The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, known as the HEROES Act, is a bill recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation is similar to the other stimulus packages that have been enacted in recent months to address the economic turmoil caused by COVID-19. Passed by a vote of 208 to 199, the $3 trillion stimulus package includes support for multiple areas of the economy as well as specific provisions for agricultural industries.
While no additional funding was prescribed for the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), the bill would extend the loan period from eight to 24 weeks from the date a loan is issued. Other changes to the PPP as part of the HEROES Act include removing the requirement for 75 percent of the loans to be spent on payroll. The deadline would be extended from June 30 to the end of the year to rehire full-time employees to qualify for debt forgiveness. The bill also provides for reserving 25 percent of PPP funds to be issued to businesses with 10 or fewer employees and increases oversight of the program.
The bill provides for an additional $16.5 billion for direct payments to farmers and ranchers as part of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). Eligible producers can receive payments under CFAP that are equal to 85 percent of actual commodity losses in the second quarter to be estimated by the Agriculture secretary. While the bill now moves to the Senate, significant changes are expected as several lawmakers have indicated the legislation would not pass as-is.
“While I like some of the policy proposals contained in the agricultural relief provisions, many others need work,” House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member K. Michael Conaway said in a press release. “The President and the Senate have both rightly said the House bill is dead on arrival. The House Democrat’s proposal on agriculture is just too little and threatens to become too late unless Democrats start seeking bipartisan, common sense solutions to address the economic impacts of COVID-19.”