The Honorable Senator John Hoeven
The Honorable Senator Kevin Cramer
I write today on behalf of North Dakota United’s 11,500 members to implore you to reject the HEALS Act and to insist that the HEROES Act receive a vote in the United States Senate. As you know, ND United is proud to represent PK-12 teachers, higher education professionals, education support professionals at all levels, and state, county, and municipal employees. All of us has a keen interest in promoting the health and safety of those we serve and ensuring that all sectors of our state receive the resources they need lessen the negative effects of the Coronavirus.
For that to happen, the HEALS Act must be withdrawn and the HEROES Act passed into law. While well intentioned, it is clear that the HEALS Act falls short of providing the relief necessary to the citizens and governmental entities of our great state.
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. Many North Dakotans lost their jobs and incomes through no fault of their own, but their financial obligations did not end. These people are, in many cases, the parents of children who attend our great public schools. Adding greater financial insecurity to the challenges these families are enduring is not helpful. Our unemployed neighbors desperately need adequate unemployment insurance and, in that regard, the HEALS Act fails them. The provisions of the HEROES Act do not incent people to remain unemployed. Rather, it provides important relief to vulnerable families during this pandemic.
The HEALS Act provides no new money for city, county, and state governments. This despite pleas for up to $1T in funding. The state, county, and city government officials of North Dakota need this money to make up for lost tax revenue, to continue to provide vital public services and to implement protections made necessary by the Coronavirus.
Regarding education, the HEROES Act:
“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. o 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. o $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 (the HEALS Act) 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.
While $105B is a great start, I would urge you to adopt Senator Patty Murray’s proposal to provide $175B for K-12 schools, $132B for higher education, and $33B for a flexible Governor’s Fund. I would further encourage you to remove any provision that allow the use of public monies for private school tuition.
To say that our country is at an inflection point, is an understatement. In North Dakota, we are seeing almost daily increases in Coronavirus infections while the state and political subdivisions are struggling to cope with its effects. The federal government has an important role to play in helping states to mitigate the effects of the Coronavirus. To that end I am encouraging you to please use your considerable influence to call for a vote on the HEROES Act.
North Dakota United