Washington Watch: House Dems pitch slimmer HEROES Act

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House Democrats this week reintroduced a slimmed-down version of the HEROES Act that passed the chamber in May. Its $2.2 trillion price tag, down from $3.3 trillion, makes it roughly the size of the CARES Act, which was by far the largest single appropriations bill ever passed by Congress.

The bill’s introduction was widely characterized as an effort to catalyze negotiations between House leadership and the White House in advance of the election; and to give House members the opportunity to vote for financial relief before leaving Washington in advance of the November 3 elections. However, it did not appear that the action was likely to lead to serious compromise negotiations.

Higher education is treated largely the same in the new bill as it was in the HEROES Act, though it provides almost $2 billion in additional funding for Titles III and V of the Higher Education Act, which would substantially benefit community colleges. 

The much larger funding for formula grants was unchanged from the HEROES Act, including $27 billion for colleges and universities. As advocated by the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) and included in HEROES, a headcount-based allocation was used to distribute these funds, while other aspects of the formula replicate the CARES Act. AACC thanks its many members who communicated the importance of using a headcount-based allocation to their members of Congress.

If the HEROES Act “2.0” is enacted, AACC estimates that many community colleges would receive up to three times as much funding, in some cases even more, as they did through the CARES Act. (However, this is only a legislative proposal.) For these and other reasons, AACC is formally endorsing the legislation. 

However, while higher education funding in the new legislation increased only slightly from the original HEROES bill, K-12 education received a substantial increase. Also, the funding for higher education provided in the HEROES “2.0” remains less than the AACC request.  

Importantly for community colleges, the bill includes $436 billion for state and local fiscal relief. This has been a top Democratic priority, though the funding is reduced by more than half of the amount in the HEROES Act.  The legislation also includes $2.1 billion for job training. Other provisions were summarized by the House Appropriations Committee.

AACC’s advocacy on this issue continues, as it remains extremely likely that, at some point in the coming months if not weeks, Congress will enact another funding bill designed to reduce the impact of the coronavirus.

About the Author

David Baime
is senior vice president for government relations and policy analysis at the American Association of Community Colleges.