Disaster Response and Mutual Aid

House Democrats unveil $3 trillion COVID-19 response proposal

House Democrats on May 12 released the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act” or the “HEROES Act,” a $3 trillion proposal in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The largest portion of the HEROES Act is $925 billion in direct aid to states, local government, tribes, and territories. This assistance is specifically intended to help with revenue losses directly associated with the pandemic and economic downturn it has caused.

Of that funding, $500 billion would go to states, $375 billion would go to “metropolitan cities, counties, and other units of general local government.”

These funds would be allocated in part based on population, in part based on need.

Proposal would appropriate an additional $1.5 billion for LIHEAP

The proposal would also appropriate an additional $1.5 billion for the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP).

In addition, section 120403 of the $3 trillion proposal (the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act” or the “HEROES Act”) clarifies that for purposes of meeting income eligibility thresholds, states may accept proof of job loss or severe income loss dated after February 29, 2020, such as a layoff or furlough notice or verification of application for unemployment benefits, as sufficient to demonstrate lack of income for an individual or household.

As Congress moves to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic, additional funding for LIHEAP has been a key priority for the American Public Power Association.

The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which was signed into law in late March by President Trump included $900 million for LIHEAP to help low-income households pay their utility bills during the crisis.

But the National Energy Assistance Directors Association (NEADA) on April 6 said that due to the depth of the crisis, “this funding only scratches the surface of what families will need to stay afloat.”

Bill also includes debt collection and moratoria on utility shutoffs language

The legislation also includes language drafted by the House Financial Services Committee on debt collection and moratoria on utility shutoffs and by the House  Energy and Commerce Committee that conditions the receipt of aid to “the maximum extent practicable,” to the suspension of electric, natural gas, or water power shutoffs during the COVID-19 national emergency.

A number of public power utilities have proactively taken steps to help customers facing financial difficulties tied to the pandemic including suspending disconnects for non-payment.