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Latest News: Public Health News

From NACCHO: Heroes Act Introduced in the House

Monday, May 18, 2020  
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This week, House leadership introduced The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (Heroes) Act, legislation including a vast array of Democratic priorities and totaling $3 trillion. This bill is broadly seen as the opening negotiation from the House for whatever the next COVID-19 related legislation may be. NACCHO has prepared a full summary of the key public health provisions in the 1,800 page bill. The highlights include: 

  • Authorization of the Public Health Workforce Loan Repayment Program at the level of $100 million in FY2020 and $75 million in FY2021, a top priority of NACCHO's 2020 Legislative Agenda. NACCHO led a sign on letter from 76 organizations calling for this program to be funded in the final law. 
  • $200 billion Heroes' Fund for essential workers to ensure that essential workers who have risked their lives working during the pandemic receive hazard pay. Public health professionals involved in the COVID-19 response are included, as advocated for by NACCHO. 
  • $75 billion for coronavirus testing, contact tracing and isolation measures. NACCHO has joined with other public health partners to advocate for sufficient capacity at the state and local level for contact tracing and support services. 
  • $130 million for public health data surveillance and analytics infrastructure modernization. NACCHO has joined with other public health partners to advocate for additional funding for data modernization. 
  • Expanded authorization of $31.2 million in FY2020-2021 for the Medical Reserve Corps. (Current funding is $6 million.) 
  • $1 billion for core public health infrastructure including grants to local, state, tribal, and territorial health departments. Core public health infrastructure funding has been another priority advocated for by NACCHO and other partners. NACCHO will continue to work to ensure that the program specifics are designed to support local health departments with these critical resources.  
  • Fiscal relief to state, local, territorial and tribal governments:  $375 billion directly to local governments for COVID response and lost revenue; $250 billion awarded to all counties and municipalities, split evenly between cities and counties. 

Other provisions in the bill aim to ensure worker safety by requiring the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue a strong, enforceable standard to require all workplaces to develop and implement infection control plans based on expertise of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The bill would also strengthen food security by implementing a 15% increase to the maximum Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefit and providing additional funding for nutrition programs that help children and seniors. 

A full summary written by the House Appropriations Committee can be found here.  

Senate Republicans have said the bill is "dead on arrival" even if it passes the House as expected today. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) said this week that in consultation with the White House, he is still assessing the results of earlier COVID-19 bills and has no plans for consideration of the Heroes Act in the Senate. Negotiations on the next COVID-19 funding package are expected to continue over the next several weeks.