The U.S. House of Representatives is prepared to vote on another coronavirus recovery package on Friday, and during a virtual town hall meeting Thursday, Rep. Darren Soto, Osceola County’s Congressional representative, broke down what’s in it.
It’s called the The Heroes Act because it includes up to $1 trillion for, as Soto called it, “funding for first responders stay on the job.” That includes a “Heroes Fund”, or a pool of hazard pay for employers to apply for to provide $13 per hour premium pay for their workers on top of regular wages.
The bill allocates $3.6 billion in grants to states for planning and preparation of elections, as well as to bolster election security. Soto said the focus in Florida should be to protect the vote by mail process.
“We have 60 to 70 percent of people voting that way, ” Soto said. “I’d like to expand early voting to eliminate a rush to the polls on Election Day.”
The bill would also provide funding for personal protective equipment for emergency health care and essential workers, coronavirus testing, contact tracing and isolation measures “to get us out of this health emergency,” as Soto said.
Speaking of emergencies, he gave an update on unemployment and Florida’s beaten-up system of getting benefits to those in need. In last eight weeks over 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment, including 1.4 million Floridians. Soto mentioned 400,000 people who have been denied for state benefits, mostly independent contractors, applied before the state got its allotment of federal assistance, the $600 per week they would qualify for.
“Things have been better (with the Florida DEO’s system), but we have a long way to go,” Soto said.
Those who missed the deadline of setting up direct deposit for their stimulus checks are going to have to wait a few weeks.
He mentioned some good news: the eviction and foreclosure moratorium has been extended to June 2. “We can’t have people getting throw out of their homes during a national emergency,” Soto said.
He encouraged everyone to fill out the census, regardless of immigration status.
For information on unemployment appeals or help connecting to your state legislator, Soto encourages the public to call his local office at 407-452-1171.