We are anticipating that the House, with an agreement or not, will vote on a version of the HEROES 2 Bill today. Unless the White House and Senate Republicans reach an agreement with House Democrats, it is very likely that any resolution of this will be punted to post election and potentially next year.
The $2.2 trillion package (more than $1 trillion below the original HEROES Act passed this past May) would provide relief for state and local governments, healthcare workers, K-12 and institutions of higher education, small businesses, federal agencies, and other critical segments of the economy impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
HEROES 2.0 would provide $39 billion to institutions of higher education, approximately $2 billion above what is included in the May passed HEROES Act. The Associations representing higher education submitted an updated request to House leadership of $120 billion to cover reopening costs, address substantial losses and expenses of institutions, and provide support to students. While this is appreciated, it was a huge increase in funding from the original $39 billion included in the HEROES Act and it is not a surprise this was not included.
The bill includes $3 billion in research relief funding for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) and an additional $1 billion for NIH to expand COVID-19 research. It also provides $2.9 billion to the National Science Foundation to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus including to fund research grants, extensions of existing research grants, cooperative agreements, scholarships, and fellowships. Unfortunately, the bill does not include research relief funding for other federal science agencies.
Specific to higher education, the bill increases the state stabilization fund for education from $90 billion to $208 billion, with most of the increased funding going to K-12 education. The bill allocates 13 percent of funds, or approximately $27 billion, for the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund (HEERF). HEERF dollars would continue to be given to governors to be disbursed, as opposed to flowing through the U.S. Department of Education (ED). HEROES 2.0 also continues to distribute funds based on the relative proportion of Pell students enrolled at the institution (75 percent) and the relative proportion of total students enrolled (25 percent). The bill also maintains the use of total student enrollment numbers instead of a Full Time Equivalent measure. Finally, the bill includes an additional $11.9 billion to higher education to help alleviate burdens associated with the coronavirus for both colleges and students
In other policy provisions, the bill continues to allow public universities to claim the paid leave tax credits created in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Further, the bill would allow institutions to access the employee retention credit. The revised text of the HEROES Act includes funding of $300 million for the Animal Disease Prevention and Management Response program, which supports improved animal health and surveillance and laboratories including the National Animal Disease Preparedness and Response program and the National Animal Health Laboratory Network.
Finally, $120 Billion in relief for independent restaurants is included in the bill to help small and non-franchise restaurants around the country. This is something that will impact our communities and the non-franchise restaurants, food trucks, caterers serving our students, faculty and communities and we have been working with many of you on this provision to support our communities.
The House Leadership came down from a $3.2 trillion bill to a $2.2 trillion bill in the hopes of getting the White House to the table. Secretary of the Treasury Mnuchin and Speaker Pelosi have been negotiating in good faith, but as of this morning they are still far apart on several policy issues, including a child tax credit, where Mnuchin has refused to approve even one dollar in new spending while Democrats have sought tens of billions for the initiative. Pelosi and Mnuchin have also been at odds over additional aid for state and local governments — a Democratic push — and Republican demands for liability protections for businesses and schools.
If they do not reach an agreement, in the next few hours, the House will likely go ahead and vote on HEROES 2 as drafted and with partisan support. It will then go to the Senate where McConnell has not been eager to move on a $2.2 trillion bill as that leads to the Senate Republicans negotiating with their own party in the White House or they roll the dice and wait for the election. It’s not looking good for an agreement, yet I can’t definitively say it won’t happen – weirder things have happened this time of year in years past. The House is then scheduled to adjourn until after the election putting this on hold until they return or possibly sliding into next year.
In good news, the President signed the Continuing Resolution funding the federal government through December 11, 2020 so the federal government won’t shut down.