On May 12, the House Majority released a COVID-19 stimulus package called the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act,” or the HEROES Act. The legislation is over 1,800 pages long and includes a wide range of proposals totaling more than $3 trillion. The bill’s debut kicks off negotiations on what will be Congress’s fourth round of COVID-19 legislation this year.
The bill contains provisions of interest to veterinary medicine and includes a number of the priorities championed by AVMA:
- Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) modifications, including extending the covered period, providing flexibility on expenses eligible for loan forgiveness, and expanding PPP eligibility to all 501(c) organizations. The bill eliminates the Small Business Administration’s requirements that 75% of forgiveness be for payroll and 25% for other qualified expenses. It also reverses the recent IRS notice that would prevent expenses paid with PPP loan proceeds from being deductible.
- Funding for animal health infrastructure and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network (NAHLN), which is contributing to the human COVID-19 testing response. The bill also seeks to enhance wildlife disease research and surveillance efforts.
- A suspension of educational loan repayment for federal and privately held loans through September 2021. The bill includes substantial additional loan relief provisions such as up to $10,000 toward educational loan balances.
- Direct payments to agricultural producers and expanded authority for the agriculture secretary to provide assistance for depopulation during a public health emergency.
Beyond these provisions, the HEROES Act would continue many benefits from the CARES Act, including direct payments to individuals, unemployment insurance benefits, and food and housing assistance. The bill also includes nearly $1 trillion for state and local governments, additional tax benefits for individuals, families and businesses, and funding for hospitals, medical research, broadband, election security, state’s education needs, and the Postal Service. Read the House summary of the bill.
The HEROES Act represents the marker for the House Democrats’ priorities as they enter negotiations with the Senate. However, the Republican-led Senate is reluctant to fast-track another relief measure because of spending fatigue and a desire to wait to see how prior recovery measures are helping individuals and small businesses. Republicans also have different priorities, such as business liability protections, that are not reflected in the House bill.
The House is expected to advance the HEROES Act, and then there will be several weeks of negotiations between the House, Senate, and White House. It is expected that the final negotiated version of the legislation will look vastly different from what will be voted on by the House.