House Democrats Introduce Updated Coronavirus Relief Legislation

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House Democrats Introduce Updated Coronavirus Relief Legislation

September 29, 2020

On Monday, September 28, 2020 House Democrats introduced an updated version of the HEROES Act. The original Act was passed by the House in May and was intended to provide relief to individuals, businesses, and governments from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. The updated version shaves over $1 trillion off the original price tag. Both versions are favorable towards Indian Country and tribal governments.

Negotiations have been at a standstill for months now, with Republicans wary of a package over $1 trillion and Democrats eying a package north of $3 trillion. The $2.2 trillion package introduced yesterday was an attempt at compromise from the Democrats, hoping if they reduced their ask by $1 trillion, Republicans could increase their offer by the same.
 

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House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is scheduled to meet with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin within the next day to determine if this new proposal can re-spark negotiations. If these talks fall through, the House will likely vote on and pass the bill later this week, with little chance of it coming to a vote in the Senate. In this scenario, it is unlikely pandemic relief discussions would resume until after the election in November.

Highlights from HEROES 2.0 for Tribes:

  • $9.5 billion in fiscal relief for tribal governments 
    • This is less than in the original CARES Act, but reduced by the same proportion as states and local governments
    • Extends timeframe to use CRF funds to December 31, 2021
    • Allows funds to be used to replace lost, delayed, or decreased revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic 
    • Specifies that ANCs are not eligible recipients
    • $8.5 billion to be dispersed in accordance to a formula developed by the Secretary of Treasury in Consultation with the Secretary of the Interior and tribal governments
    • $1 billion to be split equally between all federally recognized tribes
  • Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Updates and Expansion
    • Includes more lenient terms for minority businesses and overall small businesses impacted the COVID-19 crisis 
    • Creates opportunities for borrowers to utilize their untapped PPP balance and expanded forgiveness flexibilities 
    • In addition, the PPP program provides a framework for demographic and geographical reporting by federal agencies to study the flow of PPP dollars around the country 
    • The Act also directs the Secretary of Health and Human Services to update the COVID-19 strategic plan to ensure they are doing their best to ensure mitigation of COVID-19 required under the PPP
  • $1.734 billion for the Indian Health Service
    • $1 billion to supplement reduced third party revenue collections
    • $500 million for direct health and telehealth services
    • $140 million to expand broadband infrastructure and information technology for telehealth and electronic health record system purposes
    • $20 million for domestic violence victims and homelessness
    • $64 million for Urban Indian Organizations
    • $10 million to provide and deliver potable water  
  • Telecom Improvements 
    • Emergency Benefit for Broadband Services 
      • Tribal households where a member has been laid off or furloughed are eligible for a $75 benefit to go towards a monthly internet service.
      • Internet service providers that provide a discount of the benefit amount to an eligible household will be reimbursed by the Emergency Broadband Connectivity Fund.
    • E-Rate Support for Wi-Fi Hotspots, Other Equipment, and Connected Devices
      • $600 million for Tribal Schools and libraries to provide internet services, laptops, tablets, routers, and modems to students and teachers so digital classrooms are more accessible to tribal communities. Tribal households without internet services will be prioritized for equipment distribution.  
NAFOA will continue to monitor negotiations between the two chambers of Congress and the White House and will provide updates as they become available. 
For any other questions or concerns, please contact Dante Desiderio at dante@nafoa.org or (202) 631-2003.