Pelosi’s HEROES Act Is a Necessary Starting Point, But It Does Not Go Far Enough to Provide Sustained Relief to Workers, Families and Communities

In response to Speaker Pelosi and House Democrats’ HEROES Act relief package, Ana Maria Archila, Co-Executive Director of the Center for Popular Democracy, issued the following statement: 

Speaker Pelosi’s HEROES Act is a step in the right direction to begin to heal the economic devastation of COVID-19 caused by Trump’s incompetent handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, but the the crisis demands an even more ambitious response to put money in people’s hands, provide economic relief to families, and address the public health crisis.

In the last two months, over 82,000 people have died, with a disproportionate number of deaths taking place in black, Latinx, and Native American communities. Thirty-three million workers have filed for unemployment, and millions of families are now newly uninsured. In every corner of this country people are struggling to make rent payments, and families are standing in food lines that stretch for miles.

Recently, Fed Chairman Jay Powell said that 40% of households making less than $40,000 lost a job. But the reality is the economic fallout is significantly more pronounced for communities of color: Across the country, almost half of Black Americans and 65% of Latino households have experienced job losses, reduced hours or have been put on leave. According to a recent survey of working-class Latinx immigrants in New York City,  90% of households lost jobs or income, and only 5% of workers have been able to access Unemployment Insurance. 

The relief measures by the federal government have been too small and too slow to meet the magnitude of the crisis, and Democrats now have a chance to lead the way out of this unprecedented crisis by strengthening the Heroes Act so that it can more effectively provide the relief people urgently need.

The final bill passed in the House should maintain measures to extend direct payments to all taxpayers, cover COVID-19 testing and treatment for all, extend work permits for DACA and TPS holders, support state and local governments, provide hazard pay and other protections to essential workers, provide funds to protect our elections, and include assistance to Puerto Rico and all territories. These are all important, urgent and necessary measures to stem the crisis.

But to prevent the continued economic fallout, the bill needs to keep small businesses alive by protecting people's paychecks through the Paycheck Guarantee Act and providing economic relief through the cancellation of rent and other debt.

The bill also needs to ensure that in a global pandemic, we prioritize people’s safety and healthcare access. We must act urgently to protect the lives of workers risking their lives and millions of loved ones sitting inside jails and detention centers. And we must make sure everyone feels comfortable accessing healthcare. Millions are uninsured right now, and a solution that relies on COBRA provides relief to health insurance companies, but not to families of recently unemployed workers, or to the millions who were already uninsured before the crisis. We urge Congress members to put in place a mechanism to cover all healthcare expenses for the duration of the crisis and beyond so that everyone can get the healthcare they need without fear of bills that they cannot pay. 

Democrats said they wanted to present the most ambitious, inclusive bill possible to help our communities survive this crisis and strengthen our society’s very fabric to ensure we never endure another like it again. The depth of the pandemic demands we not let go of this mission and has made it all the more clear that the systems we have now are not working, particularly for people of color, immigrants, and people living in poverty, the very ones on the frontline of this pandemic. We know that Republicans are not going to fight for our communities and put their concerns first. In fact, they are willing to let them die. Black and Brown communities are on the front lines of this pandemic, and we cannot sit idly by and wait for legislation that upholds their dignity and protects their lives.  

We agree with Speaker Pelosi that a big, bold, ambitious and inclusive proposal from the House is what people urgently need, and what positions our communities firmly as we take the fight to the Senate. We are ready to work with our allies in the House to protect all the significant provisions in the bill, improve the areas where it falls short, and ultimately pass the strongest possible legislation that paves the way for recovery for all.

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