and property taxes.
Among its other sections, the title would: expand the eviction and foreclosure moratorium in the third coronavirus package, H.R. 748 (116), to include all renters and homeowners; and require the Federal Reserve lending facility established in H.R. 748 to be used to benefit mortgage servicers and residential rental property owners. Servicers are the companies that process and track homeowners' monthly mortgage payments, and they were left out of the third coronavirus package.
Protecting people experiencing homelessness (Title III): This title would authorize $12.5 billion in funding for homelessness programs funded by Division A.
Suspending negative credit reporting and strengthening consumer and investor protections (Title IV): The bill would suspend negative consumer credit reporting until 120 days after the coronavirus pandemic and other declared major disasters and would prohibit consumer debt collection until 120 days after the Covid-19 emergency ends.
Forgiving student loan debt and protecting student borrowers (Title V): H.R. 6800 would allow up to $10,000 of loan forgiveness per borrower for individuals who have both federal and private student loans.
For private student loans, the bill would set up a $45 billion program for the federal government to pay the monthly payments of borrowers until the end of September 2021 with a maximum cap of $10,000 in loan forgiveness. Provisions concerning federal student loans are included in Division O.
Standing up for small businesses, minority-owned businesses, and nonprofits (Title VI): The legislation would place a moratorium on collecting small business and nonprofit debt during the pandemic. It would also ensure that nonprofits are eligible for the CARES Act-created Main Street Lending Program, and mandate that the program offer at least one low-cost loan option to small businesses and small nonprofits that does not have a minimum loan size.
The bill would provide cannabis businesses with expanded access to bank accounts and loans through provisions incorporated from the SAFE Banking Act, which passed the House with bipartisan support in September. That measure would seek to shield lenders from federal penalties if they serve cannabis businesses in states where marijuana has been legalized.
Empowering community financial institutions (Title VII): Title VII would authorize $2 billion to the Community Development Financial Institutions fund, of which $800 million would be set aside for minority-owned lenders.
It would also incorporate language similar to H.R. 5322 (116) that would seek to strengthen minority depository institutions, community development financial institutions and impact banks that predominantly serve low-income communities through partnerships, technical assistance and deposits.
Providing assistance for state, territory, tribal, and local governments (Title VIII): This title would make territories, as well as a larger number of cities and counties, eligible to receive loans from the Federal Reserve’s municipal liquidity facility.
It would also authorize $5 billion in Community Development Block Grant funding to state and local governments to address coronavirus.
Providing oversight and protecting taxpayers (Title IX): This title would require the Treasury secretary, agencies’ inspectors general and others to provide various reports to Congress and others on the CARES Act and related coronavirus-response activities.
Families, Workers, and Community Support Provisions (Division L)
Amendments to Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act and Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act (Title I): This title would amend the paid family and medical leave and paid sick leave provisions enacted via the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, by, among other things:
Covid–19 workforce development response activities (Title II): This title would, among other things:
Covid–19 Every Worker Protection Act of 2020 (Title III): This title would incorporate a stand-alone bill, H.R. 6559 (116), that would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue within seven days of the bill's passage an emergency temporary standard to protect workers from exposure to Covid-19.
The bill would also require OSHA, within 24 months of passage, to issue a permanent standard that would apply to all infectious diseases.
The Labor Department has resisted calls by Democrats to issue an emergency temporary standard for the coronavirus, arguing the "general duty clause" of the 1970 Occupational Safety and Health Act gives OSHA sufficient authority to enforce workplace safety standards.
Business groups oppose the imposition of any mandatory new workplace standard to protect workers from the coronavirus.
In the past, though, OSHA has seldom relied in enforcement cases on the general duty clause, which requires employers to maintain workplaces that are "free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm."
The Obama administration began work on a permanent infectious disease standard, but the effort was sidelined after Trump took office.
Community and family support (Title IV): This title would waive the matching requirement for grantees and subgrantees under the Family Violence Prevention and Services Act during the coronavirus emergency to relieve victims who may usually rely on volunteer support.
It would also increase the documentation a citizen can use to qualify for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.
Covid–19 protections under Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (Title V): This title would provide workers’ compensation to maritime employees diagnosed with coronavirus or told not to return to their jobs because of a risk of exposure to coronavirus.
