Washington, D.C. – Today, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler (D-NY) released the following statement on H.R. 6379, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act:
“As the world grapples with the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is critical that Congress work to protect and strengthen our nation’s health, safety and security at every level. I am proud to join with my Democratic colleagues, in leadership and across committees, to craft comprehensive legislation to touch every sector and every fabric of our lives—to keep Americans healthy, help them get back on their feet, continue to put food on the table and keep roofs over their heads.
“As Chairman of the Judiciary Committee, I have worked tirelessly to include provisions that protect Americans from price gouging and foreclosure, and to support fair housing, small businesses, law enforcement and our legal and immigration systems. The COVID-19 response effort must do more than bailout corporations—it must help those most in need. I am calling on my colleagues across the aisle to join with us in helping every American weather this storm.”
The Judiciary Committee worked with the Democratic leadership, fellow Committee Chairs, and Members of Congress to include provisions that protect Americans from price gouging and foreclosure, and to support fair housing, small businesses, law enforcement and our legal and immigration systems.
Several Provisions Important to the Judiciary Committee in H.R. 6379, the Take Responsibility for Workers and Families Act
Protecting Americans from Price Gouging
- Prohibits the sale of goods or services at unquestionably excessive prices stemming from circumstances related to the public health emergency under the Federal Trade Commission Act. It includes civil penalty authority and enforcement by state attorneys general.
- $7 million to address fair housing issues resulting from coronavirus. This includes $4 million for the Fair Housing Assistance Program and $3 million for the Fair Housing Initiatives Program.
- $300 million to ensure individuals are protected from housing-related hate crimes and increasing forms of housing discrimination from Coronavirus-motivated bias through adequate and accessible housing discrimination complaint intake, investigations, and public education of housing rights, as well as robust enforcement of the Fair Housing Act.
Helping Small Businesses, Entrepreneurs and the Creative Community
- Allows the Federal Reserve to provide loans to small businesses. Expands the definition of small businesses to include independent contractors.
- Allows the Treasury Secretary to give loans or loan guarantees to small businesses, including zero interest loans if employees continue to be paid and loan forgiveness if all current employees are kept on the payroll for a year; expands the definition of small business to include independent contractors.
- Paycheck Protection Program: This program provides loans for small businesses to help keep payroll payments to employees. The definition of small business is expanded to include independent contractors, sole proprietors, and eligible self-employed individuals.
- Expanding the definition of small businesses helps the creative community, many of whom operate as independent contractors, and who are now suffering a loss of employment opportunities as performances and concerts are cancelled and upcoming projects delayed or cancelled.
Bankruptcy Protections for Homeowners, Consumers and Businesses
- Provides workers in all industries with enhanced protection for unpaid wages and benefits in the bankruptcy process.
- Ensures that more small businesses and consumer debtors have access to a fresh start through the bankruptcy system during this period of economic disruption.
- Includes protections for consumers by extending their payment plans from five to seven years and preventing financial assistance from the federal government related to the COVID-19 pandemic—such as direct cash deposits—from being treated as “income” for purposes of filing bankruptcy.
- Homeowners facing foreclosure often turn to Chapter 13 as a last resort for saving their homes. Under normal circumstances, many homeowners need the full five years permitted under current law to cure defaults and get current on their mortgage loans. This section will give individuals who have lost income or incurred large medical expenses because of COVID-19 up to two additional years to complete their Chapter 13 plans and save their homes.
- Increases the amount of home equity protected to $100,000.
- Allows an early exit from chapter 13 for families that have suffered financial hardship due to the pandemic and do not need to make continued payments to cure a mortgage default or pay other critical debts like alimony and support or car loans. Once they exit chapter 13, they will be better able to resume normal economic activity when they again have steady income. Homeowners would be obliged to keep paying off their mortgage, but they would not lose the benefits of a bankruptcy discharge for other debts.
- Prevents airlines bailed out by the government from abusing the bankruptcy process by rejecting their workers collective bargaining agreements causing them to bear a disproportionate burden of the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Bolsters the safeguards provided to workers in all industries if a debtor seeks to reject a collective bargaining agreement in the bankruptcy process. This language would also prohibit air carriers receiving COVID-19 financial assistance from seeking to modify retiree benefits under Section 1114.
Supporting Local Law Enforcement, Bureau of Prisons, and Violence Against Women Prevention and Juvenile Justice Programs
- Provides $1 billion to be distributed through the Byrne Justice Assistance Grants Program to states to prevent, prepare for, and respond to coronavirus. This is funding to address a number of purposes, including the urgent need to prevent, prepare for, and respondto COVID-19 in state and local prisons, jails, detention centers for adults and youth.
- Provides $100 million for various uses by the Bureau of Prisons for COVID-19 response related to facilities, staff, and inmates. Thisfunding is necessary to ensure that federal prisons, jails, detention centers holding adults and youth follow CDC recommendations for COVID-19 prevention and disease management to those who are incarcerated or detained as well as to those who work and volunteer in facilities, as well as engage in appropriate release for elder and vulnerable inmates.
- Provides $300 million to combat domestic violence, assist victims of sexual assault, assist victims of trafficking, and support families in the criminal justice system.
- Provides $100 million for preventing, preparing for, and responding to coronavirus through the Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention Act.
Courts and Intellectual Property
- Provides $100 million to Legal Services Corporation, which helps provide legal assistance to under-resourced individuals, for responding to coronavirus.
- Provides $500,000 in emergency funds to the Supreme Court, $6 million to the other federal courts, and $1 million to the Federal Defenders.
- Expands the authority of the Secretary of the Treasury to refuse the importation of counterfeit medical devices, which includes counterfeit diagnostic tests.
Protecting our Elections
- $4 billion for Election Administration Grants to states for contingency planning, preparation, and resilience of elections for federal office.
- Funds the “American Coronavirus/COVID-19 Election Safety and Security Act” or the “ACCESS Act” which provides:
- Requirements for Federal Election Contingency Plans in Response to Natural Disasters and Emergencies
- Early Voting and Voting By Mail
- Postage-Free Absentee Ballots
- Voter Registration
- Accommodations for Voters Residing In Indian Lands
- Payments by Election Assistance Commission to States to Assist With Costs of Compliance
- Grants to States for Conducting Risk-Limiting Audits of Results of Elections
- Additional Appropriations for The Election Assistance Commission
- Authorizes $1 billion for grants to state and local law enforcement agencies for purchase of materials and equipment to respond to coronavirus. Prevents the Trump Administration from withholding such funds from “sanctuary” jurisdictions.
- Provides additional funding for several DHS components, including FEMA and the TSA.Does not provide additional funding for ICE or CBP.
- Extends deadline for States to comply with requirements of the REAL ID Act to September 30, 2021.
- Provides immigration agencies the authority to take actions necessary during the COVID-19 national emergency to promote government efficiency, ensure timely and fair adjudication of immigration applications, protect individuals from lapses in status and work authorization, or protect the national interest. Requires DHS to provide automatic extensions to certain individuals whose immigration status or employment authorization expired or will expire during the national emergency.
- Adds $300 million to the Dep’t of State’s Migration and Refugee Assistance account to prevent, prepare for, and respond to COVID-19.
- Allows the Dep’t of State to use passport and immigrant visa surcharge fees that are currently allocated to border security-related services to support consular services, if American citizens services are prioritized.
- Ensures that any treatment related to a COVID-19 concern is an emergency condition exempt from the general Medicaid restrictions on certain classes of immigrants.
- Provides emergency monthly payments and income-based annual payments to certain “eligible individuals,” which does not include nonresident aliens.
- Allows universities to participate in FY2020 census but prohibits the sharing of information relating to the immigration or citizenship status of any individual.
Full text of the legislation is available here.