The Congress at Work series of articles is designed to give you a glimpse of various types of legislation currently under consideration. While either the Senate or the House of Representatives may initiate a bill proposal, be aware that many bills never become law; they may never make it out of committee, be blocked by a Senate filibuster, delayed, lack enough votes, never be agreed upon by the two houses or vetoed by the president.
Paycheck Protection Program and Health Care Enhancement Act (HR 266) – This is a multilayered legislative bill divided into four distinct sections. Phase 1 authorized funding for coronavirus preparedness and response; specifically, for measures such as vaccine development and public health funding. Most of the money was allocated to the Department of Health and Human Services. Approximately 81 percent of funds were allocated domestically, with the other 19 percent allocated internationally.
Phase 2 allocated $104 billion for three specific objectives: 1) Require private health insurance plans and Medicare to cover COVID-19 testing; 2) Expand unemployment insurance by $1 billion and loosen up eligibility requirements; 3) Provide for paid sick leave at an employee’s full salary, up to $511 per day, and paid family leave at two-thirds of a worker’s usual salary.
Phase 3 provided stimulus checks to individuals and “grants” to small businesses meeting specific criteria, such as keeping employees on the payroll for two months. This phase of the bill represents by far the most expensive single spending bill ever enacted in American history, at about $2.2 trillion.
And finally, the last phase of the bill provided funding to replenish the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) for small businesses and shored up public health measures, such as virus testing and hospital funding. The bill was signed into law by the president on April 24.
VA Tele-Hearing Modernization Act (HR 4771) – This bill amended previous guidelines to allow appellants to appear in cases before the Board of Veterans’ Appeals by picture and voice transmission from locations outside the Department of Veterans Affairs. The bill was introduced by Rep. Joe Cunningham (D-SC) on Oct. 21, 2019, and signed into law by the president on April 10.
Safeguarding America’s First Responders Act of 2020 (S 3607) – Sponsored by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), this bill was introduced on May 5 and passed in the Senate on May 14. The legislation is designed to extend death benefits to public safety officers whose deaths are caused by COVID-19, and for other purposes. The bill is currently under consideration in the House.
Law Enforcement Suicide Data Collection Act (S 2746) – Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV) introduced this legislation on Oct. 30, 2019. The act would require the director of the FBI to provide information on suicide rates in law enforcement, and for other purposes. It was passed in the Senate on May 14 and is currently being considered by the House.
HEROES Act (HR 6800) – This bill was introduced on May 12 by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY). In response to the COVID-19 outbreak, this bill is designed to provide emergency supplemental appropriations for a variety of applications, including assistance to state, local, tribal and territorial governments; further expand paid sick days, family and medical leave; unemployment compensation; nutrition and food assistance programs; housing assistance; payments to farmers; and the Paycheck Protection Program. It also outlines several potential tax credits and deductions, and requires employers to develop and implement infectious disease exposure control plans. The House passed this bill on May 15; it is currently in the Senate for consideration.