In an atmosphere more partisan than earlier coronavirus relief efforts, the Democratic caucus of the House of Representatives has released a bill to fund another round of assistance as the nation attempts to cope with the health and economic effects of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. This legislation, as yet unnumbered, is being referred to as the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act.
Three prior bills—which provided direct cash benefits to Americans, created a small business lending program to help employers retain employees and provided enhanced access to tax-favored retirement savings—were dealt with quickly by Congress and signed into law by President Trump. This round of relief has been predicted to provoke greater resistance among lawmakers who are averse to expanding the federal deficit. There is also expected to be less common ground in the House and Senate—and Democrat and Republican—priorities for additional relief.
The House-released bill contains provisions for the following.
- Continued financial assistance to unemployed workers
- Financial assistance to state, local, tribal, and territorial government entities
- Waiver of 2019 required minimum distributions (RMDs)
- Waiver of the 60-day and one-rollover-per-12-month rules for otherwise-required RMDs waived for 2019 and 2020
- Amendments to the Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act
- Relief for participants in health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs)
- Codifying the ability of employers to deduct certain expenses covered by loans that are forgiven under the SBA Paycheck Protection Program
- Providing money purchase pension plans the early distribution and loan relief that the CARES Act provided to other qualified retirement plans
- A new retirement “composite plan,” with features that include those of 401(k) and defined benefit (DB) pension plan
- Relief for multi-employer (collectively-bargained) DB pension plans
- Amortization relief for single employer DB pension plans
- Further funding relief (beyond that provided by the SECURE Act) to certain community newspaper DB plans
- Aid to certain federal agencies affected by the pandemic, including the Departments of Homeland Security, Interior, Health and Human Services, Labor, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development, and Education
- Enhanced Medicare and Medicaid benefits
- Medical supply chain enhancement
- Testing and reporting enhancement
- National strategic stockpile for pandemic response
- Bankruptcy protections for homeowners
- Certain student loan relief and protections
- Additional aid to veterans during the COVID-19 pandemic
- Federal election early and by-mail voting procedure