Florida would get billions of dollars for coronavirus relief through the latest federal aid package proposed by the House, known as the "HEROES Act."
U.S. Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) outlined some of the highlights of the $3 trillion package during a virtual meeting with area leaders on Wednesday.
She said Florida would receive an estimated $12.3 billion within a month of implementing the legislation, and an additional $14.3 billion next spring.
The money is meant to prevent major budget cuts at the state and local level as the pandemic is forcing governments to spend their reserves and preventing them from collecting much-needed tax dollars.
“So that they can keep teachers at work, they can keep first responders and others on the front lines on-task, because right now with significant lost revenue, they are in danger of losing their jobs,” Castor said.
Concerns about the pandemic's effect on the budget led Democrats in the state to call for a special session, but they were unsuccessful.
Gov. Ron DeSantis has said he won't make a decision on the budget for fiscal year 2020-2021 until he gets a better sense of what federal assistance is coming.
He criticized the House plan on Wednesday, saying it has "zero percent chance of passing."
Other Florida Republicans have said they don't want any more federal relief funds.
The HEROES Act also includes provisions to directly help Floridians.
Individuals across the country would get another round of $1,200 stimulus payments from the federal government, as well as payments for children (up to $6,000 per household).
The legislation includes money for hazard pay for frontline workers, rent and mortgage assistance and help for farmers.
It also increases access to health insurance, includes more federal assistance for coronavirus testing and creates stricter requirements for reporting infections and deaths at long-term care facilities.
"The HEROES Act is our best effort in the near term to protect lives and protect the livelihoods of our neighbors," Castor said.
The package would also extend the $600-per-week federal unemployment benefits through January. That raised concerns from Tampa Bay Chamber during Castor’s meeting.
“A lot of our small businesses are telling us they understand the intent, but they’re struggling getting some people to come back to work because they see they’re making more during this temporary period by collecting this $600 extra dollars,” said President and CEO Bob Rohrlack.
The House is expected to vote on the HEROES Act on Friday. It already faces opposition from Republicans in Congress.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell recently said he intends to “hit pause” on coronavirus relief funds and wants to wait until after Memorial Day to consider options.
“We just don’t have time to pause,” said Castor. “The pandemic is not pausing…We’re [House lawmakers] listening to experts, we’re listening to economists on what we need to do to meet this moment, so it has to be big, it has to be bold.”
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