Alliance Legislative Report (updated on October 2)


COVID-19 Relief

The HEROES Act (H.R. 6800) was updated by House Democrats on September 28 in an effort to jump-start negotiations over legislation to help Americans deal with the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic.   The new HEROES Act was added as an amendment to an unrelated measure (H.R. 925) for procedural reasons, and it was passed by the House on October 1 by a vote of 214-207. 

Although the House recessed for elections on October 2, negotiations on a stimulus package will continue.  House lawmakers could be brought back from the hustings to vote on a final agreement.  Some observers are optimistic that an agreement between the House and the Senate and the Administration can be reached before the elections.  Others, however, see HEROES 2.0 as $1 trillion more than the Administration’s proposal, after offsets are taken into account, which itself is $1 trillion more than Senate Republicans are willing to spend, based on their so-called “Skinny Bill”, which was never voted on by the Senate because of Democratic objections.  (Because that measure also included offsets, estrimates of that measure’s new spending ranged from $500-$700 billion.)

The Alliance will continue to support the revised HEROES Act because it includes several provisions that would help communities deal with the health and economic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic for people experiencing homelessness as well as those at risk of homelessness.  The Senate Republican “Skinny Bill” includes no new funding for homelessness and low-income housing.  The Administration’s proposal, to the extent it is known, includes some funding for rental assistance but none for homelessness.  

Background: Instead of spending $3.4 trillion over one year, HEROES Act 2.0 would spend $2.2 trillion over four months.  It includes funding for earlier priorities and establishes new priorities, including helping the beleaguered restaurant and aviation industries.  The implicit assumption in the legislation is that the shorter time and the reduced resources will compel lawmakers to pass additional relief legislation in 2021.

The revised HEROES Act includes several famliar elements:

  1. $5 billion in new funding for the homelessness system (Section 301), instead of the original $11.5 billion;
  2. a cancellation of the 2020 Continuum of Care competition (Section 301), which was part of the earlier bill;
  3. 1$ billion in new funding for housing vouchers (page 234), which is not a change;
  4. $50 billion in rental assistance (page 244), which is down from the original $100 billion; and
  5. a uniform, national eviction moratorium (Section 201), which was part of the original bill.

The Alliance was a proud supporter of the original HEROES Act, which would, among other things, adequately resource the homelessness system with $11.5 billion in new emergency solutions grants (ESG), increase spending by $1 billion on housing vouchers which can be used to provide permanent housing for the most medically vulnerable people experiencing homelessness, and establish a $100 billion rental assistance fund to prevent millions of lower-income renters whose incomes have been reduced by the economic slow-down from experiencing homelessness.

The shorter period of time covered by the revised HEROES Act, along with the reduced resources it provides, will compel lawmakers to consider additional COVID-19 relief at an earlier date.  However, the reduced cost will surely make the revised HEROES Act more appealing to those who did not support the measure in its original incarnation.  The HEROES Act, both back in May when it was passed by the House and in September when it has been revised, is a natural follow-up to the bipartisan CARES Act, which provided the homelessness system with $4 billion in ESG.

The Alliance strongly supports the revised HEROES Act as another effort to resource the homelessness system to deal with the health and economic consequences of the pandemic, keeping in mind that additional resources will be needed in 2021.  According to experts, the costs of safely sheltering and quarantining homeless families and individuals for one year is $11.5 billion, with another $4 billion for re-housing as many of them as possible.  The CARES Act and the revised HEROES Act would cover $9 billion of the necessary $15.5 billion. 

One pager:

Cancelling the 2020 NoFA: There should NOT be a Continuum of Care (CoC) Notice of Funding Availability (NoFA) in 2020 in order to allow CoCs to focus on meeting the daunting challenge posed by the pandemic.  Efforts to include a cancellation provision in the continuing resolution were unsuccessful. 

The new HEROES Act, revealed on September 28, includes language (Section 301) that would cancel the competition.  That measure, as an amendment to H.R. 925, was approved by the House by a vote of  214-207 on October 1.  However, there is a lot of controversy associated with that legislation, and it may never become law.  Efforts are also underway to pass the cancellation provision as a stand-alone bill in the event the new HEROES Act does not move forward.  



Following up with the Alliance

Please let the Alliance’s John Threlkeld [ / (202) 942-8256] know if you have any questions about legislation or educating your lawmakers. 

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