On May 12, House Democrats unveiled their latest proposal to confront the public health, economic, and societal consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic. Dubbed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions—HEROES—Act, the roughly $3 trillion bill is perhaps a starting point for negotiations once all parties can be coaxed to the table.
If negotiations do start with the HEROES Act, it would represent yet another positive step for nonprofit advocates who have lifted their voices nationwide. This slow policy progress may be cold comfort to organizations and communities facing urgent—and dire—needs, but these potential victories will need our sector’s support as discussions continue on Capitol Hill. Read Independent Sector’s full summary of key nonprofit provisions, but as we continue to dig through this 1,800-page bill, some highlights upon initial reading include:
- Modification to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) so that all nonprofit organizations, regardless of size or type, can participate
- Dedicated funding within PPP, with 25% of all funds set aside for nonprofits and at least half of those set aside for nonprofits with fewer than 500 employees
- A potential avenue for loan forgiveness through the Main Street Lending Program
- Increased flexibility for states that wish to provide more assistance to nonprofit organizations that self-insure for the purposes of unemployment insurance. This is not what our community has been asking for, but it is recognition of a problem
- $3.6 billion for safe and healthy elections alongside a significant investment in broadband internet access, to ensure that our communities are not forced to choose between their safety and their right to vote
- A federally-supported “hazard pay” program that includes many social services workers in addition to those in the fields of health and education
Some of these positive developments are still inadequate to meet our sector’s and our communities’ needs, while other top priorities were neglected entirely. Furthermore, we have a lot of work to do together to get any of these highlights enacted into law. But advocates should be encouraged by the signs we see in the HEROES Act, especially considering many of the provisions that matter a great deal to our sector have bipartisan support.
House Democrats have announced that they plan to vote on the bill on Friday, while Republicans have disparaged it. All sides are digging in for a more protracted negotiation than in earlier relief bills, and the nonprofit sector’s fate is quite uncertain. With all that we’ve achieved so far, I wouldn’t bet against us.