69 days ago, the House passed the Heroes Act to provide the relief to families that is so badly needed in the midst of this ongoing pandemic crisis.
Since that time, the pandemic has continued to surge. More than 140,000 Americans have lost their lives to COVID-19, and there have been more than 3.8 million cases across the country. Tens of thousands of new cases are emerging every day. Hospitals in the red zone are again facing shortages of personal protective equipment, and wait times for both tests and test results are unacceptable. The Administration is squandering the authorities of the Defense Production Act (DPA) and has left nearly $700 million on the table that could be used to boost production of critically needed medical supplies and equipment. The Heroes Act bolsters the DPA to address these shortages, enhances its ability to navigate the conflicting needs of different states, and provides better transparency and planning to ensure the needs of the American people are met. We need these changes now.
In addition, Federal, state and local eviction and foreclosure bans are expiring as 36 percent of renters were unable to fully pay their July rent. At the end of June, 4.2 million homeowners had entered into forbearance. And to make matters worse, on July 25th the expanded unemployment insurance benefits end even though 47% of all renters are unemployed. The Heroes Act would, among other things, provide $100 billion for renters and $75 billion for homeowners to keep families housed during the pandemic.
Small businesses have also been hit hard. More than 3 million small businesses closed between February and April, and Black-owned businesses were hardest hit, declining 41percent. This Committee has worked hard to ensure that all lending institutions, including minority depository institutions (MDIs) and Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) can access federal lending programs, like the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). Importantly, the Heroes Act extends the PPP through December and includes carve outs to ensure the smallest businesses receive funding, provides $1 billion to the CDFI Fund, and expands the Fed’s Main Street Lending Program, to provide a lifeline during the crisis.
Despite the vast ongoing harm to families and small businesses across the nation, and the urgent need for relief, the Senate has done nothing to advance the Heroes Act, or any other significant coronavirus response legislation. When asked by a reporter this week if a coronavirus bill would pass by the end of the month, Mitch McConnell reportedly laughed and said “no.” We are at the precipice of vast economic harm and possibly the end of Black-owned business as we know it. There is nothing funny about any of this.
The Heroes Act provides critical relief and protections for all: renters, homeowners, people experiencing homelessness, consumers, students, small businesses, minority-owned businesses and non-profits, community financial institutions, and state, territory, tribal and local governments.
Colleagues, we must not repeat the mistakes of the past. The 2008 financial crisis resulted in millions of families losing their homes through no fault of their own, and minority communities, which had been targeted with predatory mortgages, bearing the brunt. Big banks got bailouts, but main street did not, and minority communities still have not recovered from the enormous loss of wealth.
Now, during this crisis, the stock market has mostly recovered from its early pandemic losses, largely because the Fed has pumped in trillions of dollars. But families are again suffering through no fault of their own. We must not leave them behind.