Last month, Senate Republicans unveiled the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools Act (HEALS Act), a $1 trillion coronavirus relief bill coronavirus relief bill proposal. The HEALS Act would extend the expiring supplemental federal unemployment insurance at a reduced rate of $200 per week, down from $600 per week, through September (starting in October, states would need to phase-in a new formula for providing the unemployed with 70 percent of their previous salaries). The Senate Republican package also contains another round of $1,200 direct economic impact payments to individual Americans with means testing similar to the thresholds of the stimulus payments made this Spring following the passage of the CARES Act. The legislation would also provide an additional $190 billion for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to support second draw loans, for businesses who already received a PPP loan but need more to stay afloat. This funding would be restricted to businesses with fewer than 300 employees that have experienced at least 50 percent in reduction in gross revenues.
Additionally, the legislation contains emergency supplemental appropriations including $2.2 billion for Tenant-Based Rental Assistance to maintain current Section 8 voucher rental assistance for low-income families who are experiencing a loss of income from the coronavirus, $1 billion for the Public Housing Operating Fund to maintain public housing programs and help contain the spread of coronavirus in public housing properties, and $113.4 million for the Section 521 Rural Rental Assistance Program. The legislation also directs HUD to renew all projects with existing Continuum of Care grants expiring during the calendar year 2021. The Senate Republican package would not extend the federal eviction moratorium and does not include emergency rental assistance nor Housing Credit priorities such as establishing a permanent 4 percent Housing Credit rate. The proposal also does not provide any general purpose state and local aid, though it would loosen restrictions and provide more flexibility on the use of aid through the CARES Act.
The HEALS Act kicked off what could be several weeks of negotiations as Congress aims to finalize another Covid-19 relief package before heading to recess on August 8. Congress is under immense pressure to reach a deal quickly, considering supplemental federal unemployment assistance benefits expired this past Friday. As Congress negotiates the next package, advocates are encouraged to reach out to their Members of Congress and urge them to include critical housing measures. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has signaled that this will be the last Covid-19 relief package until the election.