On Monday, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) introduced the Health, Economic Assistance, Liability Protection and Schools (HEALS) Act, a counter proposal to the House Democrats’ previously-released HEROES Act, that will serve as the first step in negotiations in the next coronavirus (COVID-19) relief package. The HEALS Act does not allocate additional state and local aid beyond what was already allocated under the CARES Act’s $150 billion Coronavirus Relief Fund. Nevertheless, the Republican proposal provides some flexibility for previously allocated CARES Act dollars. This flexibility would allow for CARES Act money to be spent past the original December 30, 2020 deadline and expand allowable uses of relief payments to include lost revenue. However, only 25 percent of these funds could be used towards revenue shortfalls.

As of Thursday, the White House and Republicans were “very far apart” from Democrats in negotiations over the final package. The current dialogue is focused on a short-term extension of enhanced unemployment benefits and extending the federal moratorium on evictions before they expire at the end of the week. Several Republicans are also signaling support to a smaller bill. Meanwhile, Senate GOP lawmakers remain divided over the price tag of the HEALS Act. Senator Mike Braun (R-Indiana) said he was “unlikely” to support the final agreement, adding, “I think the price tag is going to be a deal breaker for many of us regardless of the content.” It remains unclear whether a compromise package can be reached and enacted prior to the slated Summer Recess whereby both houses of Congress are to adjourn for the month of August.

On Thursday, RCRC sent a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-San Francisco), Leader McConnell, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Bakersfield) and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-New York) urging the inclusion of direct funding for local governments in any final relief package. The letter stated in part, “…like our counterparts in more urbanized areas, small, low-population counties remain on the front lines in responding to this deadly and costly pandemic. We appreciate the inclusion of provisions to support counties in a variety of proposals including the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act (H.R. 6800), the State and Municipal Assistance for Recovery and Transition (SMART) Act (S. 3752), and the Coronavirus Community Relief Act (S. 3623), and urge the inclusion aspects of these provisions in any final relief package.”

Additional HEALS Act Resources: