This week, House Democrats released the details of their next COVID-19 relief bill. The bill, H.R. 6800, “The Heroes Act,” is over 1,800 pages long and includes $3 trillion in funding for a variety of COVID-19 relief programs. It is the most expensive federal bill ever, and a vote is expected in the U.S. House of Representatives tomorrow.
The focal point of the legislation is over $900 billion in aid for state and local governments. Also included is $175 billion for housing and rental assistance, $175 billion for hospitals, $200 billion in hazard pay for “essential” workers, expanded unemployment insurance and another round of direct payments up to $1,200 per adult and $1,200 per dependent for up to three dependents.
On the health insurance front, the legislation would allow workers who are laid off or furloughed to maintain their employer’s health coverage through the COBRA program for about nine months. A full summary can be found on the House Committee on Appropriations website.
Included in this vast package are several Big “I” priorities. First, “The Heroes Act” fixes an issue with the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) that excluded 501(c)(6) organizations from accessing PPP loans. Inclusion of the 501(c)(6) fix comes after legislation was introduced last week by Rep. Chris Pappas (D-New Hampshire) and Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pennsylvania) and after several weeks of Big “I” advocacy for the fix. However, this does not appropriate more money for the PPP as it is still currently funded.
The act also includes text from the SAFE Banking Act, which the House passed in September 2019. This text provides a federal “safe harbor” to financial services providers who choose to work with “cannabis-related legitimate businesses” including insurers and agents and brokers. The legislation also prevents criminal prosecution and civil liability against agents and brokers engaged with those clients. Finally, it provides clarity for transactions involving these businesses.
The Big “I” appreciates House Democrats’ support for trade associations and agents and brokers through these provisions in “the Heroes Act” and is looking forward to continuing to work together on these issues. As these efforts progress, the Big “I” will make the most up-to-date government affairs information available on the coronavirus resource page and in the weekly News & Views e-newsletter.
Joseph Cortina is Big “I” director, federal government affairs.