Consumer Protection and Telecommunications Provisions (Division M)
Covid–19 price gouging prevention (Title I): This title incorporates a stand-alone bill, H.R. 6472 (116), that would forbid price gouging for items related to the coronavirus.
E–Rate support for wi-fi hotspots, other equipment, and connected devices (Title II): H.R. 6800 would authorize $5 billion for an emergency connectivity fund aimed at closing the so-called digital Homework Gap, the term used for the difference between families with internet connections and equipment and those without, by funding Wi-Fi hotspots and other connected devices, set to be administered through the FCC E-rate program.
FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has said that Congress should give the agency money to help students stuck at home during the coronavirus pandemic get online, but not through an existing E-Rate subsidy program that he said is saddled with statutory limitations.
Emergency benefit for broadband service (Title III): The bill would authorize $8.8 billion for reimbursements via a new FCC emergency broadband connectivity fund to provide the households of those laid off or furloughed due to coronavirus with a $50 monthly credit to use toward broadband ($75 for households on tribal lands).
Continued connectivity (Title IV): It would prevent telecom providers from cutting off service or charging late fees to consumers unable to pay their bills during the outbreak, codifying a voluntary pledge that most ISPs have committed to through the end of June. The legislation would also forbid them from capping consumers' data use and would require providers to make Wi-Fi hotspots public.
Don’t break up the T–Band (Title V): This title would incorporate language from a stand-alone bill, H.R. 451 (116), that would repeal a 2012 government mandate calling for a 2021 auction of airwaves currently occupied by public safety officials.
Supporters of the legislation, along with the FCC, say the mandate should be nixed given that public safety officials won’t be ready to move off those airwaves, known as T-Band spectrum, in time. They also note the auction isn't expected to yield much revenue.
National Suicide Hotline designation (Title VI): Title VI incorporates language from companion measures, H.R. 4194 (116) and S. 2661 (116), that would require the FCC to to designate 9–8–8 as the universal telephone number for a national suicide prevention and mental-health crisis hotline.
Covid–19 compassion and Martha Wright prison phone justice (Title VII): This title would incorporate language from a stand-alone bill, H.R. 6389 (116), that would set a mandatory cap on the rates charged for voice calls and video calls made to or from a prison.
Healthcare broadband expansion during Covid–19 (Title VIII): This title would authorize $2 billion to expand FCC’s Rural Health Care Program, which helps subsidize digital connectivity for health care providers.
Giving Retirement Options to Workers Act (Division N)
This division would incorporate language from a stand-alone bill from last Congress, H.R. 4997 (115), that would authorize a new composite multiemployer pension plan design that combines features of defined benefit and defined contribution pension plans.
Under a composite plan, employer contributions would be set at a fixed rate, and benefits would be based on a formula and paid to participants in the form of life annuities.
The plan sponsor would be required to take corrective actions through a realignment program whenever the plan's projected funded ratio is below 120 percent for the plan year. The realignment program may include measures such as benefit reductions or proposed contribution increases.
The plan would not be covered by the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation or required to pay PBGC premiums. The plan sponsors would also not be subject to liability for withdrawing from the plan.
Democrats also included similar provisions in their initial proposal, H.R. 6379 (116), for the third coronavirus package.
Education Provisions and Other Programs (Division O)
Higher education provisions (Title I): The bill would require the Education Department to forgive up to $10,000 in federal student loans per borrower up-front within 30 days.
As introduced, the language would provide debt cancellation for each of the nation’s more than 45 million student loan borrowers, regardless of their financial circumstances. But Democrats unveiled a managers' amendment May 14 that would limit the $10,000 of student loan forgiveness only to borrowers who were “economically distressed” on March 12 — which is the day before President Donald Trump declared a national emergency because of the coronavirus. That restriction would more than cut in half the number of Americans eligible for student loan relief under the legislation.
H.R. 6800 would also extend until at least the end of September 2021 the suspension of monthly payments and interest on federal student loans.
Those provisions enacted in H.R. 748 are currently set to expire in October. The bill would also expand the student loan payment and interest suspension to include all types of federal student loan borrowers rather than just those with federally held loans. Provisions concerning private student loans are included in Title V of Division K.
