As I write this, I am simultaneously attending the2020 virtual AFT Convention.  Of no small concern to the four thousand attendees is the recently released HEALS Act, the Senate Republicans counter to the HEROES Act passed two and a half months ago by House Democrats.

What is clear is that the HEALS Act falls woefully short in addressing the needs of those whose lives and livelihoods have been turned upside down by the Coronavirus and its impact on the economy.

For those who have lost their jobs, the HEALS Act lowers the amount of the federal contribution to state unemployment insurance from $600/month to $200/month.  These people lost their jobs and incomes through no fault of their own, but their financial obligations did not end.  These people desperately need adequate unemployment insurance and the HEALS Act lets them down.

The HEALS Act provides no new money for city, county, and state governments.  This despite pleas for up to $1T in funding.  The HEROES Act provides this relief, but that HEROES provision was rejected out of hand, leaving states, counties and municipalities in very troubled waters indeed.

Regarding education, the HEROES Act provides this,

“Invests more than $100 billion in direct emergency funding for students, schools, and institutions to maintain access to education.

The bill invests more than $100 billion in funding for childcare providers, school districts, and institutions of higher education, which are facing a surge of unexpected costs and need financial assistance just to keep the doors open. This includes: $90 Billion to the State Fiscal Stabilization Fund for grants to States to support elementary and secondary schools and public postsecondary institutions.

  • Nearly $58 billion for K-12 schools to continue delivering instruction, including purchasing educational technology and hotspot devices, planning and implementing summer learning, training and professional development, and maintaining school personnel employment.
  • Nearly $27 billion to support public institutions of higher education and their students.
  • Nearly $4 billion to governors to award funding to school districts and institutions of higher education. o $100 million for Project AWARE grants to support student mental health.
  • More than $10 billion in direct emergency funding for institutions of higher education that have suffered severe financial losses due to COVID-19, including $1.7 billion for Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and Minority Serving Institutions.
  • $7 Billion for childcare providers to serve individuals who are required to work during the public health emergency or to stay afloat during temporary closures and provide families with tuition relief.”

According to the Washington Post, “The GOP bill includes $105B for education, with $70B targeted to K-12 schools.  Of that, two thirds of the funding is reserved to help schools reopen for in-person instruction.  To get the funding, schools would have to meet certain ‘minimum opening requirements’ established by their states.”  In addition, the HEALS Act contains money that can be used to subsidize private school tuition.

The HEROES Act and the HEALS Act are the opening proposals of the House Democrats and the Senate Republicans.  The goal is to have a plan on President Trump’s desk prior to the scheduled August 10-September 7 recess.

Please contact Sens. Hoeven and Cramer and encourage them to pass legislation that helps state and local governments, gives our school districts the monies they need to adequately cover Coronavirus related expenditures, freezes student debt and payments, and provides for the needs of the unemployed.

Passing legislation that lifts us up is the right thing to do, and the time to do it is now.

Nick Archuleta

ND United President