Congressman C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) voted in favor of legislation providing another $3 trillion in emergency relief funding for COVID-19 testing and treatments, as well as critical aid to the state and local governments that are on the frontlines of the pandemic. The bill also includes a second round of stimulus checks of up to $6,000 for most American households.
The relief package passed in the U.S. House of Representatives by a bipartisan vote of 208 to 199 and now heads to the Senate. Congressman Ruppersberger said the legislation serves as a critical benchmark for House priorities, setting the stage for future negotiations to provide much-needed relief to American families and the governments that serve them.
An analysis prepared by the Congressional Research Service estimates that the legislation would provide more than $9.5 billion to Maryland and its localities over two years.
“As a former Baltimore County Executive, I know that if the federal government does not step in to help state and local government, they will have no choice but to cut critical services,” Congressman Ruppersberger said. “If we want our children back in school, we need teachers. We need police officers and firefighters to keep us safe. We need our trash picked up and roads maintained.”
Across the country, state and county governments are facing unprecedented revenue losses and unexpected new costs amid the pandemic. Meanwhile, local health departments are working around the clock to improve testing capacity, monitor confirmed COVID-19 cases, and support contact tracing. State employees are processing record numbers of new unemployment claims. County and city school systems have had to build wholly digital learning environments in a matter of weeks.
H.R. 6800, known as the Heroes Act, includes:
- $75 billion for the testing, tracing and treatment we need to safely reopen our country;
- $1 trillion for state, local, territorial and tribal governments to pay the health care workers, police, fire, transportation, EMS, teachers and other vital workers who keep us safe;
- A second round of direct payments to families of up to $6,000 per household;
- An extension of weekly $600 federal unemployment payments – on top of state payments – through next January;
- An expansion of the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) to include nonprofits of all sizes and types;
- $10 billion for emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program;
COBRA subsidies and a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for those without insurance;
- $175 billion to assist renters and homeowners make monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments;
- A 15 percent increase to the maximum SNAP benefit and additional funding for nutrition for families;
- Funding to support safe elections, an accurate Census, and preserve the Postal Service.
The legislation is the fifth COVID-19 response and relief package passed by the U.S. House of Representatives since March 18, including the $2.2 trillion CARES Act and a subsequent $484 billion bill to allow for another round of PPP loans. Previously, on March 6, Congress passed an $8.3 billion funding package to accelerate treatments and a vaccine, help state and local governments prepare, expand telemedicine and provide relief to small businesses.
On March 18, Congress passed legislation to ensure free coronavirus tests are available to anyone who needs it, provide paid sick and family leave, strengthen unemployment insurance and fund meal programs for seniors and students.