The legislation would target Education Secretary Betsy DeVos’ implementation of education stimulus funding so far under H.R. 748, including her decision to bar DACA recipients and other students from receiving money.
The bill would prohibit DeVos from “from imposing any restriction on, or defining, the populations of students who may receive such funds other than a restriction based solely on the student’s enrollment at the institution of higher education.”
A provision in the Education Department section of Division A would explicitly forbid DeVos from “establishing a priority or preference” for how to distribute stimulus funding beyond what’s specified in the law or “imposing limits on the use of such funds” that aren’t described in the law.
Among many other education provisions, this title would:
The bill also includes a provision pushed by Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) that would fully forgive the debts of student loan borrowers who were covered by the Education Department’s findings of misconduct against Corinthian Colleges or ITT Tech.
Other programs (Title II): This title would:
Access Act (Division P)
Division P would require a variety of changes to how federal elections are conducted in each state and would direct the EAC on how to use the $3.6 billion provided to it in Division A of this bill, which is allocated for grants to states “for contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections.”
H.R. 6800 would require states to allow at least 15 days of early voting in federal elections beginning in November 2020, and would require them to electronically send absentee ballots to certain qualifying voters, though it would ban states from letting voters mark and return those ballots online.
That prohibition is intended to limit the spread of internet voting, a controversial technology that three states plan to offer in limited form this year. The provision would not affect overseas and military voters, nor would it overrule the aforementioned states’ plans.
It would provide standards for absentee ballots cast by mail, including a requirement that states accept ballots if postmarked on or before election day and if received within 10 days after election day, and would require states to establish an absentee ballot tracking system to be in place for the November 2020 election.
The bill would let the EAC give states however much money it deems necessary to help them implement a major chapter of the bill focused on the safe administration of elections. The chapter requires states to develop contingency plans, cover postage for election-related mailings and allow same-day and online voter registration.
One provision would, however, specifically bar the EAC from reimbursing states for the costs of offering internet voting.
Another provision would direct the EAC to distribute $20 million to states for risk-limiting audits — a statistics-based method of ruling out tabulation errors — during the November election.
The measure would also provide an additional $3 million to help the EAC provide advice and resources to states to improve election administration.
Covid–19 Heroes Fund (Division Q)
H.R. 6800 would appropriate $190 billion (between titles I and II) for a so-called Heroes Fund to compensate nurses, EMTs and other essential workers in the public and private sectors with premium pay on top of their regular salaries for unanticipated risks as they confront a flood of coronavirus cases. Some workers have unsuccessfully sought payments from cash-strapped hospitals and other employers experiencing a downturn in business from lockdowns and cancelations of nonessential procedures.
The legislation would provide $13 per hour hazard payments for front-line workers in 33 industries, including health care, grocery and transportation, up to a total of $10,000.
The proposed hazard payments would be limited for workers earning above $200,000, but even workers above the cutoff could receive up to $5,000. If a worker passes away due to the coronavirus, the remainder of the payments would go to the worker’s next-of-kin.
Payments from the fund would not count as income when determining the worker’s eligibility for other forms of assistance.
Some doctors and nurses have described staying in hotels to ensure they don’t inadvertently pass the virus to their families. Others have said they fear they’ll get infected, in part because of a severe shortage of specialized protective equipment.
Child Nutrition and Related Programs (Division R)
This division includes language that would:
Other Matters (Division S)
Health Care Access for Urban Native Veterans Act (Title I): This title would incorporate language from a stand-alone bill, H.R. 4153 (116), that would authorize the Indian Health Service, VA and DoD to enter into arrangements for the sharing of medical facilities and services with urban Native American organizations. The VA and DoD would reimburse an urban Native American organization where services are provided to beneficiaries eligible for services from either department.
Tribal school federal insurance parity (Title II): This title would incorporate language from a stand-alone bill, H.R. 895 (116), that would allow schools that receive grants under the Tribally Controlled Schools Act of 1988 to participate in the Federal Employee Health Benefits program.
PRC for Native Veterans Act (Title III): Title III would incorporate language from a stand-alone bill, H.R. 6237 (116), that would clarify VA and DoD’s obligation to reimburse the Indian Health Service for certain health care services.
