A response to the proposed Senate Republican HEALS Act

The Senate Republican COVID plan, the HEALS Act, is out and frankly, it sucks. This plan, once again, values the profits of corporations and gives gifts to the military industrial complex instead of actually addressing the essential needs of people across the nation. 

We are fighting for normal people, not corporations. We need to boost SNAP to help people get food on the table, not doubled deductions for corporate lunches. Extra SNAP would be a huge relief for those who are experiencing food insecurity right now. The fact that SNAP boosts did not make the cut shows where lawmakers’ priorities are. Hint: it’s not with working people.

School meals are mentioned once in this proposal. Once. The majority of the section of funding for the Department of Education is dedicated to reopening plans, plans that disproportionately harm students in low-income schools. We don’t need to pretend schools will reopen and be “back to normal” in the fall. What we need is Pandemic EBT for families who receive Free and Reduced Price meals, we need meals delivered to kids who are doing distance learning. Over the last four months, child hunger in Oregon has spiked to one in three children, up from one in eight before the pandemic began. This is an insult to our kids.

We need to address the looming evictions and possible houselessness that people who cannot afford rent. Eviction moratoriums expired on July 24 and the idea that this package includes no extension of this, no houselessness services or additional rental vouchers is unbelievable. One in five renters, or 13.8 million adults, were behind on rent on July 14. According to the census, around 7 million kids live in households behind on rent. 

This proposal cuts federal unemployment benefit supplements from $600 to $200, while also requiring states to use a formula that complicates the process and would not allow combined state and federal unemployment benefits to exceed 70 percent of a persons’ prior earning. As this pandemic continues and people struggle to keep work, this is unconscionable. 

This proposal exacerbates the inequities felt by Black, Latinx, Indigenous and immigrant families. Census data from earlier this month show that Black and Latinx renters are more likely than white renters to be behind on rent, and Black and Latinx adults are more than twice as likely as white adults to report that their household doesn’t have enough to eat. Indigenous and immigrant families have been nearly completely excluded from this proposal. This is intentional and important, pay attention to it.

This proposal includes a second stimulus payment, but that is no substitute for a longer-term investment in people. Proposals like this are immoral. To use a relief bill to hand out prizes to corporations, while simultaneously punishing the people who need relief is diabolical. This proposal chooses, in a time when we need more than we have been offered, to roll back what small recompense we have. This is not what we need.

Take Action