Brown Applauds House for Including Key Priorities, Necessary Relief for Ohio Workers, Small Businesses & Communities Struggling Amid Pandemic

Heroes Act Includes Additional Stimulus Checks, Hazard Pay for Frontline Workers, Critical Housing Provisions and More; Brown Urges Mitch McConnell to Bring Bill to Senate Floor Immediately

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) today applauded the House of Representatives for its Heroes Act, which includes several key priorities and much-needed relief for Ohio workers, small businesses and communities. The Heroes Act would provide financial assistance for state and local governments, essential workers, testing and contact tracing efforts, direct cash payments, worker safety provisions, housing assistance, small business relief and more.

Brown urged Sen. Mitch McConnell to bring this bill to the Senate floor for debate and a vote immediately. While the Majority Leader said earlier this week that Senate Republicans have “yet to feel the urgency of acting immediately,” Americans are struggling to pay their rent, and communities are facing budget deficits because of this pandemic. This crisis is urgent, and Ohio families and businesses need further relief now.

“We need to move quickly to get additional resources and assistance to workers, families and small businesses across Ohio. Mitch McConnell and Senate Republicans may not feel any sense of urgency, but Ohioans are hurting and our communities desperately need this relief now. We should vote immediately on this package – which puts money directly in the pockets of workers, expands Unemployment Insurance, protects against any COVID-19 related healthcare costs for all Ohioans, provides critical housing assistance and so much more,” said Brown.

Brown successfully secured critical assistance for Ohioans in previous relief bills, and he vowed to continue fighting for more, as families and communities continue to suffer from the effects of this pandemic. The Heroes Act includes additional, necessary aid for workers, families, small businesses and communities, including:

  • Pandemic Premium Pay for frontline workers: The bill includes $200 billion for a Heroes’ Fund to ensure that essential workers who have risked their lives working during the pandemic receive hazard pay.
    • The Heroes’ Fund is a voluntary grant program that employers can apply for to pay their workers an additional $13/hour for work performed since January 27th through 60 days after the end of the public health emergency. The additional pay is capped at $10k for workers making less than $200k. Certain federal employees are also eligible for Pandemic Premium Pay. 
    • Brown has been pushing for Pandemic Premium Pay for frontline workers since March.
  • Critical worker safety protections: The bill includes the COVID-19 Every Worker Protection Act, of which Brown is a co-sponsor. It would require the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to issue an Emergency Temporary Standard within seven days. This would establish a legal obligation for all workplaces to implement comprehensive infectious disease exposure control plans to keep workers safe during the COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Brown has been pushing for the Trump administration to develop a national testing strategy that establishes enforceable worker safety standards. This would help protect the health and safety of Americans during the coronavirus pandemic, and allow businesses to reopen and workers to go back to work with confidence. 
  • Additional stimulus checks for families: The bill would provide another round of direct assistance to workers and families through stimulus checks. The bill provides an additional check of up to $1,200 for adults, with children and dependents receiving $1,200 as well.
  • Extended Unemployment Insurance: The bill would extend the expanded unemployment benefits program established in the CARES Act. This would provide a vital safety net for the record number of Americans who are currently unemployed.
  • Funding for testing, contact tracing and treatment efforts: The bill would provide an additional $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and isolation and treatment measures. The bill also ensures every American can access these services and any future vaccine or treatment for free.
    • Brown has been pushing for the Trump administration to develop a national testing strategy that includes increasing testing, contact tracing and isolation and quarantine capacity for months. 
  • Program to save the multiemployer pension system: The bill would authorize a partition program to remove liability from troubled pension plans, allowing them to stay solvent and protecting retirees’ benefits without cuts.
    • The pension crisis threatens the retirement of up to 1.5 million workers and retirees nationwide, and could put small businesses across the country in jeopardy. These miners, truck drivers, carpenters, bakers and others worked hard all their lives and gave up raises at the bargaining table in order to put that money toward retirement for themselves and their families. Now that retirement is at risk, especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic.
    • Brown has been working to secure a fix for multiemployer pensions, and urged Leader Pelosi last week to ensure the House bill included provisions that protected both plan solvency and benefits earned by retirees.
  • Protections to preserve health coverage: The bill protects Americans losing their employer-provided health insurance by providing COBRA subsidies to maintain their coverage. It also creates a special enrollment period in the ACA exchanges for uninsured Americans.
    • While the Trump administration refused to reopen the ACA enrollment period to allow Americans to get covered and has continued its attempts to undermine the ACA, Brown has been fighting to reopen the enrollment period as well as secure COBRA subsidies, to ensure hardworking Ohioans do not lose their coverage during a pandemic.
  • Housing assistance and protections: The bill would help struggling families afford a safe place to live with $175 billion in new supports to assist renters and homeowners in making monthly rent, mortgage and utility payments as well as other housing-related costs and provides additional help for assisted housing and homeless service providers.
    • Brown has been working to ensure renters and homeowners can remain housed during this crisis.
    • The bill also expands protections for homeowners and eviction protections for renters.
  • State and Local stabilization fund: The bill provides additional funding desperately needed by state and local governments to cover COVID-19 related costs and replace lost revenue. That includes $500 billion for states and another $375 billion directly for local governments, following legislation that Sen. Brown introduced with Sen. Gillibrand and others to directly provide counties, cities, towns, and villages the support they need. The bill also clarifies that CARES Act funding can be used to replace lost revenue, which Brown has fought for since that bill became law.
  • Expanded EITC and CTC for working families: The bill includes a 1-year expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) to assist families that are struggling during this time. EITC and CTC are two of the most effective tools we have to put money in the pockets of working people and pull children out of poverty.
    • Brown has been pushing to expand these programs.
    • This bill would significantly expand the EITC for workers without children and make the credit available for people starting at age 19 up to age 67. Currently, workers without children can be pulled under the poverty line by taxes. Expanding the EITC would fix that.
    • The bill would also make CTC fully refundable and increase the size of the credit from $2,000 to $3,000.
    • It would also include a provision to ensure low-income families impacted by the current coronavirus outbreak can use the wages reported in their 2019 tax return to compute the EITC and CTC on their 2020 tax return. By allowing workers to use 2019 wages to compute their EITC and CTC, it will help those hit hardest by this crisis get a larger refund that is consistent with their earnings from the previous filing season.
  • Increased small business assistance: The bill would strengthen the Payroll Protection Program (PPP) to ensure it reaches underserved communities and non-profits, and provides $10 billion for COVID-19 emergency grants through the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program.
    • Brown supported efforts in the last interim spending bill to increase funding for the PPP and EIDL programs. Brown has also pushed the administration to improve how it administers these programs to ensure there are fewer delays.
  • Payroll protections: The bill also enhances the new Employee Retention Tax Credit, which encourages employers to keep employees on payroll, allowing millions of Americans to remain connected to their paychecks and benefits.
  • Protections for people’s credit scores: The bill would also protect people’s credit scores during the pandemic. As some families struggle with job losses or reduced incomes, they may fall behind in paying their bills. These late payments could hurt their credit for years and hold them back from accessing credit, taking out a mortgage, applying for a job, or renting an apartment long after the crisis is over. Brown introduced a bill with Sen. Schatz to do this.
  • Consumer protections against debt collection: The bill would prevent debt collection companies from demanding payment from consumers during a national disaster or emergency like a pandemic.
    • The bill also includes critical consumer protections to prevent the garnishment of those checks.
  • Help for hungry families: The bill addresses rising food insecurity in this country due to the pandemic, and increases the maximum SNAP benefit by 15 percent. 
    • The bill also includes additional funding for nutrition programs that help families put food on the table, like the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
  • Assistance for farmers and producers: The bill includes direct payments for livestock producers who have had supply chain issues. It includes direct payments for row crop and specialty crop producers, and support for local food systems, as well.
    • It also includes increased purchase of fresh foods to be distributed to food banks. 
  • Student loan relief: The bill would extend the suspension of payment, interest and involuntary collection for federal student loans through September of 2021 and ensures federal student loan borrowers who were left out of the CARES Act (privately held FFEL and Perkins borrowers) get the same relief. The bill also guarantees a minimum $10K loan cancelation all federal student loan borrowers. Brown introduced this plan in March.
    • The bill also would extend parallel protections for private student loan borrowers, including the suspension of payments, halting of involuntary collection, and up to $10K of private student loan debt cancelation.
    • The bill also includes expedited relief for student loan borrowers defrauded by for-profit colleges, similar to the proposal Sen. Brown called for.
  • Support for public education: The bill includes $90 billion in funding to states to support public elementary, secondary and post-secondary education.
    • The bill also includes $1.7 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs), $7 billion for private non-profit schools and $1.4 billion for student supports at online non-profit colleges and universities.

  • Repeal of CARES Act tax giveaways to the rich: The bill incorporates legislation introduced by Sens. Brown and Whitehouse to repeal provisions of the CARES Act that amounted to a $135 billion tax giveaway to the wealthy and corporations. The Heroes Act would permanently cap the limitation on excess business losses and further limit how businesses can use net operating losses to offset their tax obligation. 
  • Strengthen safety net programs: The bill suspends mandatory work requirements and the federal time limit for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families Program (TANF) to ensure families have access to financial assistance while complying with public health guidance.
    • Brown has been working to remove barriers to financial assistance to ensure low-income families have access to vital financial assistance. Brown introduced legislation this week.
  • Protect vulnerable populations: The bill would provide funding in support of victims of crimes, including domestic violence and child abuse, as communities grapple with isolation, elevated stress levels and higher levels of need.
    • The bill provides $50 million for Family Violence Prevention and Services. In March, Brown urged the administration to ensure service providers have the flexibility and resources to help victims and survivors of domestic violence.
    • The bill also includes a combined $40 million for Child Abuse Prevention and Treatment Act (CAPTA) state grants and Community Based-Child Abuse Prevention grants to help communities prevent and respond to the needs of at-risk children and families. Brown introduced legislation and wrote to the Administration about this issue.
  • Teacher Expense Deductions: The bill doubles the above-the-line teacher expense deduction from $250 to $500. Now more than ever, teachers are spending money out of their own pockets in order to help their students with remote learning. Brown first introduced an amendment to double this tax break for teachers during the Senate’s consideration of the 2017 tax law.
  • Census relief: The bill includes $400 million in additional funding for Census Bureau to complete the 2020 Census. Due to the pandemic, the Bureau needs to adjust the timeline for delivering the total population counts to the President and this statutory relief and funding would help support that adjusted timeline.
  • Postal Service funding: The bill also includes $25 billion in support for the U.S. Postal Service, which is providing a vital service for workers and businesses during this time.