Wildlife-borne disease prevention (Title IV): The bill would authorize $21 million for U.S. wildlife agencies to work with the CDC to identify wildlife species that could pose a biohazard risk to human health and to perform risk analyses to determine which species should be listed as “injurious” under the Lacey Act as a result.
The title would also require establishment of a national database for wildlife diseases, and would direct the U.S. Geological Survey and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to provide guidance to state and local governments to conduct surveillance of emerging wildlife diseases that have the potential to infect humans.
Pandemic relief for aviation workers and passengers (Title V): H.R. 6800 would amend H.R. 748, which provided $32 billion for airlines and contractors to continue to pay their workers, to extend a requirement that aid recipients forgo involuntary furloughs from Sept. 30 to “the date on which such financial assistance is fully exhausted by the air carrier or contractor.”
It would require the Treasury Department to publish online the amount of payroll aid airlines and contractors receive, as well as other information about the agreements between the department and the companies.
The legislation would forbid airlines from applying the proceeds of a loan made possible by the CARES Act “toward a contract for heavy maintenance work at a facility located outside of the United States if such contract would increase the ratio of maintenance work performed outside of the United States to all maintenance work performed by or on behalf of such air carrier at all locations.”
The bill would require DOT and other federal agencies to create a national aviation preparedness plan for disease outbreaks, which was recommended by the Government Accountability Office in 2015 but never completed. The purpose of the plan would be to improve coordination, give airlines and airports a scalable framework to use and protect workers.
It would require that passengers and crew on airplanes wear face coverings on board, though not necessarily in the flight deck. Most airlines have already started requiring face coverings.
Under the legislation, airlines would also be required to give face coverings, gloves, hand sanitizer and wipes to employees who interact with passengers. Airlines would also be required to ensure that planes are cleaned and sanitized in line with CDC guidelines and that the airlines follow guidelines for notifying employees about coworkers who are diagnosed with Covid-19 — both of which have been contentious issues for the FAA and pilots unions.
Amtrak and rail workers (Title VI): This title would require all Amtrak passengers and employees to wear a mask or other protective face covering while onboard an Amtrak train and would require Amtrak to provide face coverings, gloves, hand sanitizer and sanitizing wipes with sufficient alcohol content to employees who interact with passengers, among other things.
It would provide $1 billion more for railroad worker unemployment insurance.
Energy and environment provisions (Title VII): The bill includes language that would impose a moratorium on utility service shutoffs for any entity receiving federal relief funds. Utilities should, “to the maximum extent practicable, establish or maintain in effect policies to ensure that no home energy service or public water system service” is or remains disconnected during the pandemic, according to the text.
Death and disability benefits for public safety officers impacted by Covid–19 (Title VIII): This title incorporates the text of a bill, H.R. 6509 (116), by House Judiciary Chairman Jerry Nadler (D-N.Y.) that would amend the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program to establish a presumption that officers who die or are disabled because of Covid-19 infection are eligible to receive disability and death benefits.
Victims of Crime Act amendments (Title IX): The measure would direct that funds originating from deferred prosecution and non-prosecution agreements be used to support victims of crime. It would also waive state matching requirements during the pandemic.
Jabara-Heyer NO HATE Act (Title X): This title would incorporate language from a stand-alone bill, S. 2043 (116), that would provide incentives for states and localities to report hate crimes, provide grants for state-run hate crime hotlines, and establish alternative sentencing for individuals convicted under the Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act, among other things.
Prisons and jails (Title XI): The legislation would require the release of nonviolent federal prisoners and pretrial detainees during national emergencies related to a communicable disease. It would also expand federal prisoners’ access to compassionate release, and allow prisoners who have been sentenced but not transferred to be temporarily released, as well as increase the options for in-home detention for elderly prisoners.
The title would authorize $600 million for states and localities to address the coronavirus outbreak in jails, and $150 million for grants to state and local courts that put a moratorium on imposing or collecting court-imposed fees and fines during the pandemic.
Immigration matters (Title XII): H.R. 6800 would extend protections to qualifying noncitizens who were legally present in the U.S. during the pandemic, including by extending filing deadlines, expiring visas, temporary immigration statuses or work authorizations, allowing naturalization ceremonies to be held remotely and easing restrictions on immigrant health care workers to allow them to aid in coronavirus response.
