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Coronavirus USA

Second stimulus check: How does the Heroes Act affect immigrants?

The US House of Representatives passed the $3 trillion Heroes Act on Friday, which includes many benefits for US immigrants omitted in the CARES Act.

U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi arrives to speak about the 'Heroes Act', a proposal for the next phase of the coronavirus disease relief legislation, on Capitol Hill in Washington, U.S., May 12, 2020.

The US House of Representatives on Friday passed a $3 trillion Democratic bill called the Heroes Act designed to ease the human and economic toll of the coronavirus pandemic in the country, which has led to over 87,000 people losing their lives and tens of millions of Americans finding themselves out of work. The US government approved the $2.2 trillion CARES Act in late March, which was the cornerstone of the stimulus check roll-out that has so far seen over $200 billion distributed to recipients across the US.

The Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act (HEROES) consists of a further $3 trillion in economic aid for hard-pushed American workers. The bill made it through the House of Representatives by 208 votes to 199 but is expected to face crippling opposition when it reaches the Senate. The White House has already threatened to veto the bill and the Republican-controlled Senate has promised it will be “dead on arrival” when debated.

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However, Business Insider’s David Plotz says that even if Republicans don’t usher through the $3-trillion spend championed by House speaker Nancy Pelosi, they will end up agreeing to a significant second relief package of some sort, particularly with presidential elections looming later in 2020.

The House measure includes $1 trillion in aid to state governments, another round of direct payments to individuals and families to help stimulate the ailing economy - increasing the maximum stimulus amount paid to households with dependent children to $6,000 - and hazard pay to healthcare workers and others on the front line of the coronavirus pandemic.

The Heroes Act also addresses some of the omissions of the CARES Act, which did not provide for unauthorized immigrants regardless of their employment and tax status with many working on the front line of the US’ battle against the Covid-19 pandemic.

Key points of Heroes Act for US immigrants

The CARES Act excluded unauthorized immigrants from the $1,200 stimulus check and also their households, whether or not there was also a registered US citizen at the same address. The Heroes Act does cover immigrants and would also retrospectively pay the amounts stipulated in the first round of stimulus checks under the CARES Act ($1,200 per adult and $500 per dependent).

The bill also takes the Trump administration’s immigration policy firmly to task, calling for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency to review and release any of the estimated 30,000 detainees in the country who are awaiting a deportation hearing for overstaying a visa or living undocumented in the US. The proposals in the bill would apply only to those detainees who pose no risk to the public or national security.

Workers protected, Green Card streamlined

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The Heroes Act also provides assurances for undocumented workers who are in the eye of the Covid-19 storm. Under the bill, they would be given immunity from deportation and authorized to work temporarily during the crisis. The vast majority of these front line agricultural and services sector workers are entitled to no benefits or payments under the CARES Act. The Heroes Act also proposes streamlining the citizenship process for medical professionals, researchers and students in the field.

The bill would also provide unauthorized immigrants with no health insurance to access treatments related to the coronavirus pandemic, such as testing and eventually a vaccine, free of charge.

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