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HEROES Act Goes Big Just When It’s Needed

Statement of Lisa Gilbert, Vice President of Legislative Affairs, Public Citizen

Note: U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) today released the House Democrats’ $3 trillion HEROES Act, legislation in response to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, including $3.6 billion in election security funding, $4.6 billion for a public health fund, $75 billion for coronavirus testing and $25 billion for the U.S. Postal Service, among many other critical priorities.

Today’s legislation goes big at a time when going big is essential. We are thrilled to see the inclusion of needed and robust funding to support our elections system and give our nation a way to safely exercise the right to vote while staying healthy. The funding earmarked to shore up the U.S. Postal Service will also save countless jobs.

The billion-dollar public health and social services emergency fund, including for drug development, and the large down payment toward guaranteeing those that need testing get it without financial hardship are critical expenditures toward stemming this pandemic. This increased funding will ensure that positive COVID-19 results will lead to contact tracing to monitor the spread of the virus. That said, we know that the greed of corporate interests is endless, so more is needed to prevent prescription drug corporations from profiteering off future potential treatments and vaccines for COVID-19, and to ensure access around the globe.

In addition to grappling with health, the legislation helps workers, creating a requirement for the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to develop a strong standard within seven days to require workplaces to develop and implement infection control plans to keep workers safe.

We also are happy to see language clarifying that inspectors general – who will be a critical line of defense against corruption in bailout spending – can be fired only for cause. However, there should be more new guardrails placed on corporations that receive those bailout funds, including limitations on lobbying, spending money in politics and executive compensation.

We will push for these to be included in future relief packages moving forward.