It would direct DHS to review its ICE detainees and ascertain which can be released or transferred to minimize the risk of exposure to the coronavirus, as well as ensure that all ICE detainees have access to certain things during detention, such as phone calls and soap and hygiene products.
Coronavirus Relief Fund amendments (Title XIII): The measure would clarify that only federally recognized tribal organizations are eligible for aid from the federal coronavirus response packages.
Rural digital opportunity (Title XIV): It would require the FCC to fast-track the build-out of high-speed, gigabit internet service to rural America, and set a firm deadline for implementing the Broadband DATA Act.
Foreign affairs provisions (Title XV): This title would require the State Department to report to Congress its plan to mitigate the effect of the pandemic on voters abroad looking to obtain mail-in ballots, as well as a report on its efforts to repatriate Americans abroad during the pandemic.
It would also require the president to appoint a U.S. Global Health Security Coordinator, and authorize the U.S. to participate in the Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness Innovations.
Additional Other Matters (Division T)
This division would, among other provisions:
Congress on March 5 sent Trump an $8.3 billion package, H.R. 6074 (116), aimed at helping states and the federal government fight the coronavirus. Trump signed it into law the next day.
The House early March 14 passed a second package, H.R. 6201 (116), 363-40. The Senate cleared it 90-8 on March 18, and Trump signed it into law the same day.
Even as lawmakers were negotiating over the second package, they had begun working on a much larger third package. Congress passed H.R. 748 (116) — by a unanimous vote March 25 in the Senate and by voice vote March 27 in the House — and Trump signed it into law March 27.
But a program created by that bill, the PPP, began to run out of funds, and had completely depleted its $350 billion allocation by April 16.
On April 9, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell moved to pass by unanimous consent a bill that would appropriate $250 billion more to the PPP. Senate Democrats objected to the request.
After many fits and starts, Congress and the Trump administration announced an agreement on a fourth package April 21 and then used H.R. 266 (116), a 2019 appropriations bill, as the vehicle for its consideration. Later that day, the Senate passed the package by voice vote. The House cleared it 388-5 on April 23 and Trump signed it into law the following day.
Both chambers then recessed to allow members to social distance during the pandemic, although House Democrats continued to work remotely on the next coronavirus package.
The Senate returned to the Hill May 4, but McConnell decided to turn the chamber’s attention to other matters, focusing on nominations and other issues leftover from before the pandemic, including the reauthorization of key federal surveillance powers. GOP leaders said it was too early to determine what kind and how much additional federal aid was required in the next package.
House Democrats, led by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, powered ahead, releasing their $3 trillion, 1,815-page bill on May 12 and announcing plans to vote on it later that week.
The House Rules Committee met May 14 and approved a rule for floor consideration that includes an 89-page manager’s amendment.
That language, which will be automatically adopted should the full House approve the underlying rule, would provide additional rural assistance; provide greater flexibility for DOL and HHS funding; add a risk mitigation program; ensure application of nondiscrimination requirements; incorporate increased eligibility for authorized programs; prohibit PPP assistance for lobbyists’ salaries; prohibit covered loans to certain nonprofits engaged in election and campaign activities; expand the forgiveness safe harbor and the allowable use and forgiveness of expenditures for PPE; scale back student loan debt relief; and require every federal agency that funds or oversees scientific research to develop, adopt, and enforce a scientific integrity policy; according to a summary.
It would also authorize $1 million for a study on the “spread of COVID–19-related disinformation on the internet and social media platforms,” to be conducted by the National Science Foundation and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine.
The House will meet at 9 a.m. on May 15 to consider and vote on the rule. They expect to vote on passage of H.R. 6800 that evening.
Despite opposition from Republicans and some liberal and centrist Democrats, the bill is expected to pass, if Democratic leaders can ensure enough supporters make it back to the Capitol to vote.
But Senate Republicans have already dubbed the package a no-go, describing it as a long-shot wish list of Democratic priorities.
Caitlin Emma, Andrew Atterbury, Liz Crampton, Tucker Doherty, Toby Eckert, Brian Faler, Eric Geller, John Hendel, David Lim, Susannah Luthi, Zach Montellaro, Tim Noah, Katy O'Donnell, Juan Perez Jr., Rebecca Rainey, Michael Stratford and Zachary Warmbrodt contributed